Janesville’s Rock Aqua Jays show ski team failed in its attempt at a Guinness World Record for biggest barefoot skiing human pyramid Saturday morning at Traxler Park.
But it wasn’t for lack of effort by the sanctioned national water ski team, which did set a national record Saturday.
The Jays spent spent four hours and made six attempts to reach the threshold Guinness officials laid out for a new world record: eight three-person pyramids all skiing at once behind the same tow boat—barefoot. To seal the record, the skiers needed to remain standing in pyramid formation for at least 200 meters.
Again, that’s barefoot water skiing. At speeds of 48 miles per hour. Connected to a tow boat by a set of nearly 300-foot-long tow ropes.
On the Aqua Jays’ fourth attempt, which came mid-morning after several false starts and one minor injury, the skiers performed a 125-meter pyramid ski—75 meters short of the minimum distance needed.
That was the closest the team came to the world record.
During that run, one skier—a woman who was one of eight “toppers” on the three-person pyramids—fell and injured her shoulder, Aqua Jays officials said.
Another “topper” fell on the Jays’ second attempt. The skier fell face-first into the Rock River at a cruising speed of nearly 50 mph. She bruised her nose and got a swollen eye but participated in subsequent attempts.
The Aqua Jays, who are wrapping up their 2019 performance and competition season, staged the free event Saturday as a season-ender and crowd-pleaser for the club’s fans. The record attempt was a follow-up to a separate Guinness World Record the Aqua Jays successfully set: an 80-person human pyramid on skis.
This time, the stakes were higher.
The team took to the water in front of a crowd of a few hundred, with just enough available skiers to fill the required eight-pyramid formation. The Aqua Jays made six runs overall, but by the last run, the team had enlisted its last available alternate skier, and the wind had picked up, creating choppy water that officials said made it unsafe to continue.
Aqua Jay Kevin Ostermeier, organizer of the world record attempt, said Guinness’ stipulations for a record required the Aqua Jays to form two more three-person pyramids than the team had ever attempted before.
He said the team also had to upgrade its three-motor tow boat with more engine power and special propellers to generate enough haul to pull 24 skiers at speeds fast enough to keep the barefooters on the bottoms of the pyramids from sinking in the river.
The skiers had to use a nearly 300-foot-long set of ski ropes to give skiers enough distance from the tow boat to straddle the inside and outside of its wakes.
On top of that, the skiers had a 300-meter stretch of river marked with buoys to drop their skis, go barefoot on the water and try to stay standing long enough to mark off at least a 200-meter run needed for a world record. At the end of that 300-meter stretch was the train trestle bridge near the Centerway Dam.
Not much margin for error.
Ostermeier likened the logistics of the feat to the famous scene from the film “Back to the Future.” In it, lead character Marty McFly tries to use a speeding DeLorean car to try to hook onto a lightning-rod cord at the precise time lightning was predicted to strike.
“To put it simply, it’s a daunting task,” Ostermeier said before the run.
Too daunting to make a world record, as it turned out.
However, Ostermeier said the Aqua Jays’ 125-meter run with eight barefoot pyramids did set an official National Show Ski Association record for biggest barefoot pyramid. It was enough for the team to pop open some champagne bottles after the event.
As for another run at the Guinness record, the Aqua Jays’ quest isn’t over, longtime skier Jamie Kumlien said.
“We ain’t done yet,” he said. “As far as trying it, we don’t give up. We’ll do it next year.”