These BE water skis were special
Many people have heard the story of water skiing being invented in Minnesota.
On July 2, 1922, 18-year-old Ralph Samuelson used his newly invented water skis behind a boat pulled by his brother on Lake Pepin, near Lake City.
He figured that if one can ski on snow, one should be able to ski on water. He first tried barrel staves, then snow skis, finally creating his own by shaping two pieces of wood and attaching them to his feet with leather straps.
Samuelson never patented his creation, but others did and they made all the money from it.
But, not many people know of a Blue Earth connection to the water sport.
That’s right, Blue Earth, a city with no lakes in a county with very few.
Here’s the story.
In 1957 a local Blue Earth sporting goods dealer, Everett Schock, in partnership with L. B. Moberg, began manufacturing their own version of a popular pontoon raft.
According to a story in the 1958 Blue Earth Post-Faribault County Register, Schock thought that if a pontoon raft could hold lots of people, couldn’t there be personal pontoons to hold just one person?
He began to devote much time and energy to this idea.
Later, Schock and Moberg dissolved their partnership, with Moberg going on to build the pontoon rafts.
Schock continued to work with his idea, which now had included models of pontoon water skis.
Schock, Scott Ankeny and Art Koskovich formed a corporation with the express purpose of making the skis.
But, it wasn’t easy.
The original investors had spent months trying to design a successful mold for making the Fiberglas skis.
Finally, they created their own mold and a secret way of making the skis a secret that was never revealed.
They found sporting goods stores enthusiastic to try out the new product.
The idea was that with the pontoon skis, one did not need a big fancy boat with a large motor for enjoying water skiing. These pontoon skis could be pulled behind virtually any boat and motor.
The new skis would get the sport within reach of everyone.
They came out in full production in 1958. How successful they were is not truly known. The skis are, of course, no longer being made.
But, thanks to one local Blue Earth businessman, area people are able to see what the skis looked like.
Many years ago, Mike Enger did some work for Arden Alfsen who lived on a farm north of Blue Earth with his wife Wanda.
“I first saw these old water skis in a shed on the Alfsen place,” Enger recalls. “For some unknown reason, that fact stuck in my brain.”
This past fall Enger was in that area and stopped in to see if anyone was home.
“Arden had passed away, but Wanda was home,” he says. “I told her about remembering about the skis, but she had no idea what they were, and had no idea if they were still in the shed.”
They went and looked, and lo and behold, there they were.
“I asked Wanda if I could buy them from her and told her my plan was to donate them to the Faribault County Historical Society or the Water Ski Museum in Florida if the historical society didn’t want them,” Enger explains. “She graciously gave them to me if I attached Arden’s name to them.”
Since that time, Enger has had the skis restored and painted, matching a factory red color as close as possible.
And, he currently has them on display on Ankeny Furniture in Blue Earth.
Enger says that Bob Ankeny, and several other Blue Earth residents, remember trying out the pontoon skis in the lakes in Fairmont.
He says he is interested in finding out more about them, and if anyone else has a pair of the skis.
“They are a part of Blue Earth history,” he says. “And an interesting part of the history of water skiing.”