Water skiing: A Minnesota tradition – Park Rapids Enterprise

Whether staying at a resort or enjoying a week at the family cabin, visitors and residents in the Heartland Lakes area have a few precious weeks of summer to enjoy the fast-paced fun of water skiing.

Nick Haas of Park Rapids shared what attracted him to water skiing. “It was a way to enjoy warmer Minnesota weather on the water,” he said. “What’s better than being on the lake on a warm summer day with friends or with family?”

Haas started water skiing when he was 10-12 years old, and he still participates in the Park Rapids Water Ski Club with his sons, Nate and Jason.

“I just passed it on to our family, because it’s a good family activity,” said Nick. “The family is confined to a boat. It can’t be out doing their own thing, running to their room, being a loner.”

He acknowledged that some people try water skiing once and never do it again, but other people discover that they love it. “It’s kind of a personality thing,” he said.

Water skiing has connected people in the community. For example, when a Boy Scout wants to earn a water skiing merit badge, his mom will sometimes contact an experienced water skier like Haas and ask him to help out. “It’s more or less someone knowing someone,” he said.


Bailey Brunjes enjoys surfing on an Park Rapids area lake. “You start with a rope,” explains her uncle, Chris Brand with Water Toys Rental. “Then you let go of the rope and surf on the wave. It’s a fun sport.”

Contributed / Chris Brand

Haas advised that before trying water skiing, “you’re going to need your life jacket, flotation device, a ski rope and a pair of combo skis,” or a wakeboard if you want to do that instead.

From his experience, children can get an early start plowing the wake behind a speedboat.

“Start them out young in an inner tube,” he said. “You can be in the inner tube with them and troll around with them and gradually pick up more speed.”

From there, he said, you can graduate them to a kneeboard, then water skis and wakeboards, and build from there.

Haas said one of his sons started in an inner tube when he was 2 years old, and athletic Jason was barefoot skiing by age 10. “He had the ability, he had the drive, and we had the equipment, and away we went with it,” Nick said.


Nate Haas and Jason Haas kick up a big wake while showing their barefoot skiing skills during a June 2021 water ski show at the Nevis city beach.

Park Rapids Enterprise file photo

To hit the right balance between challenging your children and keeping them safe, Haas advised, pay attention to their ability level.

“How in-control are they on the water?” he said. “Are they just trying to survive, or have total control over what they’re doing? That’s the biggest thing on safety. If you have control over what you’re doing and you’re in good shape, the odds of getting hurt are going to be a lot lower than if you’re out there pushing your abilities beyond where they should be, and you’re just in survival mode.”

Nevertheless, Haas likes to tell families that water skiing is a great activity for younger kids, “because there’s so much family bonding involved. When you’re in the boat on a beautiful day for hours, and you do that every weekend and maybe during the week in the evenings, you really build a good relationship between parents and children, and even friendships between kids and the neighbors on the lake. It’s a good bonding experience.”

At least one local resort, Brookside Resort on Two Inlets Lake, offers its guests ski boats and water skiing equipment – one of the few resorts that still do, if not the only one.


Chris Brand’s girlfriend, Lacy Johansen, takes young family friend Alex Malm on a surfing adventure on a Park Rapids area lake.

Contributed / Chris Brand

“It requires an extra insurance policy,” explained Joanna Wallenberg, a member of the family that owns the resort.

Don’t give up on the idea, though. There’s a local business called Water Toys Rental that rents out ski boats and other recreational equipment for folks vacationing on area lakes.

“Our ski boats do surfing, wakeboarding. You can ski behind them, too. Whatever you want to do,” said owner Chris Brand, whose business has three ski boats and delivers right to customers on their lake.

“We have a total of 28 or 29 boats that we rent,” he added, “including SeaDoos (personal watercraft), pontoon boats and fishing boats” – as well as surfboards for people interested in wakesurfing. For more information or to make a reservation, contact Water Toys Rental at 218-252-4725 or h2otoys@yahoo.com.


Liz Smith, 79, water skis June 17, 2023, on Fish Hook Lake. According to husband Phil, Liz has been skiing since she was a girl and still skis every week when the water is flat. “She starts on one from a stand-up start in about 18 inches of water and can still put up a decent wall,” he says.

Contributed / Phil Smith