Thrills and chills: The Portland Water Spectacular water-skiing teams performs
an exhibition Thrusday (New Years Day) on the Willamette River


Team of Water- Skiers just getting warmed up for 1998

By KARA Briggs
of the Oregonian staff

Ruth Ballard, an intrepid waterskier, is willing to risk January chills to celebrate the New Year.

On Thursday, she led four teen-age girls as they stretched their legs on the concrete dock below Riverplace Marina on the Willamette River.

Then the five, members of a team called Portland Water Spectacular, took to the water to carry on a 12-year New Year’s Day tradition.

They skied at noon from the marina, making a loop between the Ross Island and Hawthorne bridges.

Portland Water Spectacular is the largest team of stunt-performing water-skiers in the Northwest, said Ballard, 32, of Oregon City, who organized Thursday’s exhibition, She has skied on New Years Day for 11 of the past 12 years.


Stunts ranged from two men who "skied' without skis – black rubber socks protecting their feet from the cold,

choppy water – to nine men and women who preformed a three-tier pyramid.

The temperature was 43 degrees, both in and out of the water. But the experienced team members weren’t fazed. Beneath her outer layer, Ballard wore two pairs of pants and several shirts.

"The water is warmer than usual," said Scott Van Dusen, 34 a skier from Lake Oswego. "Usually it’s somewhere in the 30s."But Jaci Emery, 13, who was skiing her first New Years day, was surprised by the cold. After leaving the river, she submerged her legs is a large plastic bucket of warm water. Then she was ready for another run. Like her

teammates, she uses only one ski, a type designed for stunts with a foot hold that swivels 360 degrees. She received the stunt ski as a Christmas present last week.Few spectators braved the drizzle and cold southern wind to watch the exhibition. Onlookers included four mallard ducks and two Canadian geese.

Between April and September, the team practices four nights a week for exhibitions and competitions. The 32 team members, 12 of whom participated Thursday, traveled to Wisconsin to their first national competition last year. Beginning in February, they practice weight-training and gymnastics indoors in preparation for the spring season. Members’ ages range from 4 to 55."We love this sport," Van Dusen said. "We mostly get together today because we haven’t skied in a couple of months. But it’s more fun in the warm weather

Redisplayed from The Oregonian , Friday, January 2, 1998

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