Water-skiing on the Brisbane River


Seeing as though it was Sean’s last day in Oz, we weren’t about to sit on our bums and just watch the cricket. Shaking off the couple of beers at the R.E. and Regatta pubs the night before, we kicked our arses at a RPM class at the gym, before coming back to the office to clear up some work and get Sean all packed up.

In the afternoon we’d been invited to go water-skiing on the Brisbane River with my sister-in-law’s family. Ian, the father, had built the skis himself, but even more impressive, he’d built the boat as well. This thing was probably older than I am, but it still ran well (although we’re told it does just stop occasionally). Water-skiing was something I’ve never done before so I was happy to let someone else go first while I tried to gather as much info as possible.

Sean was first into the water on a slalom ski and looked like he knew what he was doing. The problem was that the Brisbane River has a very muddy, sludgy bottom and the mud tends to take ahold of the ski while you’re getting ready to go. As the boat took off, so did Sean…but without the ski. It was a faceplant of Hollywood proportions and skill, but he was ok. Once the boat came round again, he tried again, but the combination of big Sean, old boat and river mud defeated all efforts.

It was my turn next and Shirley (the mum) was giving me plenty of good advice that didn’t seem physically possible to follow. I was supposed to lean back, keep my arms straight, keep the tips of the skis out of the water, knees inside my elbows and then I would be up and riding in no time. Did I mention the mud? First time out of the blocks I left one ski behind. Shirley lost one of her shoes forever. My brother David helped as much as he could but I was having a tough time just keeping the skis straight.

After being dragged out from shore on my third attempt I was drifting down the river in the strong current, so we had a crack at starting from deep water. This was much better and I could start to feel how things worked. After a few false starts and being dragged headfirst through the water before I realised I should let go of the rope, I finally stood up long enough to yell out a “Woohoo!”. I was back in the river about 2 seconds later, but I was up and that’s all that counts. It’s a bit like surfing when you first manage to stand up.

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Not wanting to spoil my success, I jumped back in the boat so someone else have a go. Dan was a friend of Aidy’s and he brought along a kneeboard. These things looked like a lot of fun and easier than trying to stand up on skis. Dan had been doing this since he was a kid so he knew what he was doing and his beach start was perfect. He was getting up some great speed moving across the boat’s wake and only wiped out a couple of times.

My sister-in-law, Chrissa, was next in the water and she showed us how it was done. A lot more graceful than we’d managed and Sean described her as “like a knife through the water.” Ian was driving the boat by that stage and he felt it was his duty to make sure you ended up in the water at some point. I think he managed to get Chrissa in, but only once. She arrived back at the beach in fine style and then it was Aidy’s turn. These girls have been doing this since they were kids and it showed.

It was getting towards the end of a great day and the weather was just perfect. At the urging of the young nieces, Hannah and Pru, there was time enough left for Sean to have a ride on the tube. After a slow start (big Sean, old boat, 50hp engine), he really picked up some speed. Ian was doing his best to get him off and it became a battle of wills. Smaller and smaller circles by the boat saw Sean catch some pretty impressive air for a big dude, but eventually Ian and G-forces won and Sean took a bath. Tough work, but someone’s got to do it.

It was a very fun way to spend an afternoon, so close to the city and a big thanks to everyone – Aidy, Chrissa, Cam, David, Shirley, Ian, Dan, Hannah and Pru – for making it such a great day.