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Velocity before breakfast

At 45 mph or more, all water is hard water

Jeffery Savage leans into a high-speed turn on New Hampshire’s Lake Sunapee. Jeffery Savage leans into a high-speed turn on New Hampshire’s Lake Sunapee.

Some bankers start their days with a run or a jog. Some cycle. Some turn on the treadmill. But from late May until early October, Jeffery Savage rolls out of his family’s camp on Lake Sunapee, N.H., heads down to his dock, and water skis before he goes to work at $365 million-assets Franklin (N.H.) Savings Bank, where he is president and CEO.

Savage’s morning ski isn’t a quick dip. It’s a morning begun at one end of a towline behind a boat packing around 350 hp, where he is balancing on a single ski, navigating a slalom course, or free skiing.

“It gets you right out of the water,” says Savage about all that horsepower.

Savage, 59, has been water skiing for more than four decades. Originally from the Midwest, his family spent summer vacations on Lake Sunapee at a camp his great-grandmother built. At 14, says Savage, having mastered the basics, “I tried to learn to jump and do barefoot skiing in the same week. It was a pretty painful experience.”

At about ten miles long and three miles wide, Lake Sunapee has several wide bays with calm water where a towboat can open up. In his younger days, “open up” was a relative term for Savage. The family boat carried all of 5.5 hp. Young Savage was always trying to cadge a ride behind the faster boats of neighbors.

As an adult, Savage had taken a few years off when a neighbor reintroduced him to the sport. Pretty soon, he was intensely interested in slalom skiing. Today, Savage owns a Malibu towboat. “It has a great wake for skiing,” explains Savage. “When you are a slalom skier, it is all about the boat’s wake and the continuity of the pull.”

In slalom skiing, the skier sweeps back and forth across the boat’s wake, cutting turns on a single ski around floating markers. The closer a skier is to the boat, the more challenging the ride as there’s less reaction time. Alternatively, the skier can “free ski,” slaloming through a mental course.

Savage’s morning ski is taken in turns: one skier driving and one spotting, while the third skis. After a run of about 45 minutes, everyone’s done. “This is a pretty draining sport,” says Savage. “And at the beginning of the season, you know it is going to be painful afterwards.” While Savage works out daily, he’s found nothing quite simulates the combination of strains that slalom skiing puts on the body.

Today, Savage tends to free ski more than course ski. “I’ve injured myself too much to do a lot of that,” he says. He’s got a tendon that never healed properly and has had his share of “face plants.”

“Water’s not soft at all,” says Savage. The boat, at a minimum, is going 30 mph, he says, and when cutting across a wake, the skier can double that speed.

Lake Sunapee water skiing is enjoying a resurgence. Savage and some fellow diehards have started an association to encourage more interest. They’ve set up a slalom course for the young people taking to the sport, and plan to bring in professionals to demonstrate the best techniques.

Steve Cocheo

Steve Cocheo’s career in business journalism has taken him to all 50 states and nearly every corner of banking in institutions of all sizes. He is executive editor of ABA Banking Journal, digital content manager of, and editor of ABA Bank Directors Briefing. He coordinates the popular Pass the Aspirin and First Person features and wrote the booklet series Focus On The Bank Director. He is the only journalist to have sat in on three federal banking exams, was a finalist for the Jesse H. Neal national business journalism awards, and a winner of multiple awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors.

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