ME AND THE AIR CHAIR or SKY SKI
First, since not everyone knows what an "Air Chair" is, let me describe it. It is a device you sit on and ride behind a boat. As the boat picks up speed, if you have learned the technique, you float almost effortlessly in the air. There is a crescent shaped "foil" at the bottom, attached to a blade we call "the stick" that is usually about 3 feet long. It fits through a slot in a board that is similar to a wakeboard, but smaller. On top of that is a stool. You sit, strapped into the stool with a belt like a car seat belt. On early models your feet went in rubber fittings with bands you stretched behind your ankles. On newer models your feet still fit in the rubber fronts but instead of stretching rubber bands behind your ankles you wrap velcro straps around your feet.
"Air Chair" was the brand name when the sport started and the term has become generic, like "coke" started out for Coca-Cola but became known for any cola drink. There is another brand that has become very popular, probably more popular, called the "Sky Ski".
When Air Chairs first showed up in our ski club - Century City Ski Club - and other ski clubs in California, a few of our more athletic members quickly learned to ride them. For others, myself included, it was quite a bit more difficult. It took me 3 or 4 summers going out 4 or 5 weekends each summer before I got up on the darn thing. Some others of my friends, who were better than me at waterskiing, never got the hang of it.
One problem we had was that someone had convinced us that the way to learn was to adapt what they called "the turtle position", where you bent forward but held your head up to look at the back of the boat. I, and others, struggled with this concept for years. Turns out that was exactly the wrong thing to do. Because you always burried the tip. Once I started leaning back, even far enough so the back of my head was touching the water, I got right up. Now, I find getting up on an air chair is easier than getting up on a wakeboard - which I think is easy - and much easier than getting up on a slalom ski. And once you are up it takes very little effort to stay up. You rise up in the air by leaning back, and come back down by leaning forward. You steer with your knees - just point them in the direction you want to go.
Some of our members became real experts. Mike Davis was rated number three, or number seven in the country in this new sport, depending on who you talk to. I've seen him do backflips, double backflips, "hellicopters", even a front flip! Pretty spectacular to witness. If you go to Sky Ski on Google you can find a video of Mike doing a triple backflip! Mike lives a distance from where out club usually goes, the Sacramento Delta, so we don't get to see him often, but another member, Lloyd Huff, makes all the trips and while he may not be at Mike's level yet, he too is pretty spectacular with his jumps and flips. Many other members of our club jump their Sky Skis or Air Chairs.
Another popular "trick" that a few of our members - Aaron, Tom, Debbie, Forest, David, and of course Lloyd - do, is called the "skidder". That is where they ride so high on the stick that the foil skims the surface of the water.
Over the years these "skis" or "chairs" have evolved. Designs have improved, some have longer sticks, etc. But these toys are not cheap. You may find a used one for $1,000, but you can also pay up to $4,000 for the top of the line.
A women in her 70s once rode one all the way from Long Beach to Catalina. Once you master the technique, not a lot of stamina is required. I get tired water skiing - if I am making cuts - in a few minutes. I can go quite a while on a wakeboard if I am not trying to jump, but I can go forever on an air chair - until it is someone else's turn. And I am 77.
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