The Huntington Waterski Club is a close-knit group of seven members who have a fondness for spending time off land. Eight years ago, they started getting together every good-weather Wednesday in summer to slice through the waters of the North Shore. The club has no attendance records, and dues are paid in beer and pretzels. The only rule is that members must be older than 60. Their soundtrack is 30 years’ worth of Billy Joel and Beatles classics. On a recent June evening, four members of the club had their first outing of the year, and a reporter and photographer tagged along.
Mark Stevens, 70, of Huntington Station, guides his ski boat away from the Harbor Boating Club in Halesite on June 28, 2017, as he and three friends head for an evening of water skiing on Huntington Bay.
Stevens uses a 23-foot Supra ski boat he bought 30 years ago to take club members Jerry Nigro and Gordon Kerner, both of Huntington; and David Guichard, of Holbrook, for their first water ski outing of the summer.
Kerner, 68, left, and Stevens discuss water conditions before getting into the water of Huntington Bay.
Guichard, 63, tosses a tow line into the water as he prepares to ski. He led the charge to the water on the first outing of the Huntington Waterski Club.
Guichard uses a single ski. Water skiing is a family tradition for him. Guichard grew up in Huntington, graduated from Walt Whitman High School in South Huntington, and began skiing at age 15 in local harbors. His wife and children also water ski.
Guichard leans into his turn during his lap with the Huntington Waterski Club. For his family outings, He uses an 18-foot Larsen runabout. “If they are going to be with me, they have to ski,” Guichard says of his children. “And at my age I’m trying to leave it [the boat] to the kids to take over.”
Guichard skis into the dusk as the sun sets behind him. Says club member Nigro, “If you live in Long Island and don’t appreciate the water, you miss a big part of living here.”
Nigro, 69, of Huntington, takes his turn to skim the waters of Huntington Bay behind the boat of his brother-in-law Mark Stevens.
Nigro, pictured, says he’s not as passionate about the sport as the others, but enjoys their company. He and Kerner, who is known as Gordie, have been friends since kindergarten. Both graduated in the Huntington High School class of 1966 when, Nigro says, they first “dabbled” in water skiing.
Guichard helps Stevens up onto the boat's dive platform as Stevens prepares to get into the water for his turn on skis.
Guichard hands a tow bar to Stevens. The rule is that there must be at least three club members on the boat -- one to ski, one to drive the boat, one to spot the skier.
Stevens, who has been water skiing since he was a teenager, kicks up some spray has he struggles to get upright. He tried several times, but it wasn't his night. He made it upright for a lap on a successive week. “I was happy,” he says. “Once you turn 70, and can still do it, that means something.”
Nigro tosses a line with a tow bar to Kerner who has his skis on and is nearly ready for the pull from the boat.
The setting sun illuminates the tow boat's wake, as Kerner water skis in Huntington Bay.
Once everyone has taken a lap or two, there is time for beer, pretzels and sky gazing before heading to port. From left, Kerner, Stevens, and Guichard watch planes fly over Huntington Bay.
As Stevens heads the boat toward his slip at Harbor Boating Club in Halesite, Nigro kicks back.
The first outing of the year ends as, from left, Stevens, Guichard and Nigro pack up the boat in the slip at Halesite. They’ll end their season in early September with an annual party in Montauk, where they’ll reunite with Mike Daddura, 64, who moved east after retiring last year. Daddura, who had lived across the street from Stevens for 15 years, says, “You work all week and then within 15, 20 minutes you’re down launching the boat and just hanging out with the guys, talking about bands we’ve seen in concert, and famous lines from movies.”