Play safe on the water skis

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 18, 2004

Special to the News-Herald

Can you believe this weekend?! Weather this good means but one thing – summer is finally on the way. There is no doubt that local boaters were ready for a break in all the rain and were taking full advantage of the higher temperatures. Both sail and power boaters were out on Suffolk waterways in force. Summer can not get here fast enough.

Over the past few months I have spent some of my columns on providing suggestions for preparing for summer boating. I have described how to check and prepare your trailer, your outboard engine and different parts of your boat. Just like your car or truck’s maintenance, proper maintenance on all the items involved in this sport. Careful preparation is an important part, in fact a very important part, of making sure you get the most out of your boating experience this summer.

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This week I am going to start to shift our focus. Over the next few weeks I want to remind you of some basic safety rules for water skiing. This is especially important as people have watched ESPN and ESPN2 this winter and watched some of the spectacular moves done by water skiers who are true experts. Granted the water temperatures still have a ways to go – in fact temperatures are still really cold. But now is the time to begin to prepare yourself and your equipment.

First and foremost, before you ever consider placing your ski or skies in the water check for cracks and lose connections. Something as simple as a tear in the boot can cause a serious problem if the tear increases. So, job one – take a good long look at your skies itself.

Second, take a look at your Coast Guard approved personal flotation device or PFD. You do have a Coast Guard approved model, don’t you? Make sure there is no damage caused by winter storage in a humid garage, or significant wear and tear. Remember this piece of equipment may help save your life in an accident and you want the best equipment possible. If you have youth skiers make that the PFDs that you have fit.

Third, make sure that you are in shape and have reasonable stamina to sustain the rigors of water skiing. On more than one occasion I have watched some individuals who have not taken these steps attempt to ski and the results were not good. Taking part in an aerobic activity and lifting light weights will help prepare your system for your first run. The absolute worst thing you can do is to ski when you are physically exhausted.

Four, before you actually get into the water, review the hand signals that are used while skiing. You need to be able to tell the lookout your condition once you fall by these signals, or if you have a problem. If you know the signals, make sure those that you are skiing with also know them.

Five, once you get into the water you need to maintain situational awareness on the area that you are skiing in. This means that you need to see where other boats are operating, where other skiers are operating, where any obstructions such as piers are located. This preparation applies to both rivers and to lake. Also knowing where shallow areas or potential underwater obstruction are is a good idea.

Sixth, make sure there is no slack in the towline before you start. The reason is simple. Slacked towline could get wrapped up, and any slack will result in a more difficult initial jolt in your start.

Seventh, when you fall (and you will), try to fall to the side, or backward, never forward. Once you are down make sure you are visible to other boaters and skiers.

Finally, have fun! Water skiing is one of the best recreational sports. Until next week, ski safe, and ski smart!

U. S. Coast Guard Boating Class

Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 58 will be presenting a six (6) lesson Boating Skills and Seamanship Class at Russell Memorial Library, 2808 Taylor Road, Chesapeake, starting 22 April through 13 May, Monday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Ages 12 through adult are welcome. For registration or additional information contact Diana Smith at 953-5787, Mike Smith at 686-1356 or e-mail