High Fives Skis the South - Video Recap

Day 1 & 2

Day one: 2:30am alarms are never that much fun, but if it means you get the chance of a lifetime to travel to Mississippi to go water skiing on a private, man made lake, you can grin and bear the fatigue. The perfect cocktail of sleep deprivation and adrenaline set the tone for an interesting day of travel from Lake Tahoe to Mississippi (with a pit-stop in Houston, TX). The High Fives Non-Profit Foundation is proud to announce the kick off of it’s first ever trip to Unlimited Skiing (Brandon, MS) for adaptive water skiing training from September 6-11.

Forgotten items such as shoes and hooded sweatshirts aside, High Fives Winter Empowerment Fund – Highlighted Athletes Landon McGauley, Phil Hoban and Steve Wallace along with Roy Tuscany, Adam Baillargeon, Trevor Clark (photographer) and Nik David (videographer) made their way across the country to the Deep South. Buffalo Wild Wings provided fuel for empty stomachs in Houston and Kendamas (an extremely addictive, wooden skill toy) allowed for hand-eye coordination levels to increase while passing the time once we arrived in gorgeous Jackson, MS.

The crew from Tahoe joined up with Mark Urich and Alana Nichols (two extraordinarily talented adpative athletes from Colorado) at Unlimited Skiing, which is run by Bill and Denise Bowness (who operate the business in the summer and work in Tahoe during winter). In a comfortable lakeside house, the Bowness’ hosted an amazing meal of steak and potatoes which preceded a night of bonding with eight of the crew sleeping in a rented mobile-home trailer just steps away from the calm water’s edge.

Day two began with Evol burritos and Red Bull and the discovery of the trailer’s heating system…Mississippi can get cold at night in September! Shortly thereafter the athletes began working on their body mechanics on the water with the intention of transferring the motion and muscle memory to the slopes this winter.

To see current and former professional athletes who have suffered a life altering injury get up on a water sit-ski in their first or second attempt is remarkable. The Malibu Response LXI (boat), coupled with the driving and teaching prowess of the Bowness’ made the transition from snow to water seamless. The smiles are on full sail, the fun has begun and the possibilities are endless for this fortunate group to live life to its fullest while learning from the best in the business at the beautiful locale of Brandon, Mississippi!

Day 3 & 4

A mission to report the progress of a group of athletes venturing into uncharted waters of adaptive water skiing has rapidly become a smorgasbord of positivity with days blending into each other and greasy grins easing the team into sleep each night. This is a work trip for some, an opportunity to grow and discover new found abilities for others and a barrel of laughs for the natives, yet the lines have been blurred and the High Fives Foundation is proud to report that the Mississippi adaptive water skiing trip to Unlimited Skiing has produced a strong bond with a new set of friends.

Days 3 & 4 in Brandon, Mississippi have been a blast! Each morning begins with a cacophony of sounds akin to a dorm room in our Wildwood – Salem Travel Trailer and the excitement to begin each day is contagious. Evol burritos and Red Bull are consumed with haste like a child waiting to unwrap a new present. Despite the excitement, everyone on this trip has their own respective pace in getting ready to go water skiing as life-altering injuries make the even the most routine activities for most a tedious practice in patience. However make no mistake, once on the dock the fire in their eyes is impressive and game time begins.

The drive and determination in each athlete (Landon McGauley, Phil Hoban, Steve Wallace along with Roy Tuscany, Mark Urich, and Alana Nichols) is evident. Slams and crashes are no deterrent for this team of adaptive superstars…

Alana has moved from simply cruising to tricking with “wake backs” and “wake fronts” (180 degree rotations over the wake). Landon progresses each time on the water, now having skied both a trick ski and jump ski, with big air in the forecast for tomorrow. Roy has mastered independent starts with a standard water ski handle and is learning the slalom course. Mark is absolutely incredible to watch; he has moved to a standard water ski and handle and can now ski with his powerful leg behind anyone’s boat. Steve has also achieved standard water ski handle mastery and continues to improve. Phil is figuring out a sport he used to know well and the subtleties of the muscle memory he has within are coming back in a hurry – regardless of the difficulties of overcoming an injury that is masked by a remarkable recovery.

The world is your oyster and in this case, your Brandon, Mississippi.

Mississippi hospitality has eased sore muscles…huge thanks to Bret Dunnaway (Regional Sales Manager – US Food Service) for the donated dinners each night! From Jambalaya to a whole smoked pig with baked beans and a perfect potato salad, evenings have been a southern cuisine dream.

Day 5

The High Fives Non-Profit Foundation’s trip to Brandon, Mississippi came to a close Sunday but not without a little hang time as adaptive athlete superstars Landon McGauley and Alana Nichols hit the water ramp jump. With a prime viewing area right next to the landing zone next to a few rock crawlers and SUV’s, the rest of the crew cheered on Landon and Alana as they took turns getting towed into the jump with the coaching assistance of Bill Bowness of Unlimited Skiing.

The entire team of adaptive athletes including Mark Urich, Alana Nichols, Phil Hoban, Landon McGauley, Roy Tuscany and Steve Wallace enjoyed an amazing week on the water at Brooks Lake. To see the power and balance required to get up on a slalom ski with one leg is inspiring and to know that Mark Urich has a new sport to continue to progress in, is just awesome! Aside from each athlete gaining new muscle memory, body awareness and increased skill sets that can be transferred to downhill skiing, this trip will be memorable for the hospitality of our new friends in Mississippi. From amazing southern cooking (including Miss Ruby’s pies) to the wealth of knowledge regarding all things water skiing that was shared with our fortunate team, we are grateful.

Thank you very much to Bill and Denise Bowness, Jackie Stimpson, the Dunaway family, the Holland family, U.S. Food Service, Red Bull, Evol Foods and everyone else that came out to Brooks Lake to raise the stoke and increase the positivity prevalent on this trip!

See y’all in Tahoe this winter!