Yes, I know the weather is still cold here in Wisconsin. We had a blizzard last Thursday which is still melting away, but ski team season is rapidly approaching. For those not in the know, I’m talking about water ski team. I’m on the Mad-City Ski Team, a water ski show team. Our shows consist of pyramids, jumping, ballet, barefooting, doubles, trios and swivel set to a theme. We perform our shows weekly throughout the summer in front of our home crowd at Law Park in Madison. We also go to tournaments at the state and national level to compete for state and national championship.
Since the season is approaching, I got to thinking about some of my best memories from ski team, and skiing in general. There are some group accomplishments like our state and national championships from 2004, but even more than that, there are small personal accomplishments that mean even more.
One of my best personal memories is from a couple years ago at Nationals (2003 I believe). I was in the middle pyramid between 2 four highs. The person next to me who was in the four high fell on the start and I was going to have to carry the four high. We put the pyramid up and I carried it through the show course and made it back to the beach with my girl. That was the first time I had carried a four high on water and it was at a Nationals. I had help through it though. The person to the inside of me was shouting words of encouragement, telling me suck it up. The person who was going to be in the middle pyramid with me had managed to pick up the ropes that were dragging the water and made my job much easier.
Another of my best memories is from quite a while back, 1991 to be exact. I had learned how to barefoot earlier that summer and I was admittedly still a little rough around the edges when it came to my barefooting prowess. It was our last show of the season and in typically Law Park fashion, we were going to skiing in what would nearly be white caps. No one was jumping up and down saying I want to do the barefoot flyer of the dock. I said I’d do it, but might not make it. We had a small contingent of skiers left so they decided to right me in to the spot. Show time comes, I’m standing on the dock watching my rope feed out. It comes tight and I run of the dock throwing my feet in the air. I hit the water, the boat goes up to speed and plant my feet and manage to stand up, at least just a little bit, still buried in a ball of white spray. But I had stood up, barefooting, making it through the show course in the rough water before ending my run with a face plant. This is the first time I had successfully barefooted in a show.
My next best memory is from just last year. I had always just kind of been the bit skier. Skiing fluff in the four highs, conventional doubles and other small parts in the show. It was at a practice last year on a Saturday morning in June. We had originally been scheduled to compete in a tournament in Beaver Dam, but were no where near ready so we cancelled our tournament appearance and stayed home to practice, we needed it. Since I was running sound, I arrived, took a quick barefoot run while others were still getting ready. During my run I had taken a bad fall and injured my shoulder. My right arm was pretty much dead weight for the next few days and in excruciating pain. It was an injury that lingered even through the winter and into the spring. (It was only recently that the pain had finally disappeared.) I was sitting there running sound as they were setting up to practice pyramids. Four highs. They ended up being one person short and came over and said, “Wedge, we need you in this pyramid.” Until that time, they had never asked me to be in a four high in a position other than fluff. It was painful to put my skis on. I couldn’t really move my right arm. But did manage to ski my position holding the rope in my right hand, carrying the pyramid on left shoulder. The pyramids were all very painful, each time the girls would transfer over, briefly standing on my right should, jolts of pain went shooting through my arm and shoulder. But they had needed me for the practice and that made it all worthwhile.
I have some non-skiing memories as well. The good times we had every time we went over to the Essen Haus or Come Back Inn after practice and shows with Bugs, John, Tristan and Mike. Getting stuck on the side of the road with Tristan and Mike and the Mad-City truck half way to Janesville waiting for the tow truck in the hot and humid weather. Finally, at Central Regional a few years ago, a small group of us went out for some food and had a really good time.
Ski team has given me so many good memories, it would be hard to name them all. The commitment made to be involved in a ski team is great, but the rewards are even greater. The friends and accomplishments can never be replaced. During the summer, I look at every day I get out on the lake as a good day. Luckily, I get out on the lake just about every day.