See photos of my waterski


Waterskiing on the Murray River in 1996 In November 1995, I decided to try to water ski again. I had almost broken my lower back in 1977 when bare footing — at 40 plus miles an hour, water is really hard and you just keep bouncing. I bounced badly but got better after some chiropractic work. In fact the last photo taken of me standing up was of me barefoot water-skiing.

It had always been a dream to somehow water-ski again but my early attempts to design something were hampered by two things: I had no idea that it really was possible; and my main inspiration and boat owner/driver, Jim Armstrong, was tragically killed in a house fire.

Until I saw photographs in Sports'N' Spokes of paraplegics skiing, I had put it in the too hard basket. I also had no triceps action (ability to actively extend my arm at the elbow) until bi-lateral deltoid-triceps transfer tendon surgery in 1983. Until then I had severe difficulty manoeuvering in water because my arms just folded in at the elbows without gravity. With the ability to straighten my arms I had the leverage to turn myself over in the water and not drown. Hey call me a 'chicken', but I am addicted to oxygen, so breathing was a major consideration.

With the ability to roll over and breathe, a floatation jacket to keep me on the surface (I normally sink like a rock), Jim's son Kevin (we were also each other's Best Man at our respective weddings) inviting me to ski with him and his inlaws, and the knowledge that others had managed to do it, I had no more excuses. Besides the challenge factor was a powerful stimulus.

I had tried water-skiing earlier but that ski had small skis as outriggers and my bum jammed in the seat designed for narrow para bums. As a result, when I tried to cross the wake, it flipped and I was upside down for two minutes. Not fun. Obviously I needed a better design cage that I could always get out of. In other words, I needed my own larger size cage so I built it.

Designed by taking the best of existing designs like the US built Kan-ski, I measured the amount I needed to widen the cage, designed both a new cage and a plywood ski using Autocad, and had them built. It cost a lot less than a commercial ski, and was tailored to my size and lack of ability. Further details and photos of my waterski are only a click away

By early January 1996 I had a ski and on the second day successfully skied. I really enjoy a sport where I have built the equipment used. Everyone else found my ski great fun to use but not without difficulty. It still requires good balance, especially in the first few seconds when you start.

It was fantastic to ski again. Now I was again able to be actively involved in a past-time that has a lot of social aspects as well. Everyone else shared my success and it must be recognised that they were an important part to my success. The assistance to required to keep me lined up and vertical before the start and get me back into the ski after a wipeout, is a lot of work by my friends. A really good boat driver also makes a huge difference. Thanks Kevin, Kate, Roger and driver Nick.

The ski was unchanged for 1997 but the next projects are to design a better handle to grip with forearms and refine the ski shape so it turns better.

Well, January 1998 saw us back skiing on the Marray near Waikerie in South Australia. A new handle design that makes it a lot easier for me to hang on with my forearms, proved a great success. However, half way through the fortnight I noticed my left leg was spasming a bit and four days later bruising was coming out behind my knee. It hadn't stopped me skiing but after I drove the 800 km home and went to the hospital I found out that the suspected 'hammy' sprain was in fact a BROKEN HIP. Well they operated and bolted it back together with a rotary pin and plate and I was back at work a week later. I still don't know how or exactly when I actually broke it as I didn't really have any hard spills. Still that is part of being active in risk sports!

Anyone with interest in water skiing please e-mail me with questions or suggestions on colin@gizbytes.com.

If you want to buy equipment, check out my 'Garage Sale' website.

Last revised 10 December, 2000.

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