When my friend Audrey asked if I’d help with a waterski event, my first thought was to calculate how long ago I had used my slalom ski. Years. Then she said she needed someone to handle publicity. Count me in! Put my journalism degree to good use–preparing press releases and radio public service announcements and placing the info on public event calendars. The more I read about the Adaptive Water Ski event and the people involved, the more fun it sounded.
Endorsed by the US Water Ski Association, adaptive water ski events are hosted by an affiliated ski club. All drivers, instructors, pinners, and safety coordinators receive training in the use of the customized equipment–sit skis, ski seats, custom triple handle ropes, slings and other devices. Side skiers assist and coach the new skiers. The pinner is someone who pulls a pin to release the ski rope from the boat if the skier falls. This prevents the skier from being dragged.
This writer was going to get out of the office, away from her laptop, to interact with living, breathing, humans instead of writing and editing the great American novel. I was leaving my comfort zone and allowing myself to be dragged into daylight. I had to witness these children and adults learning how to water ski.
The event was free for the new skiers thanks to generous sponsors: the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team, U Can Ski 2, On the Edge Children’s Foundation, Day Surgery Center, Hanger Clinic, and Mark and Patti Bostick. A local sign company Signeffex donated signs featuring the sponsors. The event would gather waterskiers, volunteers from the local high school and even a professional stunt man, to teach disabled children and adults to waterski. At similar events around the state, Wounded Warriors have also participated.
Representatives of The Lakeland Ledger, Bay News 9 and a reality tv film crew all showed up the day of the event–Saturday, May 11, 2013, at Lake Silver in Winter Haven, Florida. I brought along my camera to take photos for next year’s publicity. Then Jean, another friend who was organizing the event, asked me to take photographs of the skiers to give to them later in the day. Audrey, who is normally in daylight hiking, biking, skiing, hang-gliding and so on, was planted inside by a computer. She uploaded the sim cards from the digital cameras to a laptop connected to a printer. She spent the entire day uploading, selecting and printing photographs.
The skiing required a platoon of volunteers to lift, to ski, to hand off and gather ski ropes, to lift skiers from the water and so on. Local high school students stood in the water to assist the skiers and haul ropes and haul skis and encourage the skiers.
Partway through the morning, after every skier had taken a turn behind the boat, a new volunteer showed up. Stunt man Paul Andrew O’Conner. He appears in “American Ninja Warrior,” and he does stunts in Iron Man 3. He performed a flip and a helicopter off the ramp for the benefit of the film crew following him. Then the crew left and Mr. O’Conner helped out as a side skier. He’s the skier on the right.
What a terrific day! And yes, dragging me into daylight left a sunburn. I would do it all over again for one skier’s smile of triumph.