Ski club more than just a turn on the water

Ski club more than just a turn on the water

Enduring friendships a lasting treasure

It started, perhaps, because one woman loved to waterski and couldn’t get a regular commitment for a “puller.” On the suggestion of her husband Johnny, Peggy Sue Williams asked fellow “ballet mom” Margie Fox if she was up for a weekly ski run on McGirts Creek.

McGirtsSki_03“Our daughters were in ballet class together and we always talked about waterskiing,” said Fox. “Finally we made the commitment to each other and then found these wonderful friends who are crazy like us.”

Those crazy, wonderful friends were Winfield Duss, Sally Ellis and Sharon McArthur.

What started as a whim 20 years ago became the McGirts Ski Club. Consequently, these five women take to the water once or sometimes twice a week.

The commitment includes celebrating their birthdays on the water, even in January for Williams’ birthday. Duss said they all have wetsuits and there have been years when they skied at least once every month all year long.

“Even in the dead of winter there are days that hit 75 and the water really isn’t that cold until December,” she said.

While most of the women have waterskied since they were young girls, Williams as young as age six, Fox didn’t take it up until her college years. “My girlfriends tried to get me up in high school, but it wasn’t a pretty sight,” she said, laughing.

McGirtsSki_06They usually meet at Duss’s Ortega Forest home, where she keeps a 1997 21-foot MasterCraft Power Star, or Williams brings her 2000 22-foot Boston Whaler up from Lamb’s Yacht Center; both boats are capable of pulling a single skier up to 35 miles per hour.

The women agree that Fox is a speed demon and Williams a daredevil, but all enjoy the 30 mile-an-hour run up and down McGirts Creek from the Timuquana Bridge. There have been a few spills in two decades, but nothing that has resulted in injury.

“We only ski about 10 minutes each, but we ski hard and use up a lot of energy,” said Duss. “You let it out when you’re out there.”

The weekly noontime commitment is about fun, exercise and relationship building. It’s also about enjoying nature, including alligators, but not so much the occasional jellyfish and definitely not green algae growth.

McGirtsSki_07“We’re not scared of the gators, but we’re conscious of them,” said Fox, demonstrating their “signal” for a gator sighting. “There’s also an active eagles’ nest here, and we’ve watched them multiply over the years.”

Although the club has taken some waterski field trips to places like Welaka, Swimming Pen Creek, Mayport and Doctor’s Lake, it’s McGirts Creek that holds their hearts.

“It’s so easy, it’s like having a vacation in your backyard and taking advantage of it every week,” said McArthur. “We all love boating and getting together and the outdoors, so it’s a wonderful way for old friends to stay connected, hopefully for a lifetime.”

In the end, it is, as Ellis said, the story of committed friendships through the ups and down of their lives and the joy of life found on the St Johns River.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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