True friends will circle the boat

El Dorado Lake at dusk
El Dorado Lake at dusk
At the end of August, I went with some friends to El Dorado Lake. I?ve never been much of a ?water? person, preferring instead to keep my feet on solid ground. But I?m also not one to turn down an adventure or time with friends, so I packed my sunscreen and sandals and went along for the ride.

This was my first visit to El Dorado Lake. According to the Kansas Wildlife, Parks & Tourism website, El Dorado State Park encompasses 8,000 acres of water surrounded by 98 miles of shoreline. It is beautiful, and very big.

When I arrived, some of my friends were already out on the water, and I was given my first opportunity to water ski. I reasoned it was as good a time as any to try.

When it was my turn, I fastened a life jacket around me, jumped in the water and promptly got water up my nose. I almost lost a contact lens.

But my challenges were only beginning as I struggled to secure the skis on my feet. I loosened the foothold in order to slip my left foot in but was unable to cinch it up once my foot was inside. Off it came, and I tried another approach, tightening the foothold first before slipping my foot in. What a struggle!

Upon securing one ski, I turned my attention to foot number two. The uncooperative skis were determined to float to places I did not want them to go.

After what felt like an eternity, I successfully got the skis on, but then the real challenge began. I was floating on my back, my skis a tangled mess on the surface in front of me. I needed to right myself to be ready to ski, but for all my flailing efforts, I could not force those skis into submission.

At that point, one of my friends jumped in the water and swam to my side, giving me suggestions to correct the situation. He stayed by my side until I was ready.

I clung to the rope and prepared myself for action, bracing my knees and keeping my legs engaged while trying my best to keep from rolling.

The minute the boat sprung to life, I felt myself losing control. The pressure of the water was just too much, and I lost my balance and let go. There I was, back at square one. This time, the skis were easier to secure, but keeping them pointed forward as the boat surged ahead was nearly impossible. I let go again.

How humbled I was. I felt bad for making my friends wait on me. Surely their time was better spent with someone who could actually ski, not sitting around waiting for me to put on my skis only to fall again.

However, each time I failed, my friends encouraged me to try again. Never once did they make me feel bad. They assured me that their first time on the water hadn?t been easy either.

I tried once more, to no avail, before deciding to give someone else a turn. Mas?tery of water skiing did not come that day, but I gained something more.

From time to time, we all need friends who are willing to jump in the water to help us when we?re struggling. Friends who will circle the boat back around, wave the ?red-means-someone?s-in-the-water? flag and bring the rope to us. Friends who will encourage us to get up and try to conquer the waves once more, no matter how many times we?ve fallen.

If the water?s smooth right now, be that friend to someone else. Your encouragement may be just what a friend needs to keep his or her skis pointed forward and try again.

Janae Rempel is sports editor at the Free Press.