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WATER-SKIING IN ITS THIRD SEASON ON LAKE W1NNIPESAUKEE

Reprinted from New Hampshire Profiles 1953, By Julie Miller


THOSE SWIFT, DARTING "WATER BIRDS" you see skimming over the surface of Lake Winnipesaukee this summer really aren't birds at all, but a new watercooled variety of New Hampshire skier—enthusiastic devotees of the latest and most exciting sport to hit the Granite State. They are fast acquiring a widespread following, too, because water-skiing is a spectator sport without peer. The rhythmic sweeps of the speedboat, flinging white spray across the broad blue waters of the lake; the sturdy bronzed figures of the skiers speeding along behind it; the bright splashes of color which are their bathing suits, but—most of all—the grace and flamboyant style of water-skiing: all these combine to produce an aquatic ballet of incomparable beauty for the onlookers.

As for the setting, itself—our skiers will tell you that Winnipesaukee's sparkling waters offer the finest water-skiing anywhere in the country, right here in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.

Credit for the current surge of interest in water-skiing around Lake Winnipesaukee rightly goes to the Weirs Ski Club—now in its third season as a lively, up-and-coming organization. It has about fifty active members, and with the cooperation of the Weirs Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and some of the interested businessmen in the Lakes Region, it has become one of the best known water-ski clubs in the United States. Excellent form in all the events which comprise tournament skiing—jumping, slalom and tricks—has made the Weirs team outstanding in the opinion of tournament skiers everywhere.

These youngsters—and some not so young—native Weirs Beachers, summer residents from other parts of New Hampshire and New England and beyond, are literally taught from the ground up by two men who rate high as top-flight ski instructors. Larry Brown is president and organizer of the Weirs Ski Club; he learned the sport in France when water-skiing was a new and exciting diversion on the Riviera. He has worked tirelessly for years to realize his dream—to bring the sport of water-skiing to New Hampshire for our youngsters. Bill Trudgeon, one of the best jumpers, thinks nothing of jumping on whatever he finds beneath his skiis—snow, water, straw, or crushed ice. Bill jumps in the Lake Placid tournament in New York and at the Belknap Area tournament, within a ski's length of Winnipesaukee, and is one of the club's consistently, fine attractions in the July meets, a Class A jumper.

Larry and Bill have taught more than a hundred skiers, some of whom are now teaching others, themselves. Starting them on the ground in take-off positions, they have explained, coaxed, encouraged, and inspired each novice until he or she has found freedom and flight on "the mahoganies," towed along behind power boats at speeds ranging from twenty to thirty-five miles an hour.

Driver Must Be Skillful

Usually one man taught while the other drove the club boat; it should be understood that half the sport of water-skiing is wrapped up in that man behind the wheel in the boat. Skillful, intelligent, careful driving is of first importance, and goes far toward making a good skier. It takes two people to make a water-skier; the better the driver, the better the skier. Ski Club drivers are taught to be steady at the wheel, to take no chances, and to use their heads. The boat can be a small outboard, the record to square the shoulders of any neophyte team. The club put on thirteen shows that summer and attracted audiences of thousands to Weirs Bay, Alton Bay, and Meredith, where they staged exhibitions both during the daylight hours and at night. The team skimmed around the lake and up and over the jump, carrying naming torches, a most spectacular and beautiful sight, and a feat original to the Weirs club. People flocked to thrill at the flying "aqua-bats," parading their newly-learned formations and tricks, skiing singly, in doubles and triples, doing 180-degree turns, back-swans and side-slides on the water. Over the jump, they did "U" turns, backward jumps, jumps on one ski, and over-and-under jumping with two or even three skiers—two over, with the third skier crossing under—a delicate feat of split-second timing which never fails to evoke a gasp of surprise from the audience.

Encouraged by its impressive showing in the New Englands, the club sent a team to the Nationals at Lake Placid. There Bill Goodhue won the Veterans' Class in jumping, for men over thirty-five, and was third in the Veterans' Overall Championships. Jack Beattie and Dick Binette placed high in Junior Boys' jumping, and Bill Trudgeon jumped off a tie for third place with Dick Pope, Jr., in the Senior Men's' Division. One of the club's girl skiers, Colleen Gallant, was chosen Miss New Hampshire, and went to the Atlantic City Beauty Pageant where she demonstrated water-skiing in the talent division, by means of color movies taken on Lake Winnipesaukee.

Not For Beginners

The slalom course for water-skiing is patterned after the run of the same name in snow skiing, but there the resemblance ends. Six large rubber balls, encased in netting and anchored to the floor of the lake, are set at zig-zag intervals, forty-five yards apart. End gates, also rubber balls, are set up before and after the course, so that the whole run is 315 yards. The boat speeds down the center of the course at thirty-five miles per hour; the skier must make his turns around each ball, swinging from right to left and from left to right again, until he has—with a dexterity that leaves an audience breathless—slid at incredible speed around all six balls. Out the gates and into a "turn circle" and back again he wings down the course, and out again for a finish, having circled twelve buoys. Fascinating and exciting to watch, it seems an impossibility; and it is that same unbelievable quality that makes water-skiing such a superb sport for the spectators.

Last summer brought new skiers to the Weirs Ski Club, more shows to the lake, and the second annual New England Open Championships in August, this time to Lake Opechee in Laconia—and how it rained! Here, again, Weirs skiers really showed their stuff. Bill Goodhue jumped and slalomed his way to another championship. Young Bob Gaeckle won in the Boys' Division, and Donna Lucason was runner-up in the Girls'. Skiers went through their routines in raincoats and sweaters to keep warm, but the fans came just the same and got soaking wet and cheered, and got wetter and cheered some more. It wouldn't make sense for a water-ski fan to mind getting wet, would it?

Winners at The Nationals

In mid-August, the team took off for Lake Minoqua, Wisconsin, to the Nationals, cheered on by their spark-plug, Club President Larry Brown, who worked tirelessly to raise funds to help them get there and back again. They brought home eight cups and medals. Bill Goodhue kept his title as National Jumping Champion in the Veterans' Class; Donna won second place in Junior Girls' Jumping, Warren Witherell finished second in slalom after first tying the eventual winner four times, and Jack Beattie came in third in Men's Jumping. Jack, incidentally, had made an unofficial jump of ninety-four feet at the Eastern meet at Lake George early in August, and he and Dick Binette had also equalled the then world's record of eighty-seven feet that day. Altogether the Weirs Ski Club, on the basis of individual placements, was the highest ranking team.

On the strength of this really remarkable performance, an invitation was extended to the men's team to participate in the Canadian Nationals and North American Championships to be held from August 28th to 30th, at Toronto, in the Canadian National Exposition. Would they go? They would and did. Off to Canada went a men's team made up of Captain Bill Trudgeon, Jack Beattie, Dick Binette, and Neil Mclntyre. They continued their surprising record, sparked from home all the way by Larry and all the members of the Club, who carried on a steady good-will and publicity campaign for their team.

No other athletic team from this region has ever gone so far, so fast! These skiers come from all walks of life—the brown-skinned young man who may be filling your gas tank, or the little girl "no bigger than a minute" whose year-round home is in Quincy, Mass., the blond youth from Governors Island, N. Y., who works at a service station, or the modest youngster from New Jersey who never saw a water-ski until he began summering in the Granite State. You never know when you're talking to a champion at Weirs Beach, nowadays!

More Champions Coining Up

It takes young ones "coming along" to keep any good sports club thriving, so a Junior Water-Ski School is already under way this summer on Lake Opechee in Laconia—a calm body of water with very little boat traffic. A group of sun tanned youngsters, all under fourteen, now works out three afternoons a week. Dr. E. S. Morris is sponsoring the class and generously lending his power-boat, with Terry Miller instructing, Dick Robinson driving and Barbara Davis "riding herd" on the novices while they wait their turns at the skis.

This story of New Hampshire's first water-ski club doesn't have an ending—only a beginning. The Weirs Ski Club will be hosts again at the third annual New Englands this year, on August 8th and 9th; they expect the biggest and most enthusiastic audience yet. A team of top-flight skiers, whose records will be based on competition at the New Englands and the Easterns, will represent Weirs Beach—and New Hampshire—at the National Championships, to be held on August 21st, 22nd and 23rd in Long Beach, California. This happy event, securely "pinned down" far in advance, is owed to the team's acquisition of a sponsor—the Cott Bottling Company of Manchester, soft drink manufacturers—who will fly the skiers to California and back. Plans are already under way at Weirs Beach to put in bids for the Eastern Championships in 1954, the Nationals in 1955, and the World's Water-Ski Championships in 1956.

A new and tremendously attractive summer sport has definitely taken hold in the Granite State, producing a new set of champions to bring credit and renown to New Hampshire wherever water-sports fans get together. With the Weirs Beach Club showing the way, water-skiing is bound to attract fans and develop centers of summertime activity on the hundreds of lakes and ponds scattered from Coos to the sea.



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