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Know when to cut the engine


One of my all time favourite summers was spent teaching waterskiing at a resort a few hours north of Toronto. I had just completed first year university and needed a summer job after many years of being a camp counsellor. I checked the box for ‘waterfront staff’ while most of my friends checked the box for ‘waitress’. The resort required that I attend a 3 day boat driving school and that was it - I was ready to begin. We had two waterski boats and a dock full of guests lined up to learn how to ski. We taught the waterski signals to every skiier to make sure we could communicate from the boat while the engine was running.


My friend was turning 40 this weekend. She had mentioned to me that she wanted to learn how to waterski. She had also asked her friends for 'advice' about living your best life. The first thing that came to mind was what my brother often says at the end of an email or phone call.


“Keep your ski tips up”.


It always made me smile - be aware, keep a smile on your face, be ready for the adventure.I wondered if it worked with the other waterskiing signals?  I came across this image from the 1950’s and could not resist. Photo credit: sandmarg.etsy.





Waterskiing 101 as lessons for life. 


  1. Buckle up your lifejacket. Make sure it fits.

  2. Know your signals. Practice them on the dock before you go in the water. Remember that the folks in the boat can’t hear you yelling so you must use the signals.

  3. Understand before you go out waterskiing that you will need to hold the rope with one hand when signalling. 

  4. Make sure that the folks who are spotting from the boat also know the signals and how to use them. Signals only work when we all know what they mean. 

  5. Signal when you want to speed up. Give a thumbs up. 

  6. Signal when you want to slow down. Give a thumbs down. 

  7. Signal if things are at the right speed. Hold your hand in the OK position.

  8. Signal if you want to do it all over again. Your finger draws a loop. Note this signal usually happens when skiier has a large smile on their face.

  9. When things get out of control or chaotic -  you need the boat to cut the engine. Signal a finger across the throat. 

  10. After you fall. Make sure to tell folks when you fall that you are ok. This is the most important signal for the boat driver. Put your hands together above your head and signal “I am ok” in 3 fist pumps. Note: this signal also works in music venues, festivals and crowds when trying to check in on friends.

  11. Time to head home? Signal when you want to head back to the dock. Tap on your head with your hand to have the boat go home.  This also works at events when you need to signal to others that you are ready to go home. 


And finally, when you are learning to ski, let the boat pull you up. Don’t pull back on the rope. It never works to pull when the momentum is going the opposite direction. You will get up eventually if you stop pulling backwards.


Let the boat do the work. Keep your tips up. Enjoy the ride.

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