Friday, February 26, 2016


Apparently Madison and the surrounding lake country fall on the planet at just the right spot for the insane sport of iceboating. There exists a narrow band of the earth where lake sized bodies of water can freeze over yet have pockets of time where the temperature rises above freezing so the sun can melt the upper layers of ice and then refreezes the surface as the temperature goes back below freezing ending in a smooth Zamboni-esque plane perfect for the skate-like runners of an iceboat.  Couple this smooth surface with a temperature that doesn't normally dip to artic, a snow cover usually thin and lite enough to blow away leaving the ice clean and clear, then add a bit of wind and you've got the perfect conditions for sliding around on water turned solid at speeds that can become death inducing.
Iceboating has been a part of my sporting vocabulary for as long as I can remember, but only as a spectator. Growing up a block away from Lake Monona when winter hit we'd head over to the hill just beyond Starkweather Creek where Oscar Mayer would erect a toboggan slide that looked like a giant ski jump to my eight year old eyes.
The walk from our house to the toboggan run was along the lake shoreline where most days the iceboats were out making figure eights on the lake.
There's incredible beauty in the grace of sailing whether in summer or winter. There's beauty in their effortless movement.
There's also beauty in the crafts themselves. Then there's the beauty in the iceboat rider's abandonment of danger and fear.
With a gust of an unexpected wind surge these riders can reach speeds careening close to one hundred miles per hour. Slamming into an ice floor at that speed is nearly suicidal.
But wind is the clean energy that propels these crafts and without the wind there's no movement, no regatta and subsequently no danger.
Most of these iceboaters thrive on danger.
They move with the wind gliding on one blade
as they shift directions with a ballet dancer's balance and a racecar driver's nerve.
With that in mind I'm fairly confident that I'll be remaining on the sidelines as this weeks Madison regatta continues to play cat and mouse with the winds and the fluctuating temperatures waiting for that perfect moment when they become both professional dancer and supreme athlete.
Ice Skating Waiter, St. Moritz, 1932
Alfred Eisenstaedt, photographer
Available through Gallery M

1 comment:

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