Monday, July 12, 2010

The man behind the wheel

Bill Bonney has never lost his grip on the important things in life—like the handle of a water-ski towrope, for instance.

The Bellevue Club water-skiing instructor and Eastside native has been towed behind a rope for the past 46 years, competing in nationals 10 times.

"I grew up skiing on Lake Washington, but what really got me going was when I started competing," he says.

Bill's first competition in his early 20s was a far cry from the glassy slalom courses he now frequents. Instead, it was a grueling pull across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Vancouver Island and back. He quickly transferred over to slalom competitions and found his watery niche.

"I love the thrill of skiing through the slalom course and making it where it feels effortless. A lot of times you grunt through it, but sometimes it all just comes together," he says.

Bill has been instructing even longer than he's been competing. As a student at University of Washington in the '70s, he spent one year out of the water and decided to never let that happen again.

"I thought I'd better do something to ski so I started teaching lessons," he says.

Now an American Water Skiing Association-certified instructor with a competition-quality Malibu ski boat, Bill has taught countless kids and adults to water-ski on Lake Sammamish.

His lessons run from beginner to advanced water-skiing or wakeboarding. Bill is an experienced wakeboarder as well, but he draws the line at teaching flips.

"I'll teach spins and jumps, but as soon as they want to start flipping, they'll have to go somewhere else," he says with a chuckle.

As an instructor, Bill's favorite moment is watching a student succeed for the first time. His best advice to first-timers:

"Stay compact and low. Let the boat pull you out. So many people want to get out of the water so bad that they push with their legs, stand up too early and get pulled over the front. Once you're up, you need to keep your knees bent and head up. Or, I like to say, bend your knees and look at the trees." 

Waterskiing and wakeboarding lessons are offered by the Bellevue Club all summer with Bill Bonney on Lake Sammamish. All levels welcome. Ages 10 and up only.

Register online, call 688.3177 or stop by the Athletic Services Desk.

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