After taking the summer off, the Sarasota Ski-A-Rees are back in action in the bay waters off Ken Thompson Parkway, and are performing their newest show entitled “Casey Kasem.”
This year’s show will use music and costume to draw the audience into a Top 40 groove. At the same time, the Ski-A-Rees are hoping to draw in more skiers to its membership.
The non-profit waterskiing organization has been performing free shows in Sarasota for more than 50 years, existing only on the sweat equity of its members/volunteers and the generosity of the public. Ski-A-Rees president Karen Johnston said that it’s not even necessary for members to know how to ski when they first sign up.
“It’s geared toward skiing, but we will teach you how to ski,” she said. “All you have to do is come out and give it a shot. It’s a family organization for people of all ages who enjoy water skiing or just being around the water.”
Though not all Ski-A-Rees members are skiers (some drive boats and perform other necessary tasks), many of the ones who are started out at a young age. Johnston said that her husband Todd Johnston, this year’s show director, has skiied for most of his life, since his parents were some of the first members of the organization.
“We have had kids as young as three and four out there,” explained Johnston. “They’ll start out on a skim board with us pulling them on the boat. Our youngest right now is eight.”
Lance Robbins has been a Ski-A-Ree for his entire life. His parents Russell and Sandy are active members and his brother Brian is a professional skier. He said that he can barely remember a time when he didn’t ski.
“How many young adults can say that they've hung out with their parents almost every weekend of their life?" he asked. "Water skiing is my life—everything else just fills the space between my water times."
The Ski-A-Rees’ shows are artistic displays of grace, strength and athleticism. The skiers display incredible skills while jumping, barefooting, performing a ballet on water and creating a moving pyramid. Indeed, Johnston said that she has found skiing to be an incredibly effective workout.
“Especially the kids and young adults are so fit because of the skiing,” she said. “They’re so much stronger, because it is really a good workout for your body in general. You can also do it while you are having fun.”
She added that another benefit of being involved with the Ski-A-Rees is that it promotes teamwork and helps teach members how to better deal with people of all ages and how to perform in front of others without fear.
Besides performing in the free Sunday shows on City Island, the Ski-A-Rees participate in competitions around the country. This past June, for instance, they did very well in the Southeast Regionals.
“We came in second in that competition,” Johnston said. “There was a lot of good skiing there, and some of our members went on to Nationals.”
Though they currently have about 25 active skiing members and 20 additional people in the group, Johnston said they are always on the lookout for new members. And they can always use donations of money, for equipment and travel, and even older used skis.
The fall season’s show is performed at 2 p.m. on Sundays until Oct. 28, when there will be a special Halloween show. After that, the group will not perform for the public again until the winter season begins on Sunday, Feb. 3.
The Ski-A-Rees are located at 1602 Ken Thompson Parkway, at the back of the Mote Marine parking lot. For more information, visit their Facebook page or their website at http://www.skiarees.com/.