International Water Ski Racing Online Since 1996

Wrapped on Adrenalin

I woke to the sound of seagulls screaming for me to get up & prepare for the race. 7am it was and the flags were set to drop at 11. Pulling one of the curtains aside to take a look out of the small guest house window I could see the water beyond the sand waiting for the 30 or so powerboats which would shortly be screaming over it. It was going to be fast, but you know that the elements are once again instilling a false sense of security within you.

Ok breakfast! It’s the usual cooked English & race morning chat, which becomes a regular Sunday treat through the peak of the racing season. Down it’s forced and we check out. I arrive to find the boats already strung up across the beach. And that’s my driver I see! He was in the bar till gone midnight and he’s just told me he’s been up seeing to the boat since 6am. Ok…perhaps they do actually do a few things other than opening their wallets.

The club house is buzzing with officials. Their adrenalin is already at a high it seems. I go to find some solitude in the toilets and am faced with the usual queue of skiers (& one or two observers) with pre-race nerves.

15 minutes later …it seems as if a few are already taping up their ankles & squeezing into their wetsuits. A lax few are only now untangling their ski lines after last week’s race and a few are taking it all in their stride, knowing that there’s plenty of time yet.

Engines start to roar as the drivers sporadically fire them up before launching their pride & joys into the water & I discreetly inhale those fumes which deliver a premature rush of race excitement. I get into my gear, hop into the boat, put on my helmet & adjust the chin strap until it feels just right, as we are reversed down the slipway.

Five minutes to “flags up” and the drivers are doing their ritual manoeuvring in & out of one another, with their own ideas of where they should start from. Seems mine has decided to take the inside line this time.

My observer starts to twitch. “Shall we put your ski on now” he asks. “We’ll wait for the flags” I tell him. “There’s plenty of time…don’t worry!”. But the anxious look remains under his helmet – bless him! Time to give a few more thumbs of encouragement to other skiers and two flags are raised. We’ve got two and a half minutes before the second flag when every skier gets into the water. My observer pulls open the bindings and I squeeze my feet in. He struggles to pull over the straps and clip them, but I know he’ll succeed eventually, and he does. His anxious face is replaced by one of concentration. The driver, seemingly relaxed, sitting like a king in his thrown, keeping one eye on his stopwatch and the other on the start boat.

Lifting the ski over the side of the boat, I sit there holding the handles for a few seconds. Final adjustment of my goggles. They’ve got to be just right you see.

“One flag down” the crew shouts….I drop into the water and vaguely hear them wishing me good luck as the boat pulls away until the 200 foot or so of line is out & tight. A few washes from other boats roll into me, but concentration is on keeping the ski straight, keeping balanced and being prepared for the unannounced pull out after 30 seconds.

My eye is on the observers arm, which is held high and suddenly dropped to signal that the 2nd flag has gone down and we’re off.

Thirty or more skiers launch from the water (one or two launching back into it) and power forward behind the combined roar of thousands of horsepower of race engines. Still slightly tensed, with a pinch of nerves swilling through me, I bravely give some “up” signals to my observer for more speed. I get the speed, but so do the skiers on either side of me, as the drivers compete with each other.

First turnbouy! …Here we go! Seven or eight of us power around, with drivers attempting the tightest possible line. Through the corner of my sprayed goggles, I get a flash of someone on the very inside taking a fall. No time to think who though… must get round this… concentrate! Straightening up out of the turn I give another “up”. “Come on” I shout hopelessly, as I foam at the mouth for an injection of pure speed. All nerves gone, brains too. I’m here. Here in this 55 minutes of insanity…getting the rush…getting the buzz which makes me come back week after week.

The field begins to thin. You know who’s going to be there, you know who’ll be there till the end. Now amongst those who perform as well as you, it’s a game of strategy, guts & stamina. The skier on my left usually starts to struggle at 45 minutes. The skier on my right has beat me in the last 2 races, but I’m convinced I’m better really. I’m convinced that this is going to be mine today…MINE!

As the first lap is completed, we’ve all gained a feel for the water we’re up against. But you know too, that it’s going to chop up as the boats circulate the 3 mile rectangular course, time and time again. You know that the guy 100 metres ahead hate’s fast chop and that you’ll reel him in before long. But you know too that nothing is certain in this game.

Four of us there are. Four of us with drivers continually squeezing out a few more revs, thinking you the skier won’t feel it. “Down you lovely man!” (or words to that effect) But he went up 200 revs and came down 100. The pace has increased. Nobody wants to be left out. The four of us are hanging in there. Give another down and you’re likely to be left behind.

“Halfway” I see the observer in the boat to my left signal to his skier. Mine follows. Time to re-frame the mind. It’s not that I’ve got to do another 25 minutes or so – No! It’s that I’m nearly there. Glory is waiting…it’s not so far now.

My body argues with my mind, but this time my mind wins. “This is easy” I tell myself. Who am I kidding? … I’m kidding the muscles that I’ve neglected a little lately. I’m kidding the heart that is 10 years older than the one skiing on my right. But I’m a convincing liar. My body obeys & relentlessly pushes on.

Ten minutes to go, a fall to my left…three of us remain. I know I’ve got the edge on the back leg and I know my driver will retain the inside position. We’ve got the advantage, but still a few laps to go. It’s not so much the pace now, but the tiredness that you continually fight. The thought that the last lap is going to be “all out.”

It comes…the blue flag signalling the penultimate lap. Again the drivers push up the pace. If you want the win you have to hang on. Somebody goes in! God this is too quick! Two of us left, five metres apart, I’m catching his wash. “I’m going to do it, I am the best!”

A final conditioning of the mind…total concentration now. That secret gear I’ve not used all race. “UP” I wave. And yes! This is it! I wrench forward, and notice my opponent’s observer calling him on. I know this is it. I know I’ve got him. The chequered flag is there. Yes this is it!

We pull out 50 metres, I even give another “up”. The final turn, the finish boat in sight. A last brave attempt by my opponent’s driver to catch us but no. It’s here, it’s ours, we’ve won!

The boat slows and the crew simultaneously punch the air several times with elation. I follow with one almighty raising of the arm, feeling the God given right to acknowledge my deserved victory.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

I throw the line and embrace the cool refreshing water into which I submerge. What a relief. Thank God it’s over. But oh the feeling’s so good! The boat comes around to pick me up. They’re ecstatic inside. What a team effort, what a result, what a feeling.

The other finishers acknowledge my well deserved victory and we cruise into the shore.The crowds are there. They’ve seen it all, they know you worked for it. Climbing out of the boat, stumbling up the pebbled beach I proudly accept the pats on the back, the smiles, the chain of congratulations. Yes this is it. This is why I do this.

This must be as good as it gets.

By Robbie Llewellyn (1995)

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On Facebook