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11/09/94

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Stanford student forms water ski team

STANFORD -- Three years after graduating from high school, Adrienne Osborn began to feel that something vital was missing from her life at Stanford University.

"I kind of went through withdrawal," said Osborn, a native of Phoenix.

What was missing? Her favorite recreational activity, water skiing.

An avid skier since age 12, Osborn had been away from the sport for the most part after high school - she spent a year in Spain before beginning her Stanford studies.

The past two summers, she had gotten a "fix" teaching the sport in the San Diego area, but she increasingly began to think that it would be fun - and educational - to share the sport with others at Stanford during the school year.

So Osborn, now a junior majoring in science, technology and society, formed a new volunteer student organization in late 1993, the Stanford Water Ski Team. The group received a major boost this fall when Osborn, after months of work, secured a vital piece of equipment - a powerboat to tow the participants.

A local sponsor, Cope & McPhetres Marine Inc. of Santa Clara, agreed to let the team's 18 members regularly use a powerboat for practice and in competition.

"[Owner] Bob Cope set us up really well," Osborn said. "He's letting us use a Mastercraft Pro Star 190, which many people consider the best boat to ski behind."

In addition, the one-year agreement with Cope & McPhetres lets members borrow necessary equipment, including skis, ropes and other gear. Osborn said this arrangement, which she hopes will be renewed each year, and the fact that the team is a voluntary student organization, enables novices to take part.

"We've already got three people signed up for the team who had never been on water skis," she said.

Water skiing does not qualify as an intramural or "club" sport because Stanford athletics' by-laws prohibit games that employ motorized devices during performance.

However, the team will compete against other western schools as a registered member of the Western Region of the National Collegiate Water Ski Association. Individual team members have been taking part in tournaments for the past year.

Membership is open to anyone affiliated with Stanford - including graduate students, faculty and staff. However, only undergraduates can compete on behalf of Stanford in National Collegiate Water Ski Association tournaments. Non-undergraduate members can enter those tournaments in an "alumni" category, but their efforts do not count toward the overall team score.

Tournaments are hosted by various schools during the spring and fall. At some point, Osborn hopes the Stanford club will be in a position to host a tournament.

While a tournament would probably be held on a lake, the team currently practices on the San Francisco Bay just off San Mateo or at the Delta. There are an average of two practice days a week.

Each member pays $120 a year in dues to cover insurance and other incidental costs. In addition, members have to pay for membership in the American Water Ski Association, equipment deposits and practice fees.

By next spring, Osborn said, the Stanford team hopes to enter a full squad of five women and five men in each of the three tournament events - slalom, trick and jump skiing. (The team does not necessarily need 30 members; skiers routinely compete in two or three events.)

Slalom skiers perform on a course marked with buoys. The boat maintains a straight course; the skier does all of the work to negotiate the curves. There are no style points involved; skiers race against the clock and must make all of the turns. For an experienced skier like Osborn, the boat goes 34 miles per hour.

"Trick" skiing involves a number of variations, such as using special skis, doing flips and holding the rope with the foot.

Jump skiing, like slalom, is scored more objectively. A five- foot ramp is used in intercollegiate competition. Beyond that, Osborn said, "it's only the length of the jump that counts, unless you fall down." The speed of the boat and the length of the approach are at the discretion of the skier.

Administering the club is taking a considerable amount of Osborn's spare time. She said it is well worth it, however, since she not only gets to ski regularly but can share the excitement with newcomers.

In addition to working to get the club established, Osborn is already thinking about what will happen after she graduates from Stanford in 1996.

"I hope someone will be able to keep it going," she said. "Water skiing might not be the first thing people think of when they think about Stanford, but I think we've got something here a lot of other students might be able to really get something from."

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