I think I’m having my mid-life crisis early (or I’m only going to live to 52). After 26 years of abstaining from any exercise more strenuous than flipping the channels with a remote control (if the batteries run out the channel stays, even through local programs) I decided to get fit.

If you consider the combination of body and mind here you will appreciate the magnitude of the task at hand. The body still has vivid recollections of birth as an exercise that was, on reflection, not worth quite that much effort. The mind has the attention span of a hyperactive 5 year old on cocaine. So I have to keep it interested.

Gym was not going to cut it. Besides, gymnasiums are unhealthy places for me. My sense of humour tends to clash with the heavily-built people with the over-active thyroid glands sporting multi-coloured skin-tight outfits (the people you understand, not their thyroid glands- they haven’t gotten to the separate-outfit-for-the-thyroid-gland stage… yet).

So I have to say that when a friend with a boat suggested I go water skiing I jumped at it. Not a big jump, mind (don’t want to push things on the first day and rupture something). The great thing about water skiing is that it’s so easy. I’ve seen it on the television. All you have to really do is stand up which, and I’m not just bragging here, I am able to do on a fairly consistent basis. Especially when sober. So we pack the gear up and head down to the river.

To get me used to the idea of being towed behind the boat I go out first on a tube. This is a wonderful, exhilarating and completely skill-less experience. It is also completely safe unless you have friends like mine. I had a great five minute ride before my friend pulled the boat around into a 720 degree turn whilst doing in the region of 500 kilometers an hour. The acrobatic maneuver that I pulled leaving the tube would have got a ’10’ from the Swiss judge at the Olympics if you didn’t count the landing. It didn’t look quite as fast on the television and I don’t remember water being that hard (it seemed really soft in the bath- do they use different water for rivers?). Serious doubts began to set in as we got me ready to be a champion water skier.

Now, being a person who can actually successfully program a fourteen-day video machine to record at not only the right time, but to record the right channel as well, I am fairly adept at remembering sets of procedures. I am told to: Hold on tightly to the rope with both hands (check); bring my knees up to my chest (check); keep the skis facing straight up out of the water (check); and shout when I’m ready.

We hit the first problem: with both hands on the rope keeping facing straight in the water isn’t easy. The time between the point where I have just reached the point of balance and shout ‘Go!’ to the point where the boat suddenly leaps forward wrenching my arms from their sockets is just enough for me to gracefully and gently slide over to the left or right.

Here’s a hint: don’t wear baggy swimming trunks when learning to ski. My first session was completely fruitless as the drag created made it impossible for my puny arms to hang on. After only 20 minutes we broke for lunch with me rather discouraged and sat on the bank, watching children who had not yet spoken their first word ski past doing tricks, showing off and generally making me wish I owned a small-calibre firearm (note: small calibre- I’m not actually cruel or anything).

After sorting out a lighter pair of trunks and consuming a couple of drinks for courage I braved the water once more. I disagree with those that say only a bad workman blames his equipment. Bad workmen are usually concentrating so hard on not hitting their thumb with the hammer and swearing when they do that they seldom get time to verbalize any sort of blame. Besides, blaming your equipment (in your own head, at least) gives you the courage to go back and try again.

And I popped out of the water! It actually worked! I moved forward, gained speed and just popped up onto the skis. It was terrific, exhilarating and triumphant and lasted almost a full second before I hit the river doing 500 kilometers an hour (the speed was actually logged by a friend of mine using sophistcated equipment consisting of a beer and a garden lounger) for the second time that day. But it didn’t bother me now. I was pumped. I was there. I was in what star athletes call “The Zone’.

I had further instructions: stay down; keep your center of gravity low for balance; and good luck. It took another couple of goes for me to get my total skiing time up from 1 second to 5. I did get it right and I discovered something. My friend had learned to ski sometime before nature had decided to introduce puberty to him and allow his personal matched luggage to drop. A ski boat kicks up quite a lot of water which it, to not bug real skiers, shoots low across the water. I felt like my nuts were hanging down into a scene of Rocky and that Sylvester Stallone was using them to train. I lasted about as long as any guy does after such an experience and decided that I would not be buying a pair of skis for myself anytime soon.

Don’t let this tale of incompetence put you off, however. My father got skiing right first time at the age of about 40 and I can imagine that skimming across the water and 60 kilometers an hour must be exhilarating. But for me, back to the remote control for a while.



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