It’s Oct 24th, and the year is 2016. And it’s still fascinating to me that we’ve mastered flight….that you can be floating on a plane 7+ miles above the Earth. Trips that would have taken weeks or months, and cost people’s lives, can now be done in 2 hours.
And yet I was somehow pissed earlier, simply because the flight was delayed 4 hours. I take it back. I’m thankful.
And I’m stoked! About 2 months ago, I was in Idaho at the US Water Ski Nationals. Filming for a FlowPoint Episode (Tribe of the Future), and some friends cornered me. They said “what’s the deal?…seriously! When you gonna get back to competing?” And after some back and forth, I had no choice but to let them help me.
// 5 years ago, on labor day weekend, my life changed. 1 month prior, I had just missed the podium at the World Championships in Dubna, Russia. I returned home and continued to ski some of the best sets I’d had in years. I was riding a high. Of course, when things are going good, sometimes human nature allows us to slip a bit…and get complacent. I wasn’t keeping up with body maintenance….I wasn’t warming up and preparing for my ski rides as diligently. But I didn’t really notice, because I felt great. Saturday, Sept 3rd, I woke up, packed my ski and some snacks and drove 2 hours south to Shortline Lake, just outside Sacramento CA. When I arrived at the lake, I realized I was really late….because I was supposed to be the next skier on the water. Somehow I misjudged the timing, really badly. In addition, I had been brainstorming some ideas on how to make our sport more appealing to spectators. One idea, or factor, was the time it takes to run 1 skier. As a pro, starting at 32 off (43 feet) means you most likely end up skiing 5 passes in a competition round. That takes anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes. TOO MUCH TIME!! So, one idea I had was cutting out the earlier passes: make skiers start at a tough pass (no warm ups) so that they have 2 or 3 (max) passes on the water, essentially cutting their time on the water in half. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “what an idiot…he was just asking for it”. But in reality, this isn’t far fetched. We’d had events in the past where we start at 38 off, or sometimes even 39.5 off, like the Cold 39 event for WaterSki Mag. I knew it was possible. I needed a guinea pig…and that pig ended up being me. Unfortunately, driving 2 hours, jumping out of a moving van immediately into your ski, and starting at a tough pass (38 off) is a recipe for disaster. When I told the boat crew my starting line length, the boat driver (Will Bush) looked at me kinda funny and asked me to repeat it, thinking he misheard what I said. But I was serious (boy how I wish I could take that 1 ski ride back….) and I was determined. My first pass was ok…but without a warm up on the water and without my normal preparations off the water, my timing sucked. I skied it way too hard. My second pass, 39.5 off, was no better…digging holes at the buoy and burying my shoulder through the wakes. My 3rd pass was 41 off: I came through the gates (had a decent gate) approached buoy 1, made my move to finish the turn and “SNAP”!!!! My ski stopped and I broke forward instantly….folded like a lawn chair. I knew that was it….I had done something pretty bad. It was so out of nowhere and unexpected that I kinda felt like I was in a dream for a minute….surreal. Once I drug myself out of the lake and onto the shore, I knew it was serious. But NEVER did I think that 5 years later, I’d be still suffering from that 1 single incident….that I’d still be sidelined from the sport that captured my passion and changed my life in so many good ways….and that I’d still be uncertain about my future as an elite athlete. //
To be honest, my back has been getting better these past 3 or 4 months. I can do more now than I’ve been able to do in the last 2 or 3 years. Mtn Bike, hike, snow ski, workout (a little)….and water ski. But the water skiing I do now is not the same water skiing I used to do. And it’s the act of water skiing, once I start to push, that reminds me of how something still is not quite right. Not fully healed. 5 years and I’m still unable to push and improve…unable to break through the ceiling.
So now, 2 months after my friends insisted on helping me,…. I’m on a plane to Denver. Tomorrow I head to Regenexx and I am hopeful for the outcome…and the future.
More to come on this….