Summer Fun at Lake George, New York

Waterskiing on Lake George, New York

Early Morning Waterskiing on Lake George, New York

It's My Turn

It’s My Turn

I’ve been at Lake George, New York the past couple of weeks. With the exception of a stay in New York City, largely to attend the BlogHer 2015 Conference, I’ve been parked at my family’s camp on the east side of this thirty-two-mile-long body of water. Although I’m still spending inordinate amounts of time on my laptop, it has been delightful being at the lake and visiting with family and a few old friends.

My parents’ house, situated on the east side of Lake George, the predominantly residential part of this magnificent Adirondack lake, holds countless memories for me. I have spent many summers here over the past forty-four years and will always feel a very special connection to this place. It had been seven years since I had been here during this blissful season when the days are long and hot and the temperature of the lake is at its peak, so this visit has touched off an overwhelming sense of nostalgia in many ways. Water-wise, from jumping off the boathouse into the silky depths of the lake, to paddling around the bay in a canoe, to enjoying a sunset boat cruise with my parents, my heart has swelled in reliving some of my favorite summertime activities at LG these past weeks.

I didn’t realize that one of my most memorable moments from childhood would be recreated this summer. I never imagined that this summer’s big adventure would occur on Lake George with an adrenaline surge the likes of which I haven’t experienced in years. Twenty-five years to be exact. I’m talking about waterskiing as you’ve likely gathered from the photos at the top of this post. Phew–what a rush! I last waterskied two and a half decades ago in the Mediterranean, however, I hadn’t skied much on water ten years prior to that–in truth, I had hardly skied since I was a kid. Even then, I didn’t do it a whole lot.

View from Trish and Bob End's House on the East Side of Lake George

View from Trish and Bob End’s House on the East Side of Lake George

But water skiing has always represented a vivid Lake George memory for me. I can clearly remember the first time when a boat pulled me up out of the water–what a thrill. I was seven-going on eight–and it was during a stay at Chelka Lodge where my parents’ first rented a house on this pristine, spring-fed lake. It was a wonderful summer vacation filled with endless hours swimming in the cool, clear waters of the lake and playing on its shores with my five brothers, Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa.

Waterskiing Fun

Waterskiing Fun

The lake became more adventuresome when the lodge boat brought us water skiing. I seem to remember that my brothers caught on pretty fast but for me, it took many tries during our two-week stay to finally feel the heart-pumping thrill of skiing behind a boat at breakneck speed as the wind air-dried my body and the sun warmed my skin. The monumental event occurred on the last try of our last day. My Dad made it his mission to see me waterski once and for all. I’m sure–much like me–he was tired of seeing me fall face first into the water as the boat gunned it and attempted to pull me up and out of the lake.

Yay! He's Up

Yay! He’s Up

Yet Dad showed nothing but supreme patience as the boat tugged and lurched until I eventually would have to let go of the rope and the driver had to swing around for another attempt as the spotter carefully watched that my umbilical cord to the boat wasn’t gobbled up in the propeller. (Sometimes when the driver couldn’t approach close enough for me to grab onto the rope, the spotter would have to yank it in and then do a hand toss to me when I was within close range.) These maneuvers, tirelessly repeated for days on end, ultimately produced success when I “got it.” Much like easing into the feeling of standing up and skiing off a chairlift, I eventually found my balance and discovered that sweet spot where you allow the boat to pull you up and out of the water.

Morning Ski

Morning Ski on Glass

Fast forward over four decades later when I rediscover that sublime sensation of standing up on water and then skiing away on top of it! Although I never consciously gave up waterskiing, this exhilarating event, the athletic highlight of my summer thus far, came from a dare of sorts made by my dear cousin, Steve. Not surprisingly, this challenge emerged from an evening of cocktail drinking at his lakeside home where I met up with their neighbors, Bob and Trish End, folks from Telluride that funnily enough I’ve bumped into many times on the slopes. Steve and his wife, Caryn, told me that the Ends were avid water skiers and that they went religiously every morning at sunrise when the lake is like glass. “I’m in,” I said.

Bob End Coming in for a Landing

Bob Coming in for a Landing

Almost There

That’s How You Do It:  Just Let Go

That's How You Do It

Almost There

Splash!

Splash!

I didn’t sleep well that night in anticipation of the big event. I’m rarely afraid of hurting myself and yes, after being a ski instructor for the past eleven years at Telluride Ski Resort, I am far more sports-minded than when I was young. But still, I know that waterskiing is tough on your body and as a result, I had pooh-poohed the aggressive strain on your joints that can occur when you’re being pulled by a boat (instead of gravity and slope as with snow skiing). But I’m not an old duffer yet, so not taking part in this adventure was unthinkable.

Drawing Out the Line

Drawing Out the Line

Hit It!

Hit It!

Early Morning Bliss at The Ends

Early Morning Bliss at The Ends

I ignored my Mom’s protests–an attitude that surprised me from her–and showed up at the End’s dock at sunrise. Located just one bay over from us, I could tell that being a part of this early morning waterskiing rendez-vous was like being welcomed into a special club. Whether on snow or water, skiing is like that–it’s convivial and fun and everyone shares a mutual love of the sport. Here, friends had paddled, pedaled and driven over with their slick O’Brien skis in tow for a zip around the bay with Bob and Trish. The excitement was palpable.

Waterskiing Coffee Klatch

Waterskiing Coffee Klatch

C'mon Let's Go

C’mon Let’s Go

This spot, situated in the southern basin of the “Queen of American Lakes” (according to Thomas Jefferson), is idyllic for lots of reasons, particularly waterskiing. I stood on the dock chatting with all as I admired the waterskiing prowess of those taking a turn. They were all slalom skiers, of course, but Bob happily readied two skis for me as Pam, a friend and my spotter, passed me a dry life jacket. Trish was driving, which conjured up memories of my Mom behind the steering wheel of our big old Chris-Craft as she careened and slung me around our bay. Somehow though I knew that between Trish’s driving skills and the Ends’ sleek ski boat, this time I’d be in for a smoother ride than when I was a kid.

Me in the Water

Me in the Water

I Can Do This

I Can Do This

And I was. I wobbled and wavered for a second as the boat attempted to lift me out of the water but I persevered and then Yay! magic happened. I was up on the glassy waters of my beautiful Lake George. Just like old times. Pam cheered and although Trish didn’t take her hands off the steering wheel, I could feel her enthusiasm as well. Yippee! I felt like a kid again as I leaned right and cut through the wake of the boat to the open lake. Woo-hoo–I did it!

Me Coming in Exhilarated and Exhibiting Bad Form

Me Coming in Exhilarated and Exhibiting Bad Form

During my spin, I tried to think about the mechanics of how to waterski, something I don’t believe I ever properly learned when I was a child–I just did it. (Except for the getting up out of the water part.) I thought about balance, center of mass and flexion of my ankles, knees and hips–just like with snow skiing–but mostly I thought about how cool it was to be zipping along on water like a super hero on summer vacation.

I Did It

I Did It

Back at the dock, I talked with Bob about the skill set required for waterskiing. “When you’re on two skis, just think of it like a powder day,” he told me. “Allow yourself to float along. “On one ski, it’s more like carving,” he added. He talked about the oh-so cool sensation when a slalom skier swings out behind the wake of the boat. But I couldn’t focus, I was too hyped up from my ride.

“It looked like you had good balance,” Trish added. “You weren’t leaning back the way a lot of people do.”

I appreciated her kudos, which counted a lot since although it was a ton of fun, I did feel like I was hanging on for dear life.

Yet I relived one of my best childhood memories. And that experience was priceless.

Thrilled

Thrilled

Thank you to Trish, Bob, Caryn and Steve for making it all happen. And thank you Mom and Dad for being at the origin of all this summer fun.

Me, Dad and Mom

Me, Dad and Mom

I try to test myself most every summer with an activity that pushes me to the edge of my comfort zone. Check out the following stories to read about others:  Testing My Mettle in Crested Butte and my four-part series of Rafting and Roughing It on the Black Canyon of the Gunnisson.

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