There was a certain amount of pressure.
My parents had both grown up poor. And they’d made good, risen above their circumstances to make a magnificent life for my sister and I in Port Elizabeth.
So good that, by the time we were in our early teens, they were able to build a holiday house on the canals in St Francis Bay, so we would be able to have the privileged upbringing they could not.
We would frolic joyously in the summer gorgeousness, play tennisette on the sand, surf like the Beach Boys and waterski like champs. That was the plan.
To this purpose, the minute we moved to our new house, we attended an auction, where my father purchased one speedboat, one set of waterskis and a lifejacket.
He also bought himself a captain’s hat resembling that of Kaptein Stubing from Die Plesierboot. So he was always going to be driving the boat. But who was going to be doing the waterskiing?
My sister was more into beach braais, boys and socialising. My mom wanted nothing more than a round of golf and a tan. So me, I was the waterskiier.
And I was the guy who found himself, late that summer afternoon, neck deep in riverweeds, on the rocky north bank of the Krom river, clinging to a ski-rope.
By that stage, we’d failed seven times. My 14-year-old arms were battling with the strain of trying and failing to pull myself out of the water. Neither my dad Fred, nor I, had ever been waterskiing before.
The sun was low in the sky, so all I could see was these massive fields of glare off the water. The wind was up, and the chop was ankle high. We’d drifted onto the rocks and crunched two propeller blades, so Fred was in a towering, sweary rage.
We tried again. Fred floored the gearshift and the bow lurched skyward against the glare, tombstoning in the chop. I ploughed through, grimly clung to the rope, submarining, half-standing, till my fingers couldn’t any more and I had to let go. I sank miserably into the green, bathwater murk of the Krom. The wind blew Fred’s curses past me as he circled again.
“Try again. I go a bit steadier this time,” he shouted as I grabbed for the rope. We were drifting into the rocks again. The lifejacket was riding up to my ears and chafing me. The sun was orange now, and half down. We’d need the last of the fuel to get home.
This would have to be the last try.
I floated in the riverine debris, some responsibility I couldn’t quite place, heavy on my scrawny shoulders. Fred eased forward and took up the slack.
I was still battling to align my skis when he floored it.
Then I was dry! The wind in my hair! The view! I was up. I was up! I was waterskiing. My dad looked back and saw. And I saw he was proud of me.
Like with many successes, I couldn’t work out what I’d done right. But together we rode the chop, up the Krom river, him in his speedboat and me waterskiing. Me and my dad.