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Waterskiing sets the stage for an exciting new year

Fri Jan 1, 2010 / Education and Outreach

Article from 1/3/10 Pottstown Mercury;  online (photos also) at: http://www.pottstownmercury.com/articles/2010/01/03/news/srv0000007232734.txt

Sunday, January 3, 2010

By Dennis J. Wright, dwright@pottsmerc.com

PHOENIXVILLE — With a sparse but enthusiastic crowd on shore, the Black Rock Skiers hosted their annual New Year's Day water-ski event on the Schuylkill River early Friday afternoon.

A crowd of approximately 25 people endured 40-degree temperatures and muddy ground to make their way to the dock to watch the skiers celebrate the new year in typical Black Rock Skier fashion.

Mother Nature cooperated with the skiers this year as far as sunny skies go, however, the group has had to postpone their annual jaunt along the Schuylkill River due to inclement weather in the past.

While the sun was out the majority of the event, club treasurer Bob Cullum Jr. said the water temperature was 37 degrees with a 15-degree windchill.

"This is the one event I look forward to every year," Cullum said. "We will be out here every New Year and we love it when people come out to watch us. Although we didn't have a big crowd as usual, it is always great to see those who show up.

Leading the pack this year was club veteran John Brower, who has water-skied at least once a month for 97 consecutive months.

"I'm glad we were able to get it in today," Brower said. "I heard (Saturday) was going to be a lot colder and with more wind."

Brower, who normally skis barefoot, said his lone water-ski outing in December was the day after Christmas, during which he had to deal with rain and a rising river.

"Most definitely the conditions were more favorable today than last week," he said. "I was so anxious to get out there and get my December run in that I left my hat on. Good thing it didn't sink into the river when it came off."

After Brower, it was club veteran Gary Noll wowed the crowd with his trick skiing antics.

The Savarese sisters, Amanda and Stephanie, took their turns out on the water.

Amanda said the water was definitely cold, as she placed her feet in a cooler of hot water following her run.

"Oh it's definitely cold out there," Amanda said. "I'm glad to be back on the boat. This hot water feels good on my feet. It's bringing them back to life."

Once Amanda was back on shore, Stephanie strapped her wakeboard on her feet and began her run on the river.

"I haven't water-skied since last August before I went back to school," Stephanie said. "There is no way I was going to miss coming out here today. It's always a good time."

Donning a viking hat and wig was Phil McClure, who climbed out on the edge of boat's boom as his preferred way to water-ski.

"I'm hoping this hat doesn't fly off," McClure said. "I thought it would be interesting and entertaining. You have to have some fun while doing this."

While most of the water-skiers were adorned in wet suits to protect themselves from the cold and the river, Josh Neuman decided to forego a wet suit and water-ski in a lifejacket and shorts.

Neuman was able to perform one acrobatic flip while on the river before crashing into the chilly water.

"I was too fired up to put anything else on," Neuman said. "I wasn't feeling anything until I hit the water. Then I realized how cold it was, but I managed to survive. I wanted to do more flips but was able to pull off one."

Rounding out this year's event was Cullum, who decided to go with an all-American look by wearing a red, white and blue ensemble.

Normally adorned in Philadelphia Eagles or Penn State gear, Cullum said he specifically had in mind a particular move he wanted to show off on the river.

Making his way out to the end of the boom, he rigged a special handle to which his foot could be placed into as he water-skied backwards.

Not only did Cullum ski backwards, he placed the foot in the handle, and waved a small American flag to the crowd while giving them a thumbs-up.

"That couldn't have gone any better," he said. "It's how I wanted it to go and that's how it went. I'm more than excited about that. I hope it comes out good on videotape."

Noting the origin of the Black Rock Skiers, Brower said the club was formed from parental braggadocio.

"My dad and his friends used to talk it up quite a bit about water skiing in February," he said. "Dad said they would roll up their pant legs and go right on in. I got so sick and tired of hearing them brag, so a bunch of us got together and decided we'll top them by skiing as early as possible, which is New Year's Day."