I learned to waterski when I was eight years old - summer of 1993 - at a day camp in southern NH. They had a rickety old outboard boat that was broken down more days than it worked but I would race to the dock every morning and jostle in line with the older kids in order to get one of the limited slots to ski. By the end of that summer I was absolutely hooked. Nothing beat the feeling of cruising over the water, cutting across the wake, and showboating to the other campers on shore. When I started searching for overnight camps two years later my only requirement was that they offered waterskiing. During that first summer at overnight camp I got bored with skiing on two skis and focused on dropping a ski and ultimately getting up on one ski. Perseverance turned out to be the key as day in and day out I dragged through the water, drinking half the lake in the process. My instructor, Chris, would not let me quit until I had gotten up on just one ski and after a month at camp I was slalom skiing.
The camp bought a new boat the next year with a pylon that raised the rope seven feet or so into the air. A second-hand wakeboard came from somewhere and it was the new rage. We could not get enough of jumping the little wake that the ski boat created, trying to get higher into the air than the other kids, landing face first in the water and begging for another pull. I attended that overnight camp for five summers, until I was 15 in the year 2000. By that last summer I had coerced the camp director to just block off my class rotation with "ski". I would head out on the boat at 9am and get back to camp at 4:15pm having skied, tubed, or wakeboarded at least once or twice an hour, all day long.
In probably the most memorable experience I had at camp, three of us coerced one of the boat drivers to take us out at 5am when the lake was glassy and calm. En route to the lake we encountered a massive male moose who just looked at us like "what are these crazy people doing before sunrise at MY lake?" We took turns behind the boat getting pulled through perfectly smooth water and as the sun crept up we all congratulated each other on an epic early morning shred session. Arriving back at camp for breakfast we silently snuck into the cafe, all four of us collaborators returning from a victorious secret mission.
Predictably when I started working as a camp counselor in 2004 it was as a boat driver and ski/wakeboard instructor. While the boats have gotten incrementally more advanced and powerful and the skis/boards are lighter and packed with cutting edge design, it is still just about being on a boat with awesome people and enjoying some great sports. Today, 19 years since I first squeezed my feet into a pair of old wooden skis at day camp, I am still out there every summer teaching, learning, ripping behind a boat, and hopefully creating these kinds of lasting memories for my campers at Water Monkey Camp.