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Doug Nabham’s Coming Here

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Jet Skis

If you are young, like I am not, then you would not know that in the 1950s riding a motorcycle categorically labeled you a hoodlum, someone who had abandoned all civility to climb on a loud, smoky machine that brought terror to towns when bikers rolled in. Mothers would bring their children indoors and fathers threatened their daughters with severe punishments for even thinking about riding on the back of one (remember the song “Leader of the Pack”?). 

Of course, some of this still exists, as I learned firsthand last year when I donned a black leather Harley outfit and rented a bike with my buddy, Charlie, in Arizona. At stoplights in Tucson, I would smile and people would roll up their windows. Nobody would give me directions when I got separated from Charlie because he was going 80 mph and I was going 50 mph. I was constantly thinking that I was just a flat tire away from spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair sipping my food through a straw.

Fast forward to the 1990s and I give you the jet ski, also known as a “wave runner.” I know that this subject is rarely discussed in polite company and is almost considered indecent in these parts, but it is time to get the subject out into the open. Now, remember, the first step in curing an addiction is self-admission—okay I will take that step. I own a jet ski and love it.

Let’s first talk about the stereotype. It is a kid with tons of tattoos and body piercing, high on meth-amphetamines, going in circles for hours at a nasal noise level that makes airport runways sound tranquil. Now let’s calm down and talk about a little reality.

Yes, two stroke jet skis are very loud, but you almost cannot find one any more. Four stroke jet skis are quiet—so much for the old complaints about noise. Now here comes what you have been waiting for, but do not want to hear. Jet skis are fun. I heard a standup comic say, “You will never see a sad person on a jet ski.” How true. On the right day, I could make most every member of Fishing Bay Yacht Club squeal with joy on a modern jet ski (even though they could not tell anyone).

Let’s try to think about jet skis in a positive light. They are much more “green” than one person on a 25-foot boat with twin 200-horsepower motors pushing them about. They allow you to explore the Bay in ways you cannot in a boat because they can get into one foot of water and rarely run aground. They are actually like a really fast sailboat because we all know that sailboats, contrary to popular opinion, have motors. 

So, could my friends, for one summer, quit waving me away, stringing piano wire around their pilings and telling others that I refuse to grow up, and just take one ride with me? I promise not to tell anyone.

Douglas M. Nabhan is a lawyer with the firm of Williams Mullen in Richmond and has had a weekend home in Deltaville for 18 years.

posted 07.23.2010

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