Growing up on a crystal Florida lake aptly named Clear Lake, it was standard procedure to ski the entire weekend away. On a typical Summer Saturday my dad would grab the tank out of the boat, run in town to Smoky’s Gulf and, with gas at 18 cents a gallon, fill up for a day of family fun for about a buck.
Back then we had an old Evinrude C-clamped on the back of a wooden boat, a Y yoke straddling that with a float attached to a ski line of about 40 ft. Our skis were wooden combos about 8 inches wide each and I learned how to drop a ski by the time I was 9 due to the fact that I lived constantly in competition with my three older and much prettier sisters.
There was an old osprey nest on the far side of the lake where the osprey would return to raise their young year after year. In the summer, when Daddy would swing the boat, and me on slalom, by the point on which that nest was built, that giant wonder would come flying out, screaming, soaring in a loop overhead. I developed my own responding bird call to welcome him home and let him know it was me flying by down below. I thought he came out every time just because he loved me, and I grew to love him too.
Once I married we got a tad land locked, but not for long. I overrode my husband’s land-lover ways and bought a ski boat, then forced him to learn how to drive it just so I could slalom again. The first thing I bought, besides a new vest and 70′ rope was an O’Brien World Team Slalom. Oh, the wonders of gliding along the glass on that thing, free as a bird on the wing, cutting in and out along the shoreline, even inadvertently buzzing the occasional gator.
As babies came along, skiing fell by the wayside and I sold the boat and all its equipment, including my beloved slalom, a move I deeply regret. I should have, at the very least, kept it to mount on the wall.
But once those babies were teens, it was time to introduce them to the pure heaven of water sports. Once again, the O’Brien World Team was the slalom of choice for me, along with a ton of tube and wakeboard stuff for them.
I’ve owned and enjoyed that O’Brien World Team for 15 years, instantly enveloped in the feeling of being a kid again, gliding along on a golden lake. But eventually, sadly, the bindings were getting floppy and I was starting to feel a little insecure out there. It was time for a new slalom.
Thinking I might graduate to another model I splurged and ordered some fancy black and gold thing from Overton’s. It was awful! It didn’t sing like my World Team. It didn’t glide and cut like the old guy; the familiarity was gone and my confidence with it. Suddenly I felt a little old and vulnerable…I never fell on the old World Team and perhaps my old bones wouldn’t take it now if I did on this new guy. He might have been flashy but he just didn’t performance with the familiarity of my old friend.
So I returned it for a new World Team blemish model. The blemish is completely unnoticeable but saved me about $100. My old buddy had a typical slide-in binding that had to be wet before you could wedge a foot inside. But the X-9 binding this new guy came with is snug and secure, a lace-up style that adjusts to perfection, very nice.
This O’Brien World Team is like an old friend. It was as if he knew me, and I instinctively knew him. Though he has new colors and graphics, there is no mistaking his style, his dependable quickness out of the hole, either from deep water or those crazy shore starts we started doing as kids.
This fellow is great for cutting in and out along the shoreline, dodging the occasional gator, log or cattail, the precursor to today’s every-lake slalom course. He’s stable in any water, and that old feeling of osprey-on-the-wing freedom is there all over again.
The adjustable arc fin is great for fine tuning the ride to fit my style, which hasn’t changed much in 40 years. Somehow, when O’Brien and I get together, the old bones become new, and I’m 9 years old all over again. Except it’s my 19-year-old son driving me around these days. O’Brien has been with us through 3 generations now.
The old model with the floppy bindings is securely in my garage, while we build a new house on a lake. This time, I won’t let him get away. He’s getting mounted on the wall, to overlook the new O’Brien and me having fun on the lake. Some day, I’ll teach my grand children to love him like I do, just the way my dad taught me.