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Making Fun Accessible
Photo by Cooper Henckel

Graceful Wakes brings water skiing to everyone

Story By Cooper Henckel
Local News Published 07/23/2021 2:26PM, Last Updated 07/23/2021 4:12PM
Rhinelander - Few things say Wisconsin like summers spent out on the lake. For people with physical or mental disabilities, though, joining in on the fun used to mean sitting on the shoreline.

"We try to find an adaptation for everyone," said founder of Graceful Wakes Grace Petzold. "The main adaptation we have is something called a sit ski, which is a specially designed water ski that the participant can sit in and the ski can essentially hold the rope for them if they're not able to. Being able to sit in the ski and not have to hold the rope opens a lot of possibilities for people."

Graceful Wakes started in 2015 after Petzold took a trip down to Florida with her family--including her mom, who uses a wheelchair.

"We had the opportunity to water ski together, and that moment of being able to ski next to my mom, something I never thought was possible, was truly inspirational for me," said Petzold. "After talking with my parents, I said I wanted to start a nonprofit organization to be able to provide that opportunity to individuals up here in Wisconsin."

Participants at the Friday ski clinic zipped across Boom Lake from 9 a.m. until the mid afternoon alongside two trained skiers.

"We also have two trained side skiers next to the participant the entire time to talk them through it, keep them safe, and keep them comfortable on the water," Petzold said.

"It was so nice to be in the water with Grace," said clinic participant Danielle Thoe.

Kids, adults, first-timers, and watersport savants alike got in on the fun. Thoe's been skiing for three years.

"I really like Graceful Wakes," said Thoe. "It's very fun and the water is very nice and cozy."

Thoe hopes anyone who thinks they can't go big on the lake thinks again. Petzold says seeing people like Thoe light up on the water makes all her hard work worth it.

"You may have someone who is a little timid as soon as they get in the water, they're a little nervous, but as soon as they get up on top of the water, to see their hands go up in the air, to see the smile that spreads across their face is truly inspirational and motivates me to keep doing it," Petzold said.

The free show starts at 6 p.m. in Hodag Park. You can learn more about Graceful Wakes, their future clinics, and how to support their mission on their Facebook page.
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