Gliding weightlessly across the water

Anyone who wants to experience the speed or "sensation of riding" across the waves can now try waterskiing on a special seated ski. This sport was brought to Europe from America and competitions are now held here as well.

The appearance of weightlessly gliding across the water makes water-skiing a fascinating sport, offering either the sensation of speed or leisurely gliding. Many variations of adapted sports equipment open up water-skiing to people with disabilities. The German water-skiing association offers taster session camps at various locations throughout Germany.

Silke Emmrich interviewed Gerda Pamler at a taster camp in the far north of Germany.

What is the story behind the development of the seated water-ski?

In the USA, a barefooted water skier, Royce Andes, had a serious water-skiing accident in the 1980s. He became a tetraplegic as a result of this, but then went on to develop a seated water-ski, called the "KAN ski", which was tested by paraplegics. In 1994, the German water-skier Armin Rothfuss imported the sport to "the Aquaplaning" water-skiing school at Breisach near Freiburg. I've been practicing this sport ever since. I used to be a very successful downhill skier. Now I ski in the winter and water-ski in the summer. There are around 50 seated water-skiers in Germany.

What is the situation in terms of competitions for this sport?

There are the German championships, now called the "Eurotour stops", which attract competitors from all over Europe, the European championships and the world championships. In addition to the traditional slalom and trick classes, the Germans competitions include an event for newcomers, nicknamed the "Weißwurstklasse" after the Bavarian veal sausage. The objective for competitors is to cross over as often as they can at a certain distance behind the boat. In my discipline, the slalom, the skier goes through a starting gate behind the boat and must then go around six buoys without any errors before going through the exit gate. At the start, the skier picks a speed at which he or she feels confident of being able to navigate the six buoys (between 28 - 55 km/hr for women and 31 - 58 km/hr for men). If you complete a round without any errors, the speed is increased by three kilometers an hour each time until you reach the top speed or make a mistake. To make the whole thing even more difficult, the rope can be shortened as well. Anyone who is good enough to reach the top speed using the long rope can start to practice with a shorter rope. In the half course (the buoys are located 12.80 m to the side of the centre line), you score a half point every time you go round a buoy. If you start at a higher speed than the initial speed, all the buoys are calculated on the basis of the lower speed rounds, despite the fact that you didn't actually do these rounds. In the end, the skier with the highest number of points is the winner. For example: a skier starts at 40 km/hr and goes round all six buoys, at the next speed (43 km/hr), she navigates two buoys correctly, in the half course this would represent 16 points for women, since she is given three points for each of the omitted rounds of 28 km/hr, 31 km/hr, 34 km/hr and 37 km/hr (six buoys correspond to six half points = three points). She also receives three points for the flawless round at 40 km/hr and one point for the two buoys at 43 km/hr, making a total of 16 points. Disabled people sometimes do the half course. However, top athletes have been doing the full course (the buoys are placed 23m to the side of the centre line) for some time now. This is the same slalom course used by able-bodied water-skiers. The full course is far more difficult and requires a lot of training. Top athletes have managed to complete the half course using the shortest possible rope (9.25m) and at the highest speed. In the full course, the men's record is five buoys at 49 km/hr and for women two buoys at 40 km/hr. We will see who manages to achieve this at the highest speed and when this happens.

Where and how do you train for competitions? What are your main sporting objectives?

I often train in Mississippi in the USA, or Recetto in Italy, on Austria's Walchsee lake or the Fetzersee lake near Ulm. I don't have a coach, but some water-skiing friends give me tips whenever we train together. My objective is to become the reigning world champion in the slalom, and ideally to set a new world record. I matched the existing world record at the start of August at the Eurotour finals in Recetto.

Is water-skiing an expensive sport?

Yes, a trip behind a boat costs around 20-25 euros, in other words between 2 and 2.60 euros per minute. Then there is the equipment. You will need a neoprene suit and the seated ski, which costs around 1,200 euros. At a camp, you can rent the equipment for 20 euros.

Where can you train?

In theory at any cooperative water-skiing club that doesn't have any physical obstacles.

Source: Deutscher Rollstuhlsportverband