Losing my Grip

There are many things in life that we just take for granted. Things that we just assume we’ll always know how to do. I learned how to water ski at Katepwa Lake while visiting my cousins at their cabin when I was about 13 years old. My first introduction to water skiing was watching one of my cousin’s friends trying to get up on two skis and hearing him swear, repeatedly, as loud as he could while failing to do so. I didn’t understand why he would get so worked up, but was aware getting up can be challenging. Then it was my turn, my cousin gave me a stern warning to make sure I let go of the rope if I was wiping out and began dragging behind the boat. Apparently one of my other cousins submarined for what sounded like a number of miles before he let go and came up with seaweed all over him. After a couple failed attempts my third try was successful and I was up and skiing, but I was quite wobbly and endured a number of interesting spills.

As the years went by I tried other water sports, but water skiing was always my favorite … more specifically slalom skiing. I learned to get up on one ski a number of years after learning how to ski and never looked back. There’s something about skiing on a single ski that feels so free and smooth … I liked getting up on one ski, because you never had to search for the other ski after you were done.

After my injury I wondered if my water skiing days were behind me. Basically three of the fingers on my right hand only have strength up to the first knuckle and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to grip the rope. I worked diligently through my rehab to get my grip back, but it appeared my right hand would now be significantly weaker than my left.

Wanting to test my resolve 8 months after my injury I was determined to try wake boarding. I just learned the previous year how to wake board. In fact 2 years prior I had tried to get up on a wake board 17 times before I finally gave up. Turns out it was all technique … I was trying to wake board the same way I’d learned to ski, but the technique is very different. When water skiing you pull against the boat to bring your ski out of the water. With wake boarding you let the boat pull you forward, then stand up. That day sitting in the water I wasn’t sure if I would have enough grip, but I let the boat pull me and got up without issue on the wake board. I was ecstatic! I wiped out a little while later, but that just provided another opportunity for satisfaction when I successfully got up again!

The following year I decided I wanted to try slalom again. Unfortunately I was not so successful. I did get up after 3 attempts, but it was a lot of work and my hand was very sore so I couldn’t ski very long. I tried it again the next year and couldn’t get up. I tried at least 5 times, but I just couldn’t hold on tight enough. After the third try my wife urged me to try with 2 skis. I refused. After the 4th she urged me again. I hadn’t used two skis since I first learned how to ski and I wasn’t going to give in. After the 5th try I was just going to come into the boat. I felt so defeated, was this the start of not being able to do something I really enjoyed?

Before getting in the boat I decided to swallow my pride and asked for the other ski. I put the ski on and got myself ready and told them to “hit it!” I got up first try & dropped the ski without issue. Enjoyed my 10 minutes around the lake (or less) and was done for another year. Last week I went out with the idea of using two skis, got up first try and enjoyed my trek. It’s amazing what barriers we can place on ourselves if we’re too proud to ask for help or refuse to accept a modified approach to a familiar task. My grip may not be what it once was, but gaining mental strength by accepting what has changed is rejuvenating and rewarding.

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