Every dog has his day (part 2)
By Bill Stork, DVM
I have known some amazing intellects: Kishan Khemani, Dick Bass and Arlin Rodgers, to name a few. All have become productive and respected in their fields. My son Calvin, adjusted for age, is as smart and intuitive as any. Let me go on record as saying that if his ambition and entrepreneurship ever synch with his taste in life, there are no limits. If you ever find yourself wondering the MSRP and standard features of a Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 Roadster, Calvin is your go-to.
Recently, we took my daughter Paige to a restaurant in Williams Bay, called, Pier 290. Looking for a spot on the lake to celebrate her amazing effort through high school, I was unaware the restaurant was also a boat dealership. On sight, Calvin began to rattle off the stats of each of the boats. I was blind.
He pointed to the Mastercraft X-Star. Each boat is designed online to your specifications. Capable of hosting a Catholic family reunion, standard features include a sound system out of Alpine Valley Music Theater and underwater lighting effects synched to the stereo. In 90 seconds it can pump up to 6000 pounds of extra water in order to throw wakes custom-designed for shape and size by the onboard computer system, big enough to host long-board surf competitions. Options include on-call professional instructors, massage therapists, and nutritionists. Models available only in California come with drones and a video production crew. 26 feet long from bow to stern, it requires a Peterbilt semi to haul it to the lake, and costs more than my home and clinic.
Calvin knows these things not by memorizing the website; his friend Thomas has one.
One of the finest boats in its day and an old school slalom skier, I feared the Malibu and I may have gone the way of the Radio Shack TRS-80.
The text came Monday at midnight: "Can I bring a couple of friends?" Tim, Thomas and Calvin are known to travel as a trio; Stooges they are not.
Along with his sister, it would make a boatload… of fun. Tim is oversized, over-accomplished and under-stated. He is the least experienced in tow-behind water sports, but a gamer. Calvin and Thomas will issue detailed instructions from the boat, and I quote: “huck it ‘til you feel your feet” or “just weeble it”. On no more than three tries, Tim was hucking and weebling.
The cheerleader of the bunch, Thomas could sell a Brett Favre Jersey to a Bears fan. At home Thomas’ family's MasterCraft X-Star features a king-sized memory foam mattress and a bidet, so you never have to go ashore. At last count he had wake-boarded 21 consecutive days behind the most advanced boat made on water. Yet I could have pulled out a piece of barn siding with ski boots, and he’d let out a war whoop, pump his fists and ride it.
Clear a piece of schedule, and commit to an afternoon on the lake and you are guaranteed that something is going to break down, it’s going to rain, or the wind's gonna blow. Tuesday, July 8th, we were fortunate: the boat ran great, there was not a drop of rain and no one got hurt, but the wind did blow. She blew all day, with half the ferocity of a derecho, but ten times as persistent.
Dad fought to find the calmest water on the lake. That turned out to be about 150 yards along Shorewood Hills Road, where we dodged two sets of grandparents doing figure 8’s in their runabouts, with 2 or 3 grandkids in inner-tubes giggling behind.
The boys were oblivious. They rode every piece of equipment in the boat ‘til Thomas could stand it no more. Polite by nature, he asked, “Do you know anyone who has a board I could borrow?” deciding that even without the ballasts, computers and professional groomers of his Mastercraft, the Malibu wake would do just fine. A couple of text messages and a trip across the surf to a friend’s personal Pro-Shop, and the boys were in business.
George Berkeley famously asked, “If a tree falls in the forest…” you know the rest.
Bill Stork asks, “If a boy jumps two wakes or does a 180’ wrap, and no one is there to film it on a GoPro, SnapChat, Screenshot and post it on Facegram, did it really happen?”
Two “Ts” and “C” may never know.
For hours, Paige quietly watched and I drove, minus a couple of breaks to “check the temperature of the water.”
With half an hour of daylight left and their stomachs starting to growl, the boys could huck and weeble no more. Yet, leaning quietly next to the motor cover was one piece of equipment that had not been in the lake today. Since the ‘40s, lake rats have experimented with countless versions of the personal hydrofoil: a way to glide silently above the choppy water below, and break your tympanic membrane or turn your eyelids inside-out while reacquainting with the water. The Sky Ski was the product of 80 years of engineering and the brainchild of an amiable old California surf-bum hippie named Mike Murphy. With financing courtesy of King Hussain of Jordan. (Yes, really.)
The Sky Ski is all over YouTube, but in the interest of time, imagine a short fat waterski with a milking stool on one end and a pair of sandals attached to the other. Extending 36’ below the milking stool is a thin aircraft aluminum strut. To the bottom of the strut is attached a hydrofoil… like an airplane wing.
The pilot slides his feet into the sandals, straps the milking stool firmly to his backside and takes the rope in an overhand grip. On signal, the boat driver gently pulls. Once out of the water, the rider instinctively pulls the rope to his waist and leans back. Like a dolphin in the surf, the foil comes out of the water, carves a perfect semi-circle above the rider's head, and he or she crashes.
Finding their 3rd or 4th wind, the boys were intrigued. Tim had never seen one, Thomas had a half-dozen but had yet to ride them, and Calvin had ridden once. Being the most experienced, he volunteered to demo. Suddenly thoughtful, having nothing to do with his crop of goose-bumps, the setting sun and the freezing cold lifejacket, Calvin suddenly perked:
“Hey, Dad, you’ve been driving all day, do you want to show these guys?” he bargained.
When your son asks to play catch, the answer is yes. Though it felt a little like the first dance to the last song of the night, I climbed out from behind the wheel.
It took no time for me to be in the lake. I strapped in and signaled Calvin to go. It had been a few years, but it took minutes to get the feel and speed-dialed in. In the boat, Paige and the boys huddled under blankets and towels and struggled to stay awake.
The key to the Sky Ski is to keep it on the water at first and don’t forget there is an airplane wing attached to, and three feet beneath, your butt. Keep your weight forward and your hands high. Gradually lean and lower. You will rise gracefully above the water, which brought the mummies in the boat to sitting upright.
I gathered a measure of confidence from this, and sliced from one side of the boat to the other, porpoising in a controlled fashion from the surface of the lake to the top of the 3’ strut.
Calvin circled his head with his index finger to indicate a turn and I followed the boat. By the time he found the next straight-a-way, I had the setting sun over my left shoulder and some mojo. I pulled hard to the port side and let the Ski slow to a stop. In a momentary lapse of reason, I cut hard to the wake. As it approached, I dipped the tip, dropped my hands, and heaved like pulling a hip-locked bull calf from a Jersey heifer.
Fully at the mercy of Bernoulli’s equation of fluid dynamics, I heard a Whaawoof! on the percussion of water rushing to fill the space I had just vacated.
With the grace of a Pterodactyl, the 50-year-old bald veterinarian was airborne.
Twelve feet above the lake, I sighted down the rope. The boys looked like the front row on the Screamin’ Eagle, with their mouths in big ovals as they threw off their wraps and scrambled for I-phones and the GoPro.
If I hadn’t fully thought through the launch, I had contemplated the landing even less. As the vortex approached, the time was nigh. The pucker factor was off the scale, precluding any chance of involuntary enema. For the cameras, I would maintain a poker face, like it was all part of the plan. As for the landing itself: weight back and a “Hail Mary.”
As the splash settled, Thomas jumped out of his seat and karate-chopped like I had just done a 360’ tomahawk jam to win the state championship. It is a rare day indeed when a dad can be cool enough to be featured on his kid's GoPro.
Pleased and hungry I cut and jumped for a couple more passes.
There is a reason Chuck Berry never wrote a song more than 2:30 long. I tapped my head to signal I was done and sank into the water. As Calvin circled, I half expected to return to fist bumps and high fives.
Owing either to the famously brief attention span of youth, or because under NO circumstances is a dad allowed to be cool, I pulled myself onto the teakwood deck to the fanfare of a piece of driftwood.