Leadership boat driver

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Richard Speakman
  • 22nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron

This has been an amazing summer. Although the temperatures are still warm, there is something about the Labor Day weekend, it marks the end of summer. School is starting which often brings different emotions to different people, but for me this long weekend signifies the official close to lake activities.


Waterskiing is a thrilling activity where a boat speeds 30 mph while pulling a person via a 75- foot rope while standing on a piece of wood. There is a skill set to get up on the skis, and significantly more if you attempt a single ski. There’s even more skill included as the skier starts to move right and left, crossing the boat wake which increases the relative speed of the individual to the water. If done correctly it decreases the distance between the water and the body.


The image of a waterskier is most seen with a rooster tail of water fanning in the background of a skier leaning inside a sharp turn with their arm extended, holding onto a ski rope handle. The rope leades the frame as a blurry line. The focal point is the skier, but the rope is essential to this activity. The rope connects the skier to the boat, the driver and the observer.   Each of these roles are essential when waterskiing. 


The boat driver is looking ahead ensuring the path of the boat, and the skier is clear of other boats. There are no lanes on a lake. There is no boat-traffic control that de-conflicts speed boats and fishing boats. The driver anticipates the chaos ensuring safety for their passengers and others.  


The driver also wants the skier to have smooth water. At sunrise, you will find lakes with a glass- like appearance. Minimal waves and long sections of straight lines which allow the skier to set up a rhythm of cutting back and forth. The skier should be able to fully concentrate on the work of cutting through the water. It is not the responsibility of the skier to consider boat traffic. Through trust, the skier has to rely on the driver for safety.


For every skier there is a boat driver. One cannot exist without the other. Being in the water is the performance and where accolades are conferred. For every activity we give our very best, there is a corollary position that clears the battle space allowing us to do our job. In every relationship we have there is an opportunity to ensure safety. It takes both. Are you developing both skill sets?