At the fictional Tower Lake High School, "home of the Clams," school's in for summer.
Principal Peter Fernandez, the ski show's emcee, begins by begging the student body to "get started on the right foot."
But things become topsy-turvy as the school bus driver gets lost, the driver's ed teacher left because of budget cuts, and one student, Geri Atric, is still hoping to graduate after a 25-year try.
"Look!" Fernandez says. "The kids are climbing all over each other."
Actually, they are forming a four-tier human pyramid on the water's surface.
It's a squeaky-clean high school musical performed by the Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team, a group of talented amateur skiers who practice each week at Tower Lake, a 4 1/2-acre lake nestled in an industrial park behind the Oldsmar Flea Market.
All this freshwater fun — synchronized ballet lines, death-defying jumps, blistering barefoot skiing and other acrobatic feats — is presented free to audiences at 6 p.m. every Saturday throughout the daylight saving time season.
"The audience will see a Cypress Gardens-type show with music, costumes and a colorful announcer," says Vickie Wilmouth, the team's publicity chairwoman. "Many of our members do ski, or will go on to ski, at Cypress Gardens."
On Saturday night, team members will put on their costumes and once again become cheerleaders, students at the Science Fair, or dancers at the school prom, the Clam Jam. It's all in preparation for this year's Southern Regional Championships, which Tampa Bay will host next weekend.
The ski team is seeking to win its seventh consecutive title in the regional competition, where it faces off with its biggest rival, Sarasota, and teams from Naples, Alabama and the Carolinas.
Tampa Bay competes as a team at 1 p.m. June 28. There are other individual competitions for swivels, doubles, wakeboard, tandem jump and so forth scattered throughout the two days.
"We'd like to have everyone come and cheer for the home team," Wilmouth says.
Winners proceed to the national championships in Janesville, Wis., in August.
The team got started in the 1960s as the Tampa Ski Bees. Today about 100 people belong to the ski club. About half are skiers, and the others support the team by making costumes, selling concessions or driving ski boats. Performers range in age from 6 to over 60.
Care to test the waters?
Ski camps are held each summer. You just may find yourself on top of a pyramid.
The bay area ski team has entertained audiences in China, Spain, the United Kingdom and, most recently, in Ireland. The team performs at parties, special events, festivals, weddings — and for some nonconformists.
Some of the adults have put on a show for the Lake Como Family Nudist Resort in Land O'Lakes.
"We're like the legends of the ski clubs," Fernandez says. "We're folklore. People come up and ask us if we really do our shows in front of naked people."
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