Boating, water-skiing, and wakeboarding weren’t normal sports for me as a kid. I grew up in Palmyra where softball, riding bikes, and hitting the pool filled my summers. If my family did travel to a lake, it was either Mark Twain, which was about thirty minutes from my hometown, or to the Lake of the Ozarks. I remember water-skiing a handful of times. I don’t remember wakeboarding.

So when the producers of Missouri Life TV asked if I had been wakeboarding, I said, “Nope!”

“Would you be willing to learn for the Lake of the Ozarks episode?”

Silence. I’m not kidding when I say ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago, I would have blurted out, “Of course!” But let’s be honest, I am a forty-one-year-old mom of two. I’d have to put on a swimsuit on television. While in my head, I am still athletic and can do anything, I found myself doubting it. But then I remembered the important lesson I am teaching my children: you’ll never know unless you try.

“Sure. Why not?” I answered. I was nervous, and it was one of the hottest days of the summer. We teamed up with Kirby’s School of Wake in Osage Beach. I was told Kirby Liesmann still competed in circuits and was awesome, low key, and had patience. He was going to need it.

Kirby Liesmann. Photo by Evoke Group.

Kirby took me and the television crew to a calm and empty cove to start the lesson, which to my surprise was on the boat and not in the water. I assumed I would just strap on a board, hit the water, the boat would pull, I would try, and we would all get a good laugh. Instead, Kirby hung me off the back of the boat. When I say hung, I mean he was holding on to me and making me sit very low. I kept thinking, how is he holding me?

Kirby taught me the fundamentals of wakeboarding: how the pull of the water will feel and which muscles would need to do the work—too much arm and you’ll go forward. Twenty minutes later I was in the water. My nerves spiked once he put the helmet and board on me.

Yes, a helmet. Kirby has a built-in headset so he and his student can chat. He can help correct problems before they become major wipeouts. This is both comforting and exciting. I didn’t feel like I was going to be left behind to fend for myself.

My first worry was I would never get up and out of the water—that take after take, I would let my crew down. I just kept focusing on Kirby’s recommendations and instructions. I made it up on the first try. YES! And then as soon as I heard Kirby starting to correct me in my ear, BAM! I was down. Luckily, I had fallen backward. We discussed what I had done wrong, and he brought the handle and rope back around to try again. I succeeded again in standing, and this time I kept in my seated position for a little longer, then SMACK!

I was wakeboarding by try number four. The butterflies chilled out, the breathing calmed, and the muscles relaxed. I found a groove. I don’t know how long I was actually wakeboarding, maybe a few minutes. The sun was setting, so I tried one more time. Another successful run and my nerves were gone. It felt good.

Would I wakeboard again? Yes. I had more fun wakeboarding than I remember ever having water-skiing as a kid. I can see why so many love it. I also think it takes less effort to learn to wakeboard than it does to ski, but maybe it was just the teacher I had. I encourage everyone to try it. It would be a wonderful treat to give your-
self, no matter your age or ability.

Kirby’s School of Wake is located in Osage Beach, but Missourians can learn to wakeboard on almost any body of water large enough in the state, and many recreational lakes have rental services as well as instructor-led courses. Kirby’s School of Wake also currently offers video lessons. Visit to learn more, and watch this segment of Missouri Life TV at