I am running on water!’ his mind screamed the first time he learned how to water ski. The thrill of smoothly skimming the waters of the Arabian Sea while keeping his balance on his twin skis, as a 60 bhp motorboat pulled him hard, was an experience that’s had 17-year-old Suhail Gunja hooked to sport ever since.
“It’s great fun once you learn the ropes. The best thing about water skiing is the speed at which you travel on the water. The experience is different every time,” says Gunja, who learned to water ski over a year ago at the H2O Water Sports Complex at Chowpatty, Mumbai.
The long and squat of it
Waterskiing has a person wearing one or two skis being pulled on water by a motorboat while holding on to a tow rope. The skis help the person glide over the water’s surface and allows him to stand upright while holding on to the rope.
So far, so graceful. Now, if you have dreamy visions of water skiing for hours on the Arabian Sea, banish them at once. The most you will be able to stand on the water when you water ski for the first time is 15 minutes. Yes, you read that right. Anything beyond that will be pure torture unless you have superhuman lower body strength.
“Water skiing is mostly about being able to stand with your knees bent, starting very, very slowly from a squatting position and then doing the reverse, which requires tremendous lower body strength,” says Pradeep Pathade (42), a water skiing instructor at H2O Water Sports Complex. Pathade has been skiing for more than 20 years.
Which is why, of H2O’s eight-day water skiing course, the first two days are spent on the ground doing exercises for lower body strength. “When you go into the water for the first time wearing your skis, holding the rope and trying to get up to a standing position takes some practice. But you are all set to ski once you can stand,” says Pathade.
Making a splash
As the boat starts pulling you, there is a set of a hand signals you use to communicate different commands such as speed up, slow down and stop to the motorboat driver.
Of course, the grand fall follows suit. But for skiers, that’s part of the thrill that makes water skiing so exciting in the first place. The real fun begins when you finally learn to balance yourself on the skis and start enjoying the ride.
“Once, when I was still a beginner, the motorboat that was pulling me suddenly swerved but I managed to keep my balance and took the swift turn nicely. I didn’t know anything about tackling turns then so I was really thrilled that I could take that turn!” recalls Shriya Parikh, 13, who has been water skiing since she was 10 years old.
Like with all water sports, how good your water skiing experience is depends on where you do it.
The right time and place
Skiing on the coast usually means more waves, choppier waters and therefore more challenges, whereas skiing on the calm and flat waters of a lake or a river can be easier and more fun for beginners.
Even the time of the day you choose to ski can affect your ride. “Early mornings are the best time to water ski because there are no strong winds that cause the water to swell. It’s an awesome feeling to be gliding on peaceful waters with the spray coming out on all sides,” says Philip Dartnell, a 50-something water sports enthusiast from Goa.
When 43-year-old Sarosh Cooper decided to learn water skiing a few years ago, he took a course at the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam at Asandharaj Lake, near Dehradun.
“Since I was already into alpine skiing, I picked up water skiing easily. And the absolutely flat waters of the lake let me ski at great speed, which made it even more exciting,” says Cooper.
Follow the rules
There are a few rules that even experienced skiers live by when they are going out to the water.
“Always wear a lifejacket, even if you can swim. Apart from keeping you safe, it also adds to your buoyancy and aids in keeping balance,” says Pathade. A lot of your skiing experience also depends on the motorboat that pulls you on the water. “A 60 bhp boat is powerful enough and should have an experienced driver who knows when to speed up or slow down as per the skier’s needs,” says Dartnell.
Once you master the fine art of balancing yourself though, the sea is your playground.