Sunday, 20 January 2008

Jet Ski Madness

As our Cleopatra summer progresses, making hungry where most she satisfies, we bathe and sun ourselves as Kiwis who have known no summer similar for a decade.
“The weather!” we exclaim with a rare ferocious positivity to each other.
“Marvelous!” we reply, unused to such reason for joy.
And we cross our fingers behind our backs because we’re just not used to this kind of good luck.
“A true Kiwi summer,” we rejoice.
The Rugby World Cup seems a million years ago, our appalling child abuse statistics have surely been bleached away by such healthy heat and sunshine, and even Sir Ed’s death seems to have happened at the right time. A really Kiwi time full of freckles, sand in your sandwiches and cold beers on the beach.
Which leaves only one burning question from this perfect summer. Who signed off on jet skis?
It’s something I’ve pondered most days as my view from the caravan is interrupted by something smaller than a dinghy and larger than a surfboard, yet emitting a noise so loud it must surely have been created by a logging truck.
There are only two sounds you should have to hear during a true Kiwi summer. That of the lawnmower with its gentle low-pitched moan and tantalising smell of two stroke and fresh cut grass. And the contented chuckle of a Seagull outboard reliably ferrying fisherman out to sea from where they will return loaded down with snapper the size of newborn babies. Well that’s how I remember it. But both sounds are produced while doing something useful and most of us are okay with that.
The jet ski on the other hand makes a hell of a noise doing nothing. It’s not used to transport passengers form one destination to another. Nor can you fish from one, although I have seen it attempted.
Most water sports require some skill. Waterskiing is noisy and essentially a speed issue, but you have to try really hard to balance and might even manage to do it on one leg. Kayaking involves co-ordination and muscle power. Sailing needs a knowledge of the winds and currents and fishing needs a boat, which may go fast but also means you end up with a snapper or too.
Jet skis require no special skill except the ability to sit down and turn a switch. They are kayaks for fat guys, who hoist their huge gut onto them and proceed to go fast in one direction. Then come back in the other direction. Fine, get off. But they just love doing it again and again and again. Back and forth, back and forth stop suddenly, go fast suddenly, back and forth. Then they go around in circles. Starting with a really big one and then finishing with a really little one which just about causes their own wake to push them off. Cool.
To be fair I get the first five minutes. Wind in your hair, gliding over the water, that sort of thing. What I don’t get is an hour later when the repetitive back and forth and circle behaviour begins to take on an air of obsessive-compulsive retardation. Only the most minimal of brain function would find it stimulating.
Which is when the fat guy finds a new activity.The thrill that he is doing something “active” and with his neon life jacket looks slightly “sporty” means that he must now parade a few metres from the shore at a speed fast enough to slice a whale in half let alone your child who is having a swim.
But then the other day I saw him. A bronzed god, all rippling biceps and six pack, astride a slightly battered and worn jet ski which held its rider like a race horse on the last lap home. He leaned back into his machine, every bit the easy rider, his jet ski doing a sizeable impression of a waterborne Harley. No circles for him or speed races back and forth. Instead he headed straight out across the treacherous bar, sleekly weaving his way in and out of the two metre waves, occasionally airborne, turning and landing, sleek like a dolphin. I couldn’t take my eyes off him as his long hair trailed behind him in the wind and I wondered out loud if finally, this might be what jet skis are all about. The skill, the danger, the sheer sexiness of the guy.
“Hope he falls off,” snarled my husband, from behind his book. And he did.

Illustration Anthony Ellison

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