Mike Atherton is back.
Two years after losing both legs and an arm in a boating accident, Atherton is moving full speed ahead and standing on two skis while doing it.
Atherton, 35, returns to the water at 4 p.m. Saturday with the Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team, once again shaming couch potatoes everywhere.
The free event will mark Atherton's second time performing on what he calls his "water legs" — prosthetic appendages made just for him, just for skiing.
"It's good. It's a little different," he said of learning to ski with full-length prosthetics. "I have to use different muscles."
Atherton and his family were on a boat on May 9, 2009, when it exploded in Tampa Bay near Beer Can Island, injuring him and several relatives, including his wife, mother-in-law and father-in-law.
A lifelong skier and outdoorsman, Atherton was determined to work his way back to doing the things he loves. At first too weak to stand on prosthetics for even a few seconds, Atherton maintained a physical therapy and personal fitness regimen with the help of therapists and a trainer.
He first returned to the water in June 2010, 13 months after the explosion, using a seated ski. He has been working with a prosthetist from Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics to find the perfect fit for standing water sports. That's the same company that outfitted Winter the dolphin with a tail.
Atherton tried out his first pair of water legs in July and, on Oct. 15, skied in his first show.
Anyone else might think that time-frame is nothing short of miraculous. But it appears Atherton's on a different time line than the rest of the world:
"Things just takes time," he said. "You've got to be patient."
Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or firstname.lastname@example.org.