Memories of Water Skiing at Lake Powell

Water Skiing at Lake Powell

Photo: Wade Williams-Wikimedia Commons

With over 250 square miles of water, water skiing at Lake Powell is unsurpassed.

Combine that with the fact that Lake Powell warms up faster and reaches a higher summer water surface temperature, around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, than any other lake in the state of Utah and you have a skier’s paradise.

This unique water activity is believed to have been invented in 1922 by eighteen-year-old Ralph Samuelson of Lake City, Minnesota.

Samuelson theorized that if you could ski on snow, you could ski on water.

To test his theory he fashioned a pair of skis out of barrel staves and had his brother pull him behind his boat.

After only very limited success, he then tried snow skis and finally fashioned a pair of skis out of pieces of lumber.

In 1925, Fred Waller, a special effects technician for the Paramount studio at Astoria, Long Island, developed a set of skis to carry a motion picture cameraman for tracking shots.

When Waller saw the potential for using skis recreationally, he secured a US patent on the design and began marketing "Dolphin Akwa-Skees."

This was the first US patent on water skis and the first commercially produced water ski.


Sunset Lake Powell

My First Water Skiing Experience 

And so, from such humble beginnings, a world-wide industry and recreational sport was born, and I think back to my first visit to Lake Powell over forty years ago.

It is past first light and there is a stillness to the air.

The top of the buttes to the west of our campsite are bathed now by the rising sun, glowing like the hot coals in last night’s campfire.

The water is glassy and still; the buttes a perfect reflection in the mirror-like water. There is not a sound; it’s like we have the lake to ourselves.

Just the way it must have been here, in this very spot, before there ever was a lake.

But, we are readying ourselves to break that silence, to skim across the glassy surface like jitterbugs leaving behind the wake of our boat and our skis.

Photo: Nancy Jackson

Lake Powell

The outboard catches with a throbbing pulse in the now disturbed water.

I am just at the edge of the sloping beach, lying back in the 80 degree water, my knees flexed and my ski tips sticking up out of the water.

I have the handle to the tow line in both my hands, and the boat inches forward slowly, paying out the line inch by inch, foot by foot until it becomes taut between me and the boat.

I yell, “Hit it!”, and the boat surges forward, its bow cutting through the glassy water.

I pull the handle back into my chest, my knees still flexed and suddenly I am out of the water skimming across the surface.

I extend my arms now getting the feel of the skis and the water.

Now, I lean to my right and again pull the handle back into my chest and I am sweeping out to the starboard side of the boat, across the wake, now skimming across the mirror-like water; the reflections rippling behind my skis.

In minutes I am dry from the sun and the warm wind flowing across my body.

I release the tow rope handle from my right hand, and fist closed, I pump my arm above my head in exaltation and exhilaration.

I feel like I am on the top of the world and a joyous laugh escapes my lips. I can’t contain it nor do I want to.

Water Skiing at Lake Powell

Slalom Skiing
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Again, I grasp the tow rope handle with both hands, and pull it back to my chest, simultaneously leaning to the left, and I accelerate across the boat’s wake and into the still water to the port side of the boat.

I do this again and again until my legs tell me it is time to stop.

I release the tow rope handle and, no longer tethered to the boat, I slowly sink until only my upper body and ski tips are above the water and I wait for the boat to return for me.

That I still have such a vivid memory after forty years is testament to the indescribable beauty and allure of Lake Powell.

My memories, I am sure, are not unlike thousands of others who have experienced the magic, the enchantment, the thrill and excitement of water sports at Lake Powell.

Water Skiing at Lake Powell

Photo: Courtesy of Boat Owners Association of the United States

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Resources and References:
History of Waterskiing
By Mary Bellis

American Water Ski Educational Foundation
A Look Back Into History

Ezinearticles.comWater Skiing – The History of the Sport
By Steve Batchelor
History of Water Skiing

Getting Started With Water Skiing
PostedApril 29th, 2010
By Boat Insurance Org

The Worry-Free Way to Waterski
Boat Owners Association of The United States

Return From Water Skiing Lake Powell To Lake Powell Country

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