I was freaking out for an entirely different reason a few minutes later.
"...so you're going to want to remain in the ball until the boat comes up on plane. You'll feel it," Dale reassured me as I tried to figure out a graceful way to decline what I saw as a session of inevitably-get-dragged-around-on-my-face-behind-the-boat-for-a-while. Besides, the water looked cold. And the life jacket was a little too big. I gestured at it. "Um, I don't think this is gonna work for me. Got any others?"
Dale came over and yanked on a strap, which grudgingly tightened to fit. Crap. "There you go. Are you ready?"
I tried to give an enthusiastic "Heck yeah!" before walking over towards the side of the boat. The boat rolled alarmingly. I retreated back towards the middle. "Oh, I hope I don't flip this, though."
"You can't," Dale's brother and twin, Skipper, announced from the captain's chair. "See?" They both began rocking the boat until I swear we were perpendicular to the water and balancing on edge. Needless to say, I reestablished my death grip on the nearest object. Well, the second nearest--the nearest happened to be Dale's leg, and I figured I was having enough of a hard time maintaining my calm-in-the-face-of-certain-drowning image without clinging to THAT. How do I get myself into these things?
This whole adventure started back in early spring, actually, when I saw Dale's homescreen on his computer and casually mentioned, "Hey, that's a neat-looking boat." It turned out that the Starcraft was a boat that the twins had bought and restored for the purpose of waterskiing, of which they were both avid enthusiasts. After talking up the finer points of waterskiing and boating with me for a while, they casually asked if I ever wanted to try. I admitted that it certainly sounded fun while privately deciding that the odds of me faceplanting my way to a watery grave were probably high enough for me to want to avoid that sport like the plague. I did, however, definitely want to go out on the boat and said as much. They promptly extended an invitation, which I promptly accepted and then forgot about...until closing time at lab that afternoon a few weeks later, when Dale had casually asked, "Hey, what are you up to tonight?"
"Nothing that I can think of," I grumbled, privately wishing that I'd had the courage to ask that cute girl I'd seen at church yesterday out on a date.
My thoughts otherwise occupied, Dale's next comment surprised me. "Well, it's finally warm enough, I think. Let's go out on the lake, maybe get some waterskiing in!"
I thought about it for a second. It was maybe 70 degrees out, so the odds of actually waterskiing were pretty low (in my estimation); however, I never actually thought that the twins would trust a klutz like me out in their boat, so my ability to gauge odds was obviously flawed. Still, I didn't want to spend the night playing Halo again (87 nights and counting), so I agreed.
However, as I lowered myself over the side of the boat, I was now deeply regretting my decision. I tried hard to keep from screaming like a little girl, opting to gasp out instead, "Did this melt yesterday??"
Dale tossed one of the skis over the side, either ignoring or not listening (given the superfluousness of my comment, unsurprising). "I got them set for you. Just slide the skis under your butt and kinda sit on them while you get them on."
Having worn a life jacket maybe twice during my entire life (one of which times, I managed to ditch it as soon as the Hawaiian reef tour guide had his back turned), I was not expecting it to actually keep my skinny kiester afloat. Needless to say, trying to tread water while trying to jam a ski onto my foot led to my inevitable capzation.
"Just let the life jacket hold you up," Dale suggested when I'd righted myself and he'd stopped laughing.
Violent wobbling aside, I got the skis on like a pro and managed to grab the rope he threw me with a minimum of juggling. Skipper cranked up the throttle and tightened up the line before throttling down. "Are you ready?" he yelled back.
I sighed. Might as well die trying. I took a deep breath and courageously shouted back their own catch phrase. "SKI OR FLEE!!!"
The boat took off like a tiger with its tail on fire. I curled up into a ball and maintained a death grip on the rope, trying to figure out when I could stand up. Come on, Radar, this is basic physics! Suddenly (and I'm not entirely sure how), I was standing up!
"Hmm, not bad," I muttered to myself, trying to balance in the rocky wake of the boat. Skipper suddenly waved an arm over his head in a circle. I wanted to wave back, but before I could get up enough courage, the boat suddenly spun. Apparently, the arm-waving had been a signal and not a friendly greeting to the courageous soul being towed at ungodly speeds towards an epic faceplant.
"COME ON!!!" I yelled. "You said nothing about TURNING!!!" I quickly ran though available options and tried to figure out the physics here, finally deciding on leaning out, away from the boat, and angling my skis out. I shot out to the side,considerably faster than I thought I was going to, and hung on for about three-quarters of the turn (the twins informed me later) before freaking out and bailing.
By all accounts, the wipeout was impressive--and yes, I faceplanted in a rather epic fashion. I'd forgotten about the life jacket again, which cheerfully and speedily brought me back to the surface almost before I realized I wasn't, in fact, destined for Davy Jones' locker. I could hear the twins cheering and laughing as they brought the boat around to pick me up. Dale was standing up and waving both arms over his head, yelling something like "That's how you do it!" Skipper, by contrast, was simultaneously congratulating me for my first attempt and apologizing for turning so hard.
I managed to collect the skis before they reached me. "So how exactly do you turn?" I demanded, laughing as I snorted lake water through my nose as I tried to get the skis back on.
"Like you did," Skipper assured me. "You just stay with it!"
"And don't get freaked out," Dale added before dissolving into laughter again.
I laughed as well as they pulled the boat back out, grabbing the rope handle again and yelling "SKI OR FLEE!!!" as loudly as I could. The boat took off and I popped right out of the water again, this time pushing out of the boat's wake into the calm water off to the side.
It was, of course, considerably easier to stay upright now. I felt confident enough in my balance to let go with one hand and wave to the twins. Dale made a swooping motion back, which I correctly interpreted as "cut across the wake to the other side." I glanced at the wake, decided oh what the heck, and carefully navigated the treacherous waters to the other side. I angled as hard as I could once I got to the calm waters, ending up next to the boat.
....okay, this was getting fun.
I started swooping back and forth from side to side, managing to navigate Skipper's next turn without bailing out (thanks to much shouted direction from Dale). I was starting to get a little tired, though, so I straightened out and tried to signal Dale to tell Skipper to stop...only to discover that I didn't know what the proper hand signal for stop was. Palm out looked like a wave, and I couldn't make a classical "time out" sign without dropping the rope. I settled for a chopping motion across my throat. Dale looked confused for a moment before holding both fists out straight in front of him and opened his hands, miming let go of the rope.
It was my turn to be confused. Dale repeated the signal a few times before finally hollering, "Let go!" I looked from him to the handle, shrugged, and let go. Jesus, take the wheeeEEEEELLLLL.......
God apparently was my copilot. I coasted gently to a stop, gradually sinking until I was back in the water. Didn't even get my head wet...ter than it already was. I started laughing.
"How'd you like that?" Skipper yelled as he brought the boat back around.
I punched both fists in the air. "THAT. WAS. PHENOMENAL!!!!!" I yelled at the top of my lungs.
"Someone got bit by the ski bug," Dale remarked parenthetically. "We're going to have to do this again."
"Darn straight," I agreed, laughing. "Who's up next?"