This story was brought to us by Fred Juras, a member of the Wednesday Night Ski Club on the Willamette River in Oregon. The club has been skiing together for over 40 years, with no signs of slowing down. Got a water ski story you'd like to share with us? Send an e-mail to email@example.com!
Rocking chair on the front porch? Nope.
Puttering in a gentleman’s garden? No way.
Filling a day with quiet surrender? NEVER!
We are a group of senior men determined to fulfill our lives by continuing those activities that have brought us joy and excitement throughout our years. We are the “Wednesday Night Water Ski Club” on the Willamette River, Oregon.
For our group, water skiing begins the first Wednesday in March and ends the last Wednesday in November, because that’s when it gets too dark to ski. Dick Adams, “the chairman,” has been running this unit of pirates for over 40 years. Today, the ski members range from 50 to 70 years old. The core group may have changed over the last ten years, but the friendship goals (and the Wednesday night itinerary) are still the same: ski, hot tub, drink beer, talk politics, eat Chinese food … simple, the way life should be.
Adams is the chairman because he skis so smoothly. And he owns the boat. Wolt Van Dornick is the Energerizer Bunny – his ski energy appears to be endless. Every year, Wolt also runs the challenging Mt. Hood to Oregon coast 200-mile relay. At just 50, Tom Allison is the youngster, and he’s also a former professional hockey player. At 71, I happen to be the oldest. The rest of the guys call me the jack rabbit because rumor has it I tend to ski a little on the radical/inconsistent side. As in my long-passed youth, I thought I was an excellent example of the natural athlete. Apparently, when I ski, what they see and what I think they see are not the same. I can accept that, they’re my buddies.
We ski the Willamette River from Wilsonville to Newburg, a distance of 15 miles. It’s in-and-out-in-and-out of the boat until everyone gets in three runs each. Having the long river straightaway gives us the advantage of hardly ever having to make a loop. We just point the boat west and go. To be honest, it’s a skier’s dream run: long, straight, and open.
In March the water temps start around 42 degrees and by November when we finish its 46. I keep the cold off with a shorty, while the “young” guys wear fullsuits. What pansies!
After an invigorating, but chilly river venture, we hustle back to the dock and the awaiting hot tub. This is when the après-water-ski ritual begins. We soak in the hot tub, drink beer, and laugh as we beat each other up discussing adversarial politics. Luckily, our viewpoints are somewhat balanced with opposing opinions of today’s political happenings and a shared sense of patience with the other disillusioned viewpoint. Of course, the labels are irrelevant, but the discussion spices the mental battle of one-upmanship and victory.
From the hot tub, full of jokes and a little beer, it’s then off to our version of “Cheers,” the local Chinese restaurant. The waitress sees us coming and practically orders for us before we get in the door: egg foo young with extra gravy, hot sour soup, the appetizer plate with extra mustard and sauce, tomato beef, and every now and then, a new choice for variety. Once dinner is over our Wednesday Night Ski Club ritual is complete and, exhausted and satisfied, we head home to crash and dream of a better ride next week!
Over the years, we have had skiers from Canada, China, Australia, Brazil and, of course, students from spring break. The old boys however, are not intimidated by youthful swagger and bold ski moves. We have that too… sometimes thanks to some liquid courage. There are too many stories that come to mind, but one time we tried skiing on snow skis, and another time a member tried getting up while his drysuit zipper was open. Neither ended well, but still provide big laughs to this day. Our sweet ski moments may not be continuous, but when it’s good, it’s very good.
As a new season rolls along, we roll along with it, and we will not go quietly into the night. We will ski on the edge, go faster than we probably should, and, above all, cherish these moments with our skiing brotherhood. Come along and join us, there’s always room for one more. If you are in the Portland metro area on a Wednesday night and want to go for a rip, email me and we will set you up. The equipment, beer, and stories are free. We all chip in for the dinner.
Keep on skiing!