Joel Reichenberger: Hoping for better than the average

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

I use this platform to flog my own athletic ability on a pretty regular basis.

In case you've missed that, I don't ski very well. I don't do trees well, rarely finding the guts to turn much downhill unless it's absolutely necessary, and I really don't do moguls well, losing that desired "rhythm" after about the first 10 feet and flopping up and down over the center of the bumps.

And really, I don't water ski all that well, either, but it was while water skiing last weekend that I came to a new - to me - realization.

I don't really try all that hard.

Maybe that's not the best way to put it.

Danny Tebbenkamp, the entrepreneur behind the kinda-extreme sports facilitating of Boardom Bound, put it a lot better while explaining how he ramped up his wakeboarding ability.

"Eventually I realized I had to go for it, otherwise I'd just stay average," he said.

True words.

I'm not bad at water skiing at all. I can get up on a slalom. I wiped my brow when I got up for the first time this season Sunday, because while there's no shame in needing a second go, you just gotta get up on your first try of the season.

I got up and I cut back and forth plenty, over the wake and wide to the side, spraying the almost-miserably cold water of Steamboat Lake in long plumes. I'm better than most people I know, but I've been able to slalom, cut and swing for most of 15 years. In that time, I haven't added much at all.

It's not hard to figure out where the disconnect is. When you're way wide on a slalom ski, leaning over right before you cut back toward the boat and leave a long trail of spray, there's a second when you can scale it back. If that's the route you choose, you cut the turn just a hair shorter, you balance on your ski and, in just a moment, can zoom back toward the other side of the boat quick and in control.

If you don't check yourself and cut back too severely, you can end up with so much slack in your rope that I'm always convinced the boat, still motoring at 25 or 30 miles per hour, will yank my arms clean off my body. If you lean too much, posing like a photo in a magazine, you can go just a little too far, lose it and skip across the water like a rock on a pond.

I know how to improve my skiing, what risks I need to take. I just haven't. Since I reached my current level of "decent" skiing, my goal has been simple: "Don't fall." And I rarely do. It's a similar attitude that has kept me from really progressing at snow skiing, too.

With a few days on the lake planned for late this summer and another big winter on the horizon, maybe, just maybe, I'll convince myself that I'm tired of being average and I can actually make progress at two of my favorite sports.

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