Riding in wake of Capt. Death

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I have loved the water ever since I can remember. I think the first bath I ever took as a baby I did a gainer with three-and-a-half summersaults and came up doing the backstroke.

"And Little Naked Baby David scores an 8.5 on the dive, only because too much splash landed on the bathroom floor angering his parents."

For all my exposure to the water as a child, swimming in pools, lakes and oceans I had actually never been water skiing or tubing until last summer. But once introduced, I was in love, because there is nothing like being drug along the water at Mach 1, swallowing water that has God knows what in it. Ahhh, heaven.

So whenever friends invite me to go skiing and tubing, I drop everything, grab the sunscreen and out the door I go. Which happened recently and didn't end well, at least for me.

First I must tell you some things about the friends I go to the water with. They are great friends, but they take delight in the pain of other friends. I, too, fit in this category so we all get along well.

So out on the lake we go with the intentions of water skiing and tubing. Water skiing goes well because as a beginner they are just happy I am able to get up on the skis and not drown. But then out comes the tube.

If you aren't familiar with tubing it is fairly easy to understand. A rope is attached at one end to a boat and at the other end to a large, inflatable tube. You can either sit on the tube or lay on your stomach, depending on which position you prefer while skimming across the water.

Most people enjoy a nice leisurely ride on these tubes with a little wind in your hair and sun in your face. That is unless my friend, whom I will call Captain Death, is at the helm of the boat.

There we were, enjoying a nice summer day when the tube went in the water. Never one to show fear, I climbed on the tube, lying on my stomach. I feel it is easier on the stomach when you skim across the water at 40-plus miles an hour than bouncing on my butt. After all, I do like to sit down.

I had been to the lake several times with Captain Death so I knew how it was going to go. It isn't even his boat, so I knew he would floor it and take hard corners in an attempt to toss me off the tube. But the water and I are one, so I wasn't too scared.

When we took off I am pretty sure I heard somebody scream "fire in the hole!" Then I realized why. We didn't start with a gradual acceleration to Mach 1 because that is too kind. There really isn't any need to make sure the human torpedo on the tube has a good grip. Instead we went from 0 to Mach 1 in about a tenth of a second and then right into a turn.

I was never a math wiz but if the boat is going Mach 1 and takes a turn, the item attached to the back of the boat that slingshots across the water is going much faster. I will guess Mach 3 although I could have been going much faster. I know it wasn't faster than the speed of sound because I heard an eerie whistling of the rope cutting through air and I'm positive I could smell the rubber on the tube burning as it shot across the water.

But I held on because, quite frankly, I was afraid if I let go I would land in a tree or maybe space. And even with a map, I'm not sure I could make my way back from the moon.

So I continued to hold on for dear life. What few muscles I have were being tested and I felt like Popeye after he ate his spinach. I could feel all three of my muscles burning as we went into turn after turn.

Well, I'm assuming it was turn after turn because when you are traveling that fast you can't really see images. You just see blurs of light between the little water bullets taking target practice on your eyes.

Then all of a sudden I had some clarity. I could see clearly the wake I hit that launched me in the air, just as I could see clearly the wake coming from the other direction that knocked me even higher. I'm not sure how high above the water I was, but if that airplane was any indication I would say I was very high.

Unfortunately, thanks to stupid gravity, I had to come back down. And while I don't remember much of the descent, I do remember thinking how much it was going to hurt when I hit the water. So after a three-and-a-half summersault with a missed tuck, I became one with the water in a different way than I ever had before.

If you have ever seen someone slam a basketball on the floor, I felt like that basketball as I landed solidly on my left side, ribs exposed. Then, like a basketball I bounced repeatedly off the water. I have a new respect for basketballs.

Of course when somebody hits you in the ribs with a sledgehammer, or water in this case, it isn't easy to catch your breath. As a matter of fact, it takes it away. And breathing is essential when you are in the water seeing stars, birds and angels.

Fortunately, the life jacket turned me into a bobber, because it took a minute to completely realize that I wasn't going to be swimming with the beautiful models in heaven. Then I took a breath and started looking for the knife that stabbed me in the ribs. I couldn't find it but I was sure it was there.

Thankfully Captain Death stopped laughing long enough to bring the tube back around so I could go again. Of course when I climbed up in the tube I noticed my trunks had ripped almost up the crotch and I had a some sort of abrasion on my arm. The scars of fun. And away we went again.

You know, I looked for a solid week and never found that knife that stuck in my ribs but I sure felt it every time I took a breath or even thought about breathing. I wish I would have found that knife though because I need to give it back to Captain Death. I'll just have to find another one and give it to him the next time we go out. After all, what are friends for?

David can be contacted at davidj@standard-democrat.com

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