From small and simple to simply extravagant, we celebrate the birthdays of friends and family in many different ways. This year, to mark the occasion for two good friends of mine, I chose to participate in a ritual dunking the likes of which I have never experienced before. And it will most probably happen again.
Everything began innocently enough. I arrived at Cable Ski World on a clear and sunny Sunday and was soon relaxing in familiar company. As we all talked, we watched other skiers as they maneuovred their way around the lake before us, drawn by a wire attached to a motorised cable hook.
These wizards of the water dazzled us with their grace and skill, performing exciting feats and making it appear that even children could take to the water with ease. In fact, one particular child, maybe 13 years old was also on the water, zipping around the lake and only occasionally coming off his wakeboard. After a brief period of watching from the safety of the shore, it was decided that we would get in there and have a go ourselves.
A couple of my friends have been skiing and surfing before. Even rudimentary knowledge of skiis or snowboards will give you an exponential advantage when it comes to cable skiing. One of the guys fumbled the takeoff once before getting the hang of it, and another made it look like he’d been doing it his whole life. I, on the other hand, have never water skiied and the only time I’ve ever seen snow was on my last trip up Mt Fuji.
Gathering our equipment we made our way to the launch gate and I anxiously awaited my turn. Strapping my feet securely in I maneouvred the wakeboard forward and before I knew it I was perched anxiously on the bench that jutted out over the water, holding a tow-cable and listening intently as the attendant explained to me how to successfully achieve the skiing excitement that everyone else was experiencing.
And so I did my best to perform the actions as instructed. When the hook grabbed my line and forward momentum kicked in, I shifted my weight onto my back foot and raised the front of the board to avoid diving. I kept my knees loose and allowed the rope to do all the work.
I think I can, I think I can ... Nope, I can't.
The briefest taste of success was replaced with the unsavoury taste of cold aqua-not-so-pura. As I returned to shore and shuffled forward again in the line I mentally reviewed my technique, trying to identify where I went wrong. Experienced riders offered advice and I listened carefully, but time after time my attempts at the extraordinary were thwarted by the cold, merciless grasp of the lake.
After what felt like a thousand launches, it became clear to me that the wakeboard was not the best place to start. I humbly made my way back to the equipment cage and replaced the board with a kneeboard and returned to the line. On my final attempt of the day; and the third strike on the kneeboard, I managed to stay on the right side of the water and successfully completed a lap of the lake!
- Wakeboarding and cable skiing is not as easy as it looks;
- Failing 15 times doesn’t always mean you can’t do something;
- Failing 16 times just means that maybe you should start smaller;
- On the patented Chuck Bartowski Toughness Meter (1 being fainting at the mere thought of torture and 10 being uber-resilient), I have reached Level 2 – I can withstand water dunking torture for about an hour before I snap and tell you everything you ever wanted to know (and maybe some things you didn’t!).