This is how a stranger inspired a 30 year promise to herself to never give up
Sally Free has just turned 60 and is still mono-skiing. She was first inspired 30 years ago by a nameless silver haired lady, who she would see on her favourite beach every season. A lady who would walk down the hill from her home, with her mono-ski under her arm. Zoom off from the beach to complete a ski tow, and then troop back off home again.
Although she never once spoke to this woman, Sally felt such surprise, admiration and respect for this lady she made a promise to herself – she will still be skiing at 60.
Now, in the year of her big 6-0, Sally wants to share her story as an open thank you to the lady she admired from afar and who inspired her to never give up.
Sally, how did you get into skiing in the first place?
When I started I used to have a real fear of the sea, and that started when I was about 12. We used to visit Christians’ Godfather Phillip, and we used to go out on the Trimaran around the mouth of the River Dart. One particular time he threw me in – in a float of course – and I remember going round and round and round and round, thinking I’m going to drown. Because I didn’t know which way was up, and didn’t know which way was down. That was a real trial when I was a child.
When did you overcome that fear of the sea?
It wasn’t until I moved here [Torbay] in my late 20’s and Christian’s Dad and our friends were all into boating that I was like woah! If I can’t beat em, join em! So, instead of being stuck on the beach all day, I got my hair wet and haven’t looked back. My three saving graces at the time were:
- My wetsuit – It made me feel safe and meant nothing could eat my skin!
- My ski – I figured if I was wearing boots, at least the fishes couldn’t nibble my feet.
- My buoyancy aid- This meant I could float, and therefore would not drown.
With all three, and with some life experiences under my belt. I finally felt confident enough to be back in the water. In those days there was the Ski club and there were soo many people to help me learn, our friends would help hold me out the water. So the very first season I was here, I went from standing up on two skis, to kicking off a ski and managing to mono and even learning to deep water start!
Where in the Bay was the best place to learn?
We were on the beaches with Ski lanes which are Elberry Cove and Livermead Beach so we would be between these two all the time. They are relatively sheltered with a dedicated ski zone. Which in the height of in the height of summer and particularly during the day there would be anything up 30+ boats moored at ski beaches having BBQs and kicking back with their families. One by one taking skiers out on tows and generally causing mayhem! So we used to try to go very early morning or later in the evening. This was all happening in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s. And Livermead Beach is where the lady used to come down with her ski every season.
Who was this mystery woman who inspired your skiing journey?
I wish I knew, so I could thank her. Every season I would see her, walking down the Livermead hill to the beach with her big bag and her mono-ski under her arm. She had silver hair and looked to be in her late 50’s early 60’s, at least to my eyes at the time!
Each day, she would change into her wetsuit on the beach and her tow boat would meet her in the Livermead ski lane. I used to watch her zoom off on her mono-ski for her tow before she swam back to the beach, dried off and would troop back up the hill and she was gone.
I remember thinking just wow, she’s amazing! To be in your 60’s still skiing. I want to be like that. Watching her one day, full of admiration and respect for this super-cool older woman, I made a silent promise to her and to myself that I too would still be skiing at 60.
Thanks for sharing your story with HomeintheBay, what do you hope readers will take from your journey?
Thank you for writing it! I really hope that whatever your readers passion, not just in water-skiing but in any area of life, that you never give up. If you promise yourself you can do something (age is just a number and all that) that you can do it.
And in whatever it is you do, your audience is watching. So, if you do something inspirational, you might just inspire someone to change their life for the better.
Even if you might never know it.