On the water with the Eau Claire Ski Sprites

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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU)- If you've sat on the beach of Lake Altoona during the summer you might have seen them, they're the team that glides on the water and builds a towering pyramid that amazes thousands of fans every year.

The 50 plus members of the Eau Claire Ski Sprites make jumps, spins and pyramids on skis look easy.

But there's a lot of ground work, training and wipe-outs that go into putting on the perfect show.

Before they climb more than 40 feet on a pyramid of people, dance on the water, and fly through the air, members of the Eau Claire Ski Sprites get their start training on the ground.

"When I first came it took me about three weeks to first get up," explains Isabella Melville, a first year member.

Melville is a new member of the team this year, she says after practice on solid ground it was only a matter of time before she too would be up on two skis entertaining the crowd.

"For me it feels like there is a billion people and they are watching and they are cheering for no reason because I'm just out there having fun," she adds.

Long before the cheering crowds fill the beach, Show Director Brandon Dow says the team suits up for their first practice in May.

"The water temp was 50," says Dow.

Despite the frigid temps, the show must go on. For Ski Sprites veteran Abbie Brown, the adrenaline rush and the tight bonds of a ski family have her coming back each summer.

"It clears your mind and it gets me away from the work week," says Brown.

Brown said when she joined the team, she'd never stepped foot on a pair of water skis. Now she stands as one of the top members for a four- tier pyramid.

"The view is good and you get different ones," adds Brown.

The team's largest pyramid is the final act. It's hard to imagine trying to climb up two to three other people, who are balancing on wooden skis on the water, at speeds of 15 to 20 miles per hour.

"There is a lot of teamwork and a lot of communicating because one wrong move and the whole thing could fall," explains Brown.

And falls happen at practice and in the shows, but extensive safety measures are there to make sure everyone's okay.

"Every skier is taught to wave if they are okay in the water and don't wave if they are not okay," says Dow.

In addition to safety rules, water skiers wear special life jackets and extra boats are on the water for safety too.

"Everyone is watching you all the time, there is never a scary moment," Abbie assures.

While safety is top of mind, fun also reigns supreme on the water.

On top of learning to ski, many of the team members also choreograph dance moves too.

But despite the long hours that go into putting on a show of this size, and the bumps and bruises from falls, skiers on the team say there's something about gliding over the water that connects and bonds them each summer.

"When I'm on the dock and the kids there really is an enormous comradery between the parents and the kids," explains Show Coordinator, Vickie Edwards.

"I'll probably do this for the rest of my life if I can, I'll be that 90 year old lady who is still skiing," says Brown enthusiastically.

The Ski Sprites hold free shows every Wednesday and Sunday night at Lake Altoona beach starting at 6:30pm.


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