Robert Kirby: Why some water stunts no longer float my boat

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

My family and friends went boating last weekend on Utah Lake. Great day for it. Winds were gentle, sun was warm, and nobody got hurt badly enough to warrant calling an ambulance or hiding a body.

It was the first time I’ve been out on the water in a couple of years. It’s also the first time I stayed in the boat the entire time. I was content just to watch my grandkids have fun.

My family came late to the water. Being in the military wasn’t conducive to being boat owners. Most of the places we were stationed had bodies of water only when bathtubs were filled.

It wasn’t until we moved to Utah and the Old Man retired that we were stable enough for him to buy a boat. I think he waited until I was off on a mission so that I had no say in it.

It’s a good thing. I would have badgered him into something with twin V-8 engines, torpedo tubes and crew-served weapons.

Instead, he bought an 18-foot Reinell that boasted just enough power to pull a single skier out of the water provided that person weighed not much more than a hamster. He named it after my mother.

When I got home, the family members were water veterans, having taken the boat out dozens of times — Rockport, Deer Creek, Lake Powell, Strawberry, Echo, Scofield, Starvation. Everyone knew how to water ski — but me.

I tried to learn. But water skiing, as with all aquatic sports besides cliff jumping, requires a measure of coordination and the ability to see without glasses.

Since I lacked both at the time, water skiing for me was something more akin to dredging. Too often, I held onto the rope until my alimentary tract became a water funnel.

Before my mission, cliff jumping at Lake Powell was what I specialized in. Since it required — and was even better without — a clear line of sight, and no skill whatsoever, I soon excelled.

Friends and I even worked out the math. From 125 feet, the average drop was about 3 seconds. We would smack the water at about 60 mph. Since a belly flop would understandably be fatal, we made every effort to enter the water feet or head first.

Even then I managed at different times to dislocate a knee and a shoulder, and break two fingers. But such was my condition at those times that I wasn’t too troubled. The bill came due later.

I was reminded of those times over the weekend, while I watched my grandkids get bounced and thrown off wakeboards and tubes. Three of them would crawl into an inflated cushion.

My son-in-law Kirt would crank the boat to full speed and then corkscrew around in an effort to provide as much fun as possible to the occupants until they were hurled into the air in a tangle of limbs and screams. Those on board would then laugh and applaud.

It was entertaining. I suddenly understood why everyone laughed and shrieked when Bammer and I cliff-jumped nearly 50 years ago. Kirt mistook my laughter for interest. He asked if I was ready to give the tube a go.

As much as it hurt my knees and shoulder, I managed to get up and inch close enough to tell him what I thought of the idea without sensitive ears catching on. Some things are a lot more fun — and painless — when you just watch.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.