Wipeout … and Triumph!

Last week I wrote about meeting and, a year later, marrying Sandra. Here’s a tale about a little incident from our first couple of weeks of courtship that helped endear her to me.

One of the things I’ve long enjoyed is water skiing. Actually, my dad introduced me to it when I was a teen. He had a friend with a powerboat who’d take him out on the Navesink River, near Red Bank, N.J. A couple of times, I was invited along. I remember very little about Dad’s friend except his funny description of a water skiing wipeout: “a 25-mile-an-hour mouthwash.”

Which brings me to Sandra. One of our many dates as we were getting to know each other in those two weeks of her 1986 Hawaii vacation was water skiing. Sandra had never done it before, but she was game – she’d done scuba diving and hot-air ballooning before we met. When it was her turn to get in the water and put on the skis, my dad and I first coached her: “Keep your elbows bent, so you can move your arms back and forth in response to the little waves you’ll encounter. That’s how you stay upright.”

And off we went. The boat quickly took up the slack in the line whose handles Sandra was gripping, and she rose out of the water. Within seconds, however, like most novices, she fell backward because she’d let her arms straighten out. For most people that would be the end of the ride. They’d release the rope, as everyone is told to do when they fall, and the boat would come around for another try.

Not Sandra, however. Determined to succeed, she hung on, skimming the water feet first, flat on her back. She wouldn’t let go and, before long, she bent her arms, miraculously hauled herself back onto her feet and was skiing like a champ! I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since.

Determination like that is just one of what I later heard her dad call “the Sandy qualities” that I so admire.

2 replies
  1. TJ Kelley
    TJ Kelley says:

    That truly is amazing, Howard, for a couple of reasons. The first is I can’t believe that the throttle wasn’t cut by the boat driver the instant Sandra fell (reported by the observer). Second, barefoot water skiing requires a high speed. I never tried it but I know one learns to do it by stepping out of water skis, one at time, very carefully testing the feel, then when stabilized and confident of balance abandoning the other water ski. I learned to water ski during my USAF pilot training when three of us bought a ski-boat and went out onto Lake Amistad, Del Rio, TX, every weekend. I became an accomplished slalom water skier and wake jumper. Periodically we’d set up slalom courses to test our skills. I have the pictures to prove it!

    • Howard Daniel
      Howard Daniel says:

      It certainly was amazing, Tom. I don’t recall enough detail to be able to say why the driver didn’t cut the throttle. I’m guessing it’s because we saw her trying to get up and eventually succeeding. The other thing, though, is that she didn’t lose her skis and, thus, was not skiing barefoot. God only knows how she managed to keep the skis on while flat on her back, but she did. A very impressive young lady, your cousin! Cute too!


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