Waterscapes Canyon Lake
By Jim Allen
My first water ski lesson took place on Canyon Lake in December 1956. My family did not have a boat but the family of my friend, David Murtaugh did, and they spent most weekends on the lake.
They had an 18-foot Glaspar with a 35 horsepower engine. To me it seemed like the greatest boat in the world.
My first ski lesson was memorable. Remember that this was December. My friend's father asked me if I was ready, I said yes, and he pushed me overboard. He threw me a pair of skis, a life jacket and a rope.
He ended his instruction by saying I am going to take off when you give me the signal that you are ready, and if you don't get up, I am going to drive around the lake for awhile, then I will be back for you. If you do get up, I will drop you off when you are ready by the beach, you can ski right up onto it if you want, and you won't have to get back into the cold water again.
Ah yes, the cold water. Most of what he had said had been drowned out by the engine and the sound of my teeth chattering. I did manage to get my skis on and grab the rope before he took off, and with thoughts of spending the rest of the morning in this cold water in this same spot in the lake, I got up and stayed up.
True to his word, when I signaled, he swung me up close to the beach, and I remained dry. I don't know if he would actually have left me if I had not gotten up or if this was just his way of teaching water skiing. Ploy or not, it worked. I felt very proud of myself.
From then on I was part of the group when they went to the lake. My dad never had a thing for boats; his love was airplanes, but many of my neighbors did, and I always had an invitation to go skiing. It probably didn't hurt anything that, in return, my dad took those who were interested flying.
This month's issue of Arizona Boating & Watersports focuses on family boating. Canyon is only one of many lakes that offer family-boating opportunities, but it is one of the closest to Phoenix.
Water skiing has changed over the years since I first skied. There are many new forms of skiing and new facilities to go with them. Ed Fisher has been in Phoenix and skiing competitively for over 30 years (placing in the top 10 at the national level), and he told me a little about himself, his family and Firebird Lake.
Ed started the First Competitive Water Ski Club in the Valley "Firebird Ski Club" in 1975. Ed has two daughters, Christy and Wendy, who grew up on water skis. According to Ed, Christy won her fair share of trophies.
At about age 15, Christy turned her attention to other interests, but her sister Wendy continued to ski. Wendy competed in three different events in national meets, placing in the top five in many and placed first at several regional events. She attended North East Louisiana University on a water-skiing scholarship.