I can’t believe it is here. This is the last week of August. The yearly cycle that has been firmly conditioned into my mind from 18 years of school scheduling tells me that the end is near. This is both true and false. There are plenty of great ski days left in Virginia. Their finite nature, however, is becoming more evident and the summer’s vibe is definitely changing at this point. Paul has (as of yesterday) moved into the University of Alabama, Ellie Whitlock is spending more time on the tennis court than the lake and I am trying to rebuild my fitness after the long and hectic mid-summer push. Though time is limited, this late summer/early fall time period has always been my favorite time of the year to ski. The pressure of all of the big tournaments ahead is off and it is the time to just go out and enjoy skiing, work on improving and try new stuff.
Now that nationals are over, it is a NEW season. I’ve been pleased that in this new season, I’ve already met some new skiers and it looks like I’ll be meeting several more new skiers this week! I’ve also had some old friends make their first ever trip to Bumpass to check the scene out. It is definitely a great time to come for a visit. As well as the new people, I have a bunch of other new stuff for anybody and everybody to check out. I’ve got the best ropes and handles in skiing from US Gear for demo. I’ve got a 65” and 66” D3 X7 ready for somebody to jump on them. As always, I’ve got fresh ideas about how to take YOUR skills to the next level. Possibly, most excitingly, I’ve got the first 2012 Centurion Carbon Pro ready to pull you and blow your mind!
Paralleling my desire to get everybody on the water to enjoy the best skiing in the world is my desire to enjoy time with some of my great friends. Of course, I won’t be returning to school this year but I have booked my ticket to Acapulco and will be leaving the country on November 2. With 6.5 months non-stop skiing beginning on that date, I have decided to dedicate the month of October to all other things in life. Mainly, I am hoping to spend a lot of time with my family and closest friends. My mom and her fiancé Mike will be getting married on October 15. I am honored to be “the Maid of Honor” (yes, my family doesn’t always play by the rules). I am also planning a trip to visit my infant Godson, Brady Thomas Drake in Florida. Aside from these two major events, I’m hoping to reconnect with many other things that I have shifted onto the back burner during the last 2 years, as I’ve been on this massive ski binge. So PLEASE come be a part of the binge and let’s ski it up together as much as possible this week and the week I return from my 2 week trip to California. I’ll be gone from September 1-14, leaving THIS WEEK and just over a week in late September to come ski in Bumpass AND THAT’S IT! Don’t delay, if you want to get a set or two with me in Bumpass before the season ends, contact me NOW and let’s set that up!
After a great, but much too short, weekend at Lake Gaston, with my family, only Granddad and I remain. We decided to stay tonight at the place where we shared every summer of my life from 1985-2007. We love this spot where we have shared so many good times and where my passion for water skiing was born and grew. We will leave here early tomorrow morning for Bumpass. Granddad will be staying with me for the week at the place where my passion for skiing found new roots and continued to thrive. We are planning on a great week and we hope to see you there!
Peace, Love & Waterskiing,
Dear Ski Community,
Did I mention in my last letter that I am proud to be an Eastern Region skier? Let me say that that pride was reaffirmed, validated and upgraded during the 2011 Eastern Regional Championships. This year’s Regionals at Vosburgh’s Pangaea Puddle was a screaming success and has left me with tremendous anticipation of next year’s event. For those of you who were on the fence and decided not to ski in the Regional’s this year, let me share a bit about my experience so you don’t miss out on all of the fun next year.
To my understanding, this year’s event was the culmination of 16 years of planning, vision and commitment by George Vosburgh. Since breaking ground in Canajoharie, NY 16 years ago, with dreams of hosting an Eastern Region Championship, George Vosburgh has created one of the most (if not the most) beautiful, ski sites I have ever seen or visited. The gorgeous and breathtaking scenery, however, is not the feature that made this site or this tournament so perfect. Instead, it was the planning that went into this site and how it would be laid out and the type of event this setting made possible that made Pangaea great.
The site is just slightly past the middle of nowhere. As such, it is more like a small kingdom than a family property. Indeed, it has the feeling of being its own super-continent (Pangaea). The minute I arrived on the sprawling site, my decision to make this a camping trip was strongly affirmed. I’m guessing that many others, who made their first trip to Pangaea and decided to reserve the nearest hotel room (40 minutes away), were disappointed with their decision; not because of the commute but because of the truly perfect camping venue. The weather could not have been more perfect, with daytime temperatures in the 90s making the 82-degree water feel great, and nighttime lows in the 60s, making sleeping bags just right. It was clear that this site was sculpted from the beginning to accommodate skiing and camping together and I don’t think it could have been done any better.
Thus the layout, itself, offered a special invitation. This ski site was meant to bring people together, not just to ski and compete and have fun on the water, but to live together, cooperate and forge new friendships. The layout of some ski tournaments is such that it makes sense to stay in a nearby hotel, ski your event (5 minutes of excitement) and then go home. Pangaea is the opposite. This venue invites guests to have fun skiing and hopefully do all three events because the true purpose of the event isn’t the 5 minutes on the water but the 5 days surrounding those 5 minutes. Yes, this tournament saw PB’s as well as disappointing performances, just as all tournaments do. Pangaea, however, still had so much to offer beyond winning or losing on the water that everybody had the chance to win by having a great time. This vibe and this approach to tournaments is EXACTLY the sort of thing we need more of in our water skiing world. If our beloved sport is going to survive (yes just pure survival, which is a subject I plan to address more and more throughout the coming year) or even THRIVE, it will be because of efforts like this year’s Eastern Regionals at Pangaea.
That being said, I think next year’s event is even going to be even better. Even after all of the work and the 16 years of committing to a vision, the only sort of question George Vosburgh asked was “what can we do to make this better yet?” He never asked: How can this be less work? How can this be done cheaper? Do I have to take this on again? I have gone to every Eastern Regionals since 1994 (except one) and I firmly believe that as long as the 2012 Regionals are at Pangaea Puddle, it will be the best Regional Tournament in the 18 years I have been doing this.
I’d like to give one huge THANK YOU to the Vosburgh Family and a tip of the cap to George’s undying vision. I would also like to thank all of the officials, volunteers, workers, skiers, fans, family supporters and friends who made this event what it was. If we can keep this up, I am encouraged that water skiing has a bright future and, like Rock and Roll, will NEVER DIE!
So after my 5 days and 4 nights of camping and Pangaea, I packed up and slid off to a very good friend’s cabin in Eaton, NY. Mike Marra is probably the most dedicated professional water ski fan I know. Now, he is not like Granddad, who is my biggest supporter and fan and travels everywhere with me (including arriving here in Milwaukee tomorrow morning!). Granddad is a huge fan but let’s face it, his Grandson is one of the Athletes. Other “hardcore” ski fans are generally families and friends of skiers. Mike is a new friend and was a pro skiing fan when I met him. He truly enjoys following the scores and trying to catch live feeds and tweets from all of the events. He is a fan of pro water skiing like I am a fan of the Washington Redskins (who may end up having a chance in this chaotic NFL but that’s another story). Mike is also a super cool guy who opened up his cabin to me for some much, much needed R&R between Regionals and the upcoming Malibu Open. Mike’s daughter, Rachel, has caught the bug too and has become quite the fan. They both came to the Malibu Open as spectators last year, which is where Rachel discovered that Nate Smith is “adorable” and that pretty much all of the pro athletes are just really good people. These guys encourage me that if we market ourselves properly, there is a captive audience that we could tap. I mean, there must be a way we can make a ski tournament more entertaining than the “World Series of Poker”. Thanks for the hospitality guys, you sent me off right!
So I left the Marra’s place near Syracuse, NY yesterday at 1:30pm and drove 14 hours straight to Wisconsin. I am now in my room at the Milwaukee Hilton resting, connecting with my best ski friends from all over the world and sharpening my focus for this weekend’s event. The Malibu Open takes place on Friday and Saturday and will be webcast live. If you want to follow the action and be a fan, yourself, check out theproskitour.com for the schedule of events and link to the webcast. If you can’t get to your computer on Friday or Saturday (because maybe you are out skiing, too) but you find yourself remembering that the event is taking place, send me some positive vibes. With all of the best skiers in the world gathering for this huge event (possibly the biggest in water ski history?), I don’t mind asking for any additional help I can get.
From Milwaukee, Granddad and I will continue on to Jolliet, Illinois for the Nationals, before making the drive back to Bumpass. I don’t want to get too far ahead though. For now, I’m going to do some Yoga and get my head in the game for Friday and Saturday.
For those of you who are not living on the road and are looking to rip the waters of Bumpass and/or get a lesson, Paul will be available this Sunday and Monday (August 7 and 8). You can email me to set up a time or better yet, just call Paul at (757) 746-9932.
All the Best and Adios Amigos,
P.S. Maddie Miller told Taylor and I the most horrifying ghost story ever. If I don’t win the Malibu and/or Nationals it will be due to sleep loss from the nightmares created by this story.
P.P.S. This newsletter’s song selection is “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills and Nash. Most of you already know that this is one of the greatest songs ever recorded but for the kids and those who don’t know about this one, GO GET IT!