Glasgow Hawks Rugby Club Tangent Graphic

Former Hawk takes to water

Former Hawks centre Matt McGrandles has taken to the water

KEVIN FERRIE July 03 2008
Driving into sleepy little Lochearnhead it is hard to imagine that it was once taken over by the in-crowd. Think 1960s, think bikinis, think beach life, think Martinis, think International Water-Ski Championships.

There can have been few prettier locations for such events down the years and pictures from the time, back in the mid-60s - show grandstands built on the water's edge as spectators thrilled to the feats of men who subsequently received a hero's reception as they padded up the beach to accept their prizes.

All this was recounted to me recently by Matt McGrandles, former captain of Stirling County RFC, long-time Lochearnhead resident since his mum became the local primary school headmistress 20 years ago and now a partner in Active Scotland, the company that has taken over the running of water-skiing on the loch.

His invitation "to come and have a go" at something I've eyed up when on holidays in the Med but never quite felt cool enough to try was irresistible during this brief respite from the relentlessness of the modern rugby season.

Since visiting the Great Glen last year to write a travel feature on cruises across Loch Ness and up the Caledonian Canal, I've also become increasingly keen to explore just how well we in Scotland are exploiting what is one of the world's most beautiful countries.

So, having carefully selected the one grey and miserable afternoon that we experienced in May and June, a 90-minute drive got me away from the driest of political meetings in Edinburgh to this Highland sanctuary.

After working out how to put on the wetsuit - they give you it inside out and some very intelligent people have been known to try to put them on that way, enough said - before clipping into a buoyancy jacket, it was over to Matt's younger brother Barry, his fellow director and the expert on the tuition side.

The briefing was surprisingly, well, brief. A demonstration of how to relax and let the boat's power do all the work in terms of getting you to your feet, then it was on to the water, where Barry continued to inspire confidence with his understated, assured approach.

I had at this point expected to go into a lengthy self-mocking account of dookings, shoulder sprains and laughter from Clan McGrandles but as a stickler for accuracy will instead contain myself to recording that after the standard couple of shots on the fixed bar at the side of the boat, I got away first time.

Therein lies the beauty of this sport and the training aids that have been introduced to let people get started.

My first attempts at winter skiing were a source of endless mirth to then 10 and seven-year-old sons as I struggled just to get on the tow to get me 20 yards up a nursery slope, while attempts at surfing and wind-surfing have been even more risible, but the water-skiers have come up with devices to make their version instantly doable.

That bar on the side of the boat was the first innovation, allowing the novice to get an immediate sensation of what it is like to get upright on the water. An even more important one is a little piece of plastic pinning the front of the skis together, ensuring that the bow wave through which you plough in exhilarating fashion does not force an ungainly and painful splits.

According to Barry, 90% of people get up and away on the bar first time out and 70% manage a decent run on the tow rope. Even so, my sense of smugness was growing as I sat down to a warming apres-ski coffee only to watch a 10-year-old wave cheerily to her mum as she skooshed past. It was, apparently, only her third lesson.

Sessions are just 15 minutes per person because it is quite simply knackering, particularly when you do take the inevitable soaking; in fairness this is not the Med or the Caribbean, so when you do hit the water the shock is intense, especially if, as I did, you forget the bit about letting go of the rope once you do fall over.

Yet it is enormous fun and far from expensive if made the focal point of an afternoon out in a gorgeous part of Scotland.

As for World Championships, Matt has, since his earliest days playing at centre for the Stirling side that was the first to take the Scottish title out of the South East, always had an eye for an opening and he believes there is no reason Lochearnhead should not become a venue for top-flight competitive water-skiing again.

Wonder if there's a veterans' section?

This article was originally posted on 3-Jul-2008, 07:43 by Hugh Barrow.
Last updated by Hugh Barrow on 3-Jul-2008, 07:43.

Click here to return to the previous page

Craig Hodgkinson Trust PMA Contracts LtdTopmark Adjusters Hawks Lotto
Copyright © 2008 Glasgow Hawks RFC | website by HyphenDesign and InterScot Network