So I Just woke up after my return from Russia…2 full days of sleep! OK not really, but I am just getting to my web story about the trip. The whole reason for my journey was to wakeboard in a ski show with Dean Lavelle. I know what you are thinking… #1 What the hell is Jeff doing riding in a ski show? #2 Dean Lavelle still rides? Well the answers are simple. $$ and yes. Haha. Ok not really…while I did enjoy getting paid in Benjamin’s the truth is I could never pass up an opportunity to travel overseas and experience new things all in name of wakeboarding.
I arrived in Moscow one day after my departure from Orlando and was immediately thrown on a bus all alone with a crazy Russian driver. I was told that the ride to the hotel was going to be about an hour and a half, so after three hours, several stops on the side of the road and about 5 U-turns I began to get a bit nervous. I figured the guy was lost and getting ready to drop me on the side of the road to just figure it out on my own. It’s pretty humbling to travel to a foreign country and realize that a 3 year old child has a better chance at getting where they need to go than you do. Thankfully I arrived safely and met up with the crew of guys who I would be working with for the next week. The group of people on this trip was all time. Everyone was champion of something behind the boat, and a few were champions of several. Tony Klarich, Peter Nelson, Matt Dance, Matt May, Curt Warren, Nick Murphy, Dave Reinhart, Dana Dunkelberger from Dyke Iowa, Dean Lavelle and Keith Honkala.
Apparently there were some problems with the availability of the practice lake for the first few days, so instead of training we found ourselves at the pool, indoor basketball court, and bowling alley (all which are on site at the compound). Did I mention the ski slope and lift chair as well? Not a bad place to spend a few days of vacation…On day three we finally managed to escape the gates of the compound and headed to the event site to plan the show. The site was actually built to host the rowing events in the 1980’s for the Moscow Olympics. The ski show basically consisted of everything that can ever be done behind a boat all compiled into one 25 minute in your face extravaganza. Dean and I were lined up to do a doubles run where we jump from opposite sides of the wake and criss-cross in the air. The secret was that he takes off a second before me so that I am taking off as he is at his peak. It was a pretty tricky maneuver and a bit nerve racking to edge towards Dean Lavelle as he flies into the wake from the opposite side. There was also a hangglider act, Quad ski jump, and fire jump just to name a few. After my double run warm up it was time to learn the ski show wave. I was told that the wave can make or break a showmen, so it was crucial to nail this one. My wave instructor was Aussie Matt Dance who opted to go with the Mars bar wave. “Show them your mars bar…and take it away! And now you’ve got two…and they can’t have those either!” This definitely made the top 5 highlights of the trip. Matt’s delivery was phenomenal. Other notable mention’s were our good friend Roc’s 15 + foot backflips on the standup Jetski and Bikini Boy Lendzi’s outlook on “what women really want;” The answer was men in speedos. No one in Russia could figure out why we would ever wear long shorts to swim…so I decided to order some “spandex swim shorts” just yesterday.
We attempted to run the show the following days for practice, but the lightning in Russia seemed to be after us. On day 5 we experienced the worst hail storm I had ever seen. It was coming down so hard that Tony couldn’t even make it from the boat dock to the semi truck-bed we were all taking shelter in. Instead he took cover underneath a boat that was parked on the trailer in the parking lot. When he finally emerged after the storm he had welts the size of dimes all over his back. It was classic.
Showtime was Sunday afternoon just after the Aquabike Jet Skii races. The show went great other than me falling on the first trick of my solo run. There is one simple rule in ski shows…NEVER FALL! Damn. My bad team. Fortunately I was able to redeem myself on the doubles run with Dean and my flawless Mars bar wave to the crowd. Well maybe it wasn’t flawless, but that’s what I told myself…
Sunday night’s post show celebration consisted of a bowling match between lanes 1 and 2. Apparently Tony had bowled a frame naked the previous year, so the only way to out do that was to send the losing team off the 3-meter board in the buff. Enjoy the imagery…
Truly Yours, Jeffrey Mark McKee