Eastern Iowans love outdoor sports and water skiing is an endeavor that ranks near the top.
Part of that passion comes from having the Five Seasons Ski Team perform locally since 1978.
The club began as the Coralville Lake Water Ski Club in the late 1970s and started doing shows in Cedar Rapids in 1985. By 1990, the team was performing every other week before going to weekly shows in 1991.
There are currently 88 members with their longest tenured performer, Don Clow of Cedar Rapids, doubling as public relations and boat driver during his 38-year membership.
“It’s both an adrenaline rush and entertaining,” Clow said. “It’s a lot a team building, plus everybody loves being outdoors and water skiing.”
The team also is a founding member of the Freedom Festival and has typically done at least five shows during the event’s 37-year history.
Clow said the team also has qualified for the national water ski show tournament for the last 20 years. This year, however, like the Freedom Festival, that will be canceled because of COVID-19. All the team’s weekly shows also have been canceled this summer, although their website notes when the state allows “we look forward to performing for you again, as this year’s theme is ‘Grease.’”
During shows, Clow drives a large, triple-engine boat that regularly pulls the team’s largest pyramids, which has 36 skiers.
To start, the team will place 18 men on the dock with 18 women on their shoulders.
“They pop off the dock and it takes about 50 seconds for them to get built up,” Clow said. “All 18 guys and all 18 girls each (start with) the same length rope, but the girls’ rope” expands another 18 inches “so they can lean back.”
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The boats Clow drives could easily pull 48 skiers and the team has two of them.
Here are a few safety rules from USA Water Ski & Wake Sports before getting started:
— Always wear a properly fitted personal flotation device that fits snugly.
— Make sure your equipment is in good condition and check it regularly.
— Learn the various hand signals and don’t give the starting signal until ready.
— Do not ski near docks, pilings, other boats or swimmers.
— When a fall is inevitable, try to fall backward or to either side.
— Always have an observer in the towboat.
First on the list from USA Water Ski and Wake Sports is placing your feet in the bindings and hand placement. It suggests practicing this on land before jumping into the water.
As for proper body position, get in a “cannonball” position. “Make sure your knees are together at all times ... Let the boat do the work.”
“Most people jump in the water and somebody tosses them some skis,” Clow said. “You’re going to want to put them on in the water.”
Once you are up, “initially remain in the chair position.” according to USA Water Ski & Wake Sports. “This will ensure proper posture. You should have your arms straight, shoulders up and knees flexible.”
As for boat speed, Clow said, “most people ski at around 37-38 miles-per-hour.”
“It takes some practice,” Clow said. “We have our beginners use a boom stick which is much easier to start.”
Join the club
Membership fees, according to the Five Seasons Water Ski Team’s website, are $205 for the first family member, although new members received a $50 discount. All skiers, even would-be skiers, are welcome. The club even offers “learn to ski” events each summer,
“The skier only needs a personal life jacket and a good attitude,” Clow said.
Then the sky is the limit.
“Most people spend a couple hundred dollars for skis to start and then advance to a slalom ski, which costs about $300 more,” Clow said. “Most people that have been on a slalom ski won’t go back to two. It’s like the difference between a broken down Pinto and a sports car.”