Making waves

Water skiers prepare for regional championships

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— Jenni Stanford is 19 with one year of college behind her, but Jerry Stanford is still driving his oldest daughter around.

Every morning and evening, the two arrive at the MacArthur water ski lake just east of Steamboat Springs so Jenny can take a couple of passes behind the boat she jointly owns with others in town.

Jerry drives; then the pair head off to work before reuniting at the lake late in the afternoon.

"My father has been so supportive" Jenny said. "I owe much of my progress to him."

Stanford, along with Steamboat resident Dave Hood, will compete in the Western Regional Water Ski Championships beginning Wednesday near Windsor.

Hood will compete in the Men's 4 Division slalom event. Stanford will compete in the Women's 17-26 Jump competition.

The perfectly designed MacArthur Lake provides Hood easy access to a training course. Stanford, on the other hand, must travel to Brighton or Fort Collins on the weekends to jump. She uses the MacArthur water ski lake to practice her jump approach during the week.

While Stanford credits her father for her continued progress, she credits her start in water ski jumping to her post-high school graduation move to Southern California.

Stanford wrapped up her first year at Westmont College during the spring but skied for the University of California at Santa Barbara Ski Team because her college does not have a team.

Stanford started in slalom but switched to jump and trick skiing upon joining the UC-Santa Barbara squad and picked up both quickly.

"They handed me the handle and said go straight at the wall," Stanford said. "I went over my first time. It took me three times to land one. I had a good coach."

David Horton, whose father built the first man-made water ski lake in Barstow, Calif., provided Stanford with instruction at a camp where she really took off with her jumping.

Upon returning to Colorado for the summer, Stanford qualified for the Colorado State Championships and the Western Regionals by jumping 61 feet at the Rocky Mountain Open in Brighton.

The western region extends from Alaska to Hawaii and over to Nebraska, encompassing such prominent water ski states as Oregon, Arizona and California.

Stanford said she would be ecstatic to jump 75 feet at regionals but eventually hopes to land 120 feet out from the 5-foot ramp she uses.

That distance would make her one of the best in the collegiate ranks.

"I have three more years at the college level," she said. "I've trained well this summer. Most of what jumping is, is how you hit the ramp."

It would be nice, she said, to have a ramp closer to home to train on.

For slalom skiers, however, MacArthur's Lake provides the perfect retreat to train.

It's close to town and not open to public use, giving slalom skiers the chance to refine their craft.

"If it wasn't for this place I wouldn't be going to regionals," Hood said of MacArthur's Lake.

A slalom course consists of six buoys, which the skier must clear at a specified and controlled speed in order for the pass to be scored.

Upon that, he or she may shorten the rope and take another pass.

The top slalom skiers are so close to the boat the rope doesn't reach the buoy, Hood said.

The skier must extend his or her body horizontally to get around the outside of the buoy, swinging quickly back and forth behind the boat like a pendulum.

Hood's maximum controlled speed is 34.2 mph. He made two passes at 35 feet off a 75-foot rope at two competitions to qualify for this week's slalom regionals.

Hood figures he'll have to compete against 100 or so men in Windsor. He'll be in the back of his car sleeping, like many, but the not-so-luxurious accommodations are worth it for a chance to race against the best.

A number of other men slalom with Hood over his lunch hour or two in Steamboat, and he's trying to convince others to join him in water ski competitions, perhaps even get one started in Steamboat.

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