The light from the setting sun glowed a soft orange on the still water of the creek. A slight breeze rifled through the leaves of the mangrove trees that lines the white sand banks. We were out on a boat belonging to Max, a friend of Yael’s, and zipping across the water so fast that our hair streamed out behind us like flags. The sun hung like an oversized, neglected Christmas decoration; a golden orb in a dusty blue sky. Cameron was first in the water on the mono-ski. After only a couple of false starts he was up and zooming seamlessly across the path of the boat. Right and left he swung like a pendulum over the crest of the wake as if it was perfectly flat.
Max motioned to Cam that he was turning around and swung the boat round hard, sending Cam far out into the water. Water-skiing requires the boat to go fast so Yael, Max and I were having a great time on board with music and a couple of drinks we’d picked up in the supermarket on the way over. When Cam was sufficiently knackered he let go of the rope and slowly sank back down into the inky blue water.
“Do you want a go on the mono?” Max asked me, helping Cam out of the water and back into the boat.
“I haven’t done it in years but I’ll give it a go?” I replied tentatively. I’d mono-skiied a few times before but mostly doing it the cheats way where you start on two skis with one on very loosely and then you drop it once you’re up and stable. I think I’d stood up on one ski once before and had had half an ocean of water up my nose and in my mouth and in my ears before my fourteen wobbly seconds of glory. I wasn’t optimistic. But I strapped on my life jacket and got into the water which was, and here always is, surprisingly warm.
I pulled on the boot onto my left foot and slid my right one in behind it. I grabbed the rope trailing behind the boat and let it slowly run through my fingers until I reached the handle. ‘Was this the right way round?’ I wondered to myself. ‘Should it be left foot in front of right or right foot in front of left?’. There wasn’t enough time to change my mind and the boat started, pulling me forwards into a slush of water before the handle snapped out of my grasp. ‘Definitely the wrong way round’ I thought and quickly swapped them over. The boat came round and I laughed it off,
“Oh hahaha I’m so silly I put it on the wrong way round,” Max, who himself is something of a water sports expert, looking slightly perplexed by this but didn’t say anything and passed me the rope to try again.
‘This feels better’ I thought ‘This will definitely work’. I felt the gentle tug of the boat along the backs of my arms and raised a thumbs up to show I was ready. The engine started and there was more water in my face and in my eyes. About four seconds later I was floating in the water again with the boat circling round to meet me.
“Try having your ski in the rope triangle behind the handle,” Max said kindly from the boat “And hold the ski a bit higher in the water,” I nodded like all of these were logical and sensible explanations that I completely understood. ‘Rope triangle?’ I wondered. There was something behind the handle but surely putting a ski in something so close the handle would end up in me face-planting as soon as I stood up. Maybe it was more of a rough guide for where your ski should be in line with. ‘Yeah that makes more sense’ I thought as the boat dragged me forward another few yards before wrenching the handle bar from my hands.
I started taking off the life jacket – it wasn’t fair to make everyone wait just because I was trying to show off skills that I clearly didn’t have.
“Have one more go,” Max called from the boat.
“Are you sure?” I asked
“Yeah of course. And this time put the ski in the rope, it will help stabilise you,”
At this point I really wasn’t in a position to claim that my ideas had been working any better so I decided to trust him and put my ski into the handle. I felt the boat start and pull me through the water. ‘Oh no not again’ I thought as the water relentlessly swirled around my face and my body stayed firmly put in the water. But I refused to let go of the handle. I held on for dear life. Water splashed against my mouth and my eyes but I held on and then suddenly…
I was out.
I was up.
I was skiing.
The adrenaline and excitement coursed through me and I looked up at the boat in sheer joy and surprise. It had actually worked. Cameron signalled at me to go in and out of the wake. I shook my head. Was he mad? I only just stood up I wasn’t about to plunge to my doom trying to be tricksy about it.
But then about twenty seconds later when I felt pretty secure I decided to go for it. Confidence is key so I struck out hard to the right and bumped over the wake into the open water. It felt awesome. I came back over and into the wake again. ‘Whoah what the hell? I just did that. I just went in and out of the wake on one ski.’ I was triumphant. I tried again on the right, this time not staying in the wake when I came back but swinging out all the way into the left side. The tension in my legs and back was beginning to build and I could feel my muscles tiring. Muscles I hadn’t really used before.
Max signalled he was turning around. I headed back into the wake and prayed that I would stay up, pressing into the inside edge to stop myself from being swung around the corner. When we were back on the straight I started venturing out of the wake again and I weaved back and forth for what could have been anywhere between two and ten minutes. I didn’t want to hog what limited time we had left of the daylight and my muscles were trembling from a weird mixture of adrenaline, excitement and exhaustion so I let go of the handle and slowly sank down back down into the water. My body was singing with the exhilaration of what I’d just done. It was fantastic.
I could barely walk up the ladder at the back of the boat and pretty much had to crawl back in. I bundled myself up in my towel and sat on the cushions at the front with my cider, looking out over the stillness of the evening water, my muscles still tingling with the effort and the rush of it all.
“Thank you,” I said to Max as he turned the boat around. He smiled back,
“Don’t worry – that was really cool,”
And on we drove, watching the sun finally slip down below the line of the trees. The wind snapped my wet hair against my back as we roared around corners and the speaker blasted out music over the sound of the engine.
And I just looked out at this watery paradise, at the watercolour sky, at the black silhouetted cut outs of the birds above and felt so simply,