The bald eagle, the great American symbol of strength, spent years on the endangered species’ list — but no more. A ban of the pesticide DDT led to a boost in the number of mating eagle couples. Also, increased visibility in the form of news reports and Web cams pointed at eagles’ nests have kept the raptors at the front of the public’s mind. Did you know that a spectacular eagle hatching in late February was witnessed by 4 million people online?
You might wonder why the hell I’m going on about all this eagle stuff. I’m wondering as well. I’m wondering how we can take this resurgence in eagle populations and apply it to water skiing. If DDT was the eagle’s scourge, what has dampened the popularity of skiing over the past 20 years? Wakeboarding certainly hasn’t helped anything. Those shaggy, bombastic boarders take over a lake like nobody’s business. Plus, they have all the kids thinking they’re cool. As if. Kidding! We all know that wakeboarding (once rightfully called skiboarding) is a discipline within skiing, so that’s not the problem. What else could it be? Boats and gear are expensive. Soccer and basketball have been touted as easily accessible sports because practically all you need to do to play is show up, but that isn’t completely true. How about the cost of putting in a baseball diamond? Building the court? The government and various civic organizations have been covering that. Maybe they’re also interested in establishing water-ski parks with inexpensive boat and gear rentals and pulls for everyone.
Imagine a world where the typical American family wakes up on a beautiful Saturday morning in June and heads over to a glassy lake for a few ski sets, compliments of their town or county. I can see the smiling faces now. Speaking of seeing, I made eye contact with an eagle on Lake Hiawassee recently. The majestic creature, which had been circling the lake an hour earlier, was now perched on my dock. His eyes were fierce. Stunning. My first thought: Where’s my camera? I ran to get it, and luckily, when I returned, he was waiting for me. It was as if he knew I was looking for inspiration, that I needed to draw from his strength. Or maybe he was just waiting to spite me. As I moved closer for a better shot, he took a crap and flew away.–Todd Ristorcelli