Barefoot water skiing is considered an extreme sport, so it might come as a surprise to find 69-year-old Judy Myers skimming across the water in Winter Haven, Florida. In the boat, 63-year-old Joann O’Connor zips up her wetsuit and gets ready for her run. Then there’s 62-year-old Valerie Shinn, 60-year-old Deb Fahrenthold and the youngster, 59-year-old Claudia Landon.
All five gals were featured in a recent issue of The Waterskier magazine.
At 46-years-old, I’m the youngest of the group. But let me tell you, these women kick my butt on the water. Not just in their skills, but in their toughness. There were days when I would come off the water whining about bruises and sore muscles– only to have Judy tell me to “suck it up” with a dry look on her face.
Joann skis with a fused ankle, the result of a motorcycle accident years ago. But she embodies the three “P’s”: patience, persistence and perseverance. Whenever I feel like giving up on a new skill, she pushes me along. In the same vein, Judy reminds me that success doesn’t come easy– one has to pay their dues, sometimes over and over before seeing results.
Claudia and Val are the quiet performers. They get out on the water and advance their skills without much fanfare, but they wow you with new skills. Age is no barrier for trying new things. Claudia has an arm held together by several screws. Val still climbs pyramids in ski shows.
Then there’s Deb. When I met Deb in October of last year, she was back on the water five years after dealing with a brain tumor. The tumor was still entwined in her head, her hearing was gone from one ear and she had to fight to keep her balance. But there she was, out on the water, first on shoes then finally back on her feet. The concern that was etched in her face in the first days gave way to a big smile as she skimmed the water.
As much as I joke about hanging around old ladies, they’ve taught me to have a whole new outlook on what it means to grow bolder, not older. Before I met these gals, my future looked dismal; it was painted with the depressing idea of body parts going south and wrinkles etched in skin. It was a future that appeared to be dotted with the resignation that the best years of youth were over and done with.
And that’s why I hang with these bold ladies, because I know the best years of life are still ahead.
Photo credit: Lynn Novakovski, Waterskier magazine. Used with permission. Left to right: Joann O’Connor, Deb Fahrenthold, Claudia Landon, Val Shinn, and in front, Judy Myers.