Novice water-skiers typically tire out after about 10 minutes or do a head plant into the lake long before letting go of the tow rope.
Provo resident Ron Cartwright would have none of that and proved his mettle recently at Lake Powell in what might be a record-setting water-ski run. Cartwright slalomed - that's riding one ski - for 12 straight hours covering 454 miles without falling.It was truly an iron-man skiing performance, said observers. Spotters in the 23-foot Ebbtide pulling Cartwright calculated that he crossed the boat's wake an average of 330 times an hour. Speeds reached 48 mph when the water was smooth.
"If I wouldn't have been there, it would have been hard for me to believe," said Clark Heringer, whose Heringer Marine supplied boats and gas for the marathon run. "It was amazing."
Cartwright's feat was not a whim. It followed a dare of sorts after he skied the perimeter of Utah Lake a year or so ago. A guy told Cartwright that he knew of a lake he couldn't ski around - Lake Powell.
"I just wanted to ski all the way around it because he said I couldn't," said Cartwright, a draftsman at PDM Steel in Spanish Fork.
Cartwright's wife, Louan, describes her 38 year-old husband's exploit this way: "We decided this is his midlife crisis."
One of Cartwright's water-skiing buddies, Andy Reid, approached Heringer last year asking if he would provide a boat to pull a skier who planned to do 400 miles on Lake Powell. "I thought, `yeah, bet me.' It sound pretty far-fetched," Heringer said. But he agreed without having met Cartwright.
Reid popped into the Orem boat store frequently to remind Heringer about the deal. He contacted the Guinness Book of Records about finding a place for Cartwright in the annals of water-skiing history. Reid also got people to pledge money to charity for each mile his friend skied. The effort raised about $600 for March of Dimes.
Meanwhile, Cartwright got himself into shape. He biked 30 miles round-trip to work every day for a year. He swam regularly at the Provo Recreation Center. He made endurance ski runs behind his 27-year-old boat on Utah Lake and other places. He didn't fall once during a four-hour practice run behind Heringer's boat last month.
Still, Heringer remained skeptical on the day of the ultimate challenge. A sick daughter kept Cartwright up nearly the entire night preceding the run. He slept for about an hour.
Heringer said, "I was pretty nervous. How many people do you know who can hang on to a rope for 20 minutes let alone 12 hours?"
As the mileage counter soared to 50 . . . 100 . . . 150 . . ., Heringer's doubts vanished.
"Finally, I realized this guy isn't going to fall," he said.
Lathered in sunscreen and wearing a half wetsuit, Cartwright launched at Bullfrog Basin Marina near the center of the long, narrow reservoir. He skied to Wahweap Marina on the south and Hite Crossing on the north and through Escalante and San Juan canyons in between. The water was as smooth as glass and as rough as the ocean at various times during the run that was finally called because of darkness.
"I skied pretty much all the way around the lake," he said.
A four-man crew kept track of the mileage, hours and wake jumps. They rigged a pulley system along the tow rope between the boat and Cartwright to deliver food and drink in a bag. Cartwright clipped the bag to his life vest and munched as he skied. The boat ran out of fuel just shy of his 400-mile goal. He didn't ski for precisely three minutes and three seconds while the crew switched boats.
A crew member filmed portions of the wild ride. The tape and other data will be sent to Guinness for consideration as a world record. Cartwright said the record book currently doesn't have a category to cover his performance.
Cartwright still sports nasty blisters on his hands. His shoulders are sore. He limps slightly thanks to a charley horse in his left leg. But he said he'd do it again.
"Heck, it's fun," said the unassuming Cartwright. "That's what counts."