Grassroots beginning bears years of water adventure


CLANCEY NICHOLLS LEAVES a wall of water behind him as he slices through Green Lake on his water skis during a past summer. submitted photo

by Ariana Hones

Bedecked in water skiing memorabilia while on his dock overlooking Green Lake, Clancey Nicholls remembers his first time water skiing.

It was 1972 and he was 11 years old. Nicholls described how he got up on the skis right away and made a small circle in Green Lake.

“I didn’t want that circle to end” he said.

For Nicholls, water skiing is a constant adventure.

As a child, he would watch ski shows at the park where people would make ski pyramids and barefoot water ski and then he would race home with his siblings and try to perform those same tricks.

Over the years, Nicholls has watched the sport radically shift and athletes continually push the limits on what they can do. For Nicholls what is also important about water skiing is that Wisconsin and especially Green Lake are such great places to do it.

Nicholls was a founding member of the Green Lake Water Ski Club in 1972, when he first came to Green Lake and got on the water. It started with friends and neighbors all coming together through their shared love of the sport to push each other to become better athletes, but also better community builders.

Through its grassroots start with “some teenagers using our parents’ boats” it remains to this day an informal club. Asked how to become a member, Nicholls smiled. “If you can ski and you ski with us then you are a member of the team.”

Nicholls described water skiing as being mostly about getting to know your neighbors and having fun. He reminisced about trying to flirt with girls when he was younger by asking them to borrow their dock for a start and then doing a “flying dock start” to impress them.

His favorite move now? A toe hold single while barefoot as it is both challenging and thrilling.

As one of the club’s leaders, Nicholls wants people to be engaged in water sports and for young kids to get excited about being on the water.

“You need calm water and to just keep going … and I am happy to teach” he stated.

One notable teaching moment for Nicholls is his connection to Casey Larson, a 2018 U.S. Olympian (see story on pages 5 and 6) in ski jumping.

Nicholls said that he would ski with Larson and his family when they would come to his home on the lake. The first time Nicholls’s family water skiied with Larson, within the first couple of attempts, he had gotten the rhythm down.

Nicholls was excited when he learned Larson was Olympics bound and to be able to say “I know that guy.”

For Nicholls and the Green Lake Water Ski Club that is what the sport brings: So much possibility for adventure and meeting new people.

One notable event of the club is the annual three- or five-man pyramid on the Fourth of July by Green Lake County Park, where the person on top gets to ski by with the America flag.

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