Members of Oregon’s Lake Oswego Water Ski Club flawlessly perform that favorite formation of the water ski show, the five-person pyramid. It’s 1960 and (from left) Gloria Larsen and Val Davidson ride on the shoulders of Lita Schiel Grigg, Bob Barnum and Karen Kiskey Brooks, practicing for their summer performances.
Founded in 1947, the club helped pioneer the sport. Skiers gathered at Wally Worthington’s marina on Lakewood Bay, nailed tennis shoes to boards and went on to help develop the techniques and equipment that would turn water skiing into a national craze in the ’50s and ’60s. Worthington’s daughter, Willa, went on to become a national champion and a performer with the world-famous troupe at Cypress Gardens, Fla.
The club’s summer shows were held at night, Grigg recalls, with spotlights illuminating the Willamette River. “It included clowns — one man performed as a wakeboarding rabbit — kite flying and barefoot skiing … flag routines, ballet and doubles slalom.” The pyramid, however, was always the highlight.
Fast forward to 2011. Grigg, who was Miss Oregon in 1966, and a group of skiers re-created something of the old show’s excitement, carrying the club pennant in a flag routine at the Lake Oswego Antique Boat and Auto Show. Decked out in red-and-white Esther Williams-era bathing suits and skiing behind vintage powerboats, the women were dubbed the “Polka Dot Express.” Said Grigg, who had not skied in 45 years: “No pyramids, at least not this year.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.