Aug. 10 Weekender: Second Opinion – What happened to fun on the water?

What happened to fun on the water? I mean real fun.

What happened to fun on the water? I mean real fun.

Oh, I know that little kids still play in the sand on the beach, or wade at the shore looking for minnows and pretty rocks – I can see them from the deck of my cabin on Shuswap Lake.

But relatively few 10- to 12-year-olds, or teenagers, or twentysomethings pursue real fun: hour after hour of water skiing or wake boarding, crashing and flailing and face planting while trying ever more difficult tricks and manoeuvres at ever higher speeds. Now that’s fun!

As a 15-year-old, I spent whole days waterskiing behind a heavy, wooden, 4.88-metre fishing boat powered by a 25-horsepower Evinrude.  The motor was so underpowered that it took 30 seconds of inhaling water and exhaust fumes at the end of the tow line before the skis popped you up onto a plane.

Getting up on a slalom ski was impossible.

If we forgot to bail the boat every half hour, getting up on two skis became impossible as well.

When I got the chance to ski behind a friend’s fibreglass runabout powered by the then amazing 75 horse Mercury, I was in heaven. That baby could drag us up to 72-km per hour. We would brag about how many times we bounced on the water after we fell. Now that was fun!

For a while, I thought that perhaps environmental awareness and/or the cost of gasoline might be affecting the perception of fun on the water. Yet the most popular recreational boat sold is the expensive, gas-guzzling wakeboard boat.

I routinely see a parade of $80,000 wakeboard boats motor by the cabin with elaborate tow bars and overhead racks filled with boards and skis of all kinds and a dozen tanned occupants, yet fewer than one boat in 15 is actually towing anyone.

The only things on the elaborate racks that are in use are the 4000-watt speakers pounding out a hip-hop bass line at a volume loud enough to kill fish. That’s not real fun.

The fun is even gone from tubing, that marvellous water-bourn activity that used to require no skill other than a good grip.

As a youth, I practiced a variety of techniques to remain attached to the tractor tire tube that we towed behind the boat.

The object was to stay with the tube as long as possible and achieve the highest elevation before being thrown off. No one survived, or expected to. Boat speed was constantly raised and the turns sharpened until tube and passengers parted company. Now that was fun!

Today tubes have become huge flying wedges that hold three or four people.

They have been engineered to stay in line behind the boat, never crossing the wake, but sedately trailing along in smooth water.

Young people still whoop and holler from these inflatable cocoons, revelling, I suppose in the novelty and excitement of being slightly damp and out from behind their laptop screens.

It seems that the age group that once craved on-the-water action and exertion has been replaced by those satisfied with observation and exhibition, and that individuals seeking thrills have become groups seeking attention. That’s not fun.

– Jim Holtz is Weekender columnist and former reporter for the Grand Forks Gazette

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