Learning to Waterski
Dick’s parents had retired to Pensacola soon after Dick completed flight training in the hopes he would get orders there. They were right. In 1956 Dick was ordered there as a flight instructor.
They were well settled in when we arrived with three little girls. Hap and Lucille Shelley had purchased a nice boat for them to go fishing so when we got settled into our home and mentioned how we would like to learn to waterski, Hap said we could use his boat. The outboard motor wasn’t very powerful but we decided to give it a try.
Dick bought a pair of waterskis, made a tow handle from an old broom and we took off for the beach. The grandparents were thrilled to have these grandbabies close and were our babysitters for the day.
We had not tried waterskiing before so we sat on the beach for a while and watched others to see just how it was done. Once Dick thought he was ready to get on the skis, he took me out in the boat so I could learn what to do. I was to make big circles out in the bay, returning to the beach so he could drop off when he was done. However, neither of us had any idea he would be up on the skis on the first run so hadn’t discussed how to communicate with each other.
To my shock, there he was up on the skis the very first attempt. I circled once, he didn’t get off so I circled again and he remained on with a big smile on his face. I started another circle, wider this time and looked out to see him crossing the waves back and forth with great speed. Then I looked to my right and there he was right even with the boat and I panicked. I pulled back on the throttle and saw Dick shaking his head NO! so I pushed the throttle forward to full speed.
Then I looked over just in time to see him thrown out of the skis when the line went tight and crashed into the bay. He was not smiling when he surfaced, believe me.
Next it was my turn. I thought, if he can do it so can I. He took off slowly for me to get the feel before going faster. I got going well by staying in my squatting position while trying to get my balance and stand up. He made a big circle and I rode the whole way on my behind. He kept yelling “stand up” but the skis were going left and right and wouldn’t stay straight like his did.
I told him the foot braces needed to be changed to my foot size. He did change the bindings to fit me and then I too got up on the skis. That day was the beginning of many happy hours of waterskiing for the Shelley family.