Four pals catch some air behind a Sea Ray Select on Savannah's waterways
story by Jennifer Chesak photos by Steven J. Conway
Among guy friends there are a few unwritten ground rules: Stay away from sisters and ex-girlfriends, always be ready to move a couch up multiple flights of stairs and oh, there's something about how friends don't let friends wear Speedos.
In addition to those basics, it's understood that sometimes when a pal starts chickening out, he might need a little shove. Thankfully, Chris Reynolds' buddies are always there to deliver a little friendly "backup." Standing on the swim platform of his friend Kevin Thompson's Sea Ray 210 Select, clad in board shorts with his feet tucked into an O'Brien wakeboard, Chris is suddenly finding his guts in short supply. He's not having second thoughts about claiming some air off the sport boat's wake; it's the cold water of Savannah's Skidaway River on a cool fall day that's keeping him onboard.
"Time to get chilly," laughs Patrick Grone into the microphone that's part of the 210's watersports tower speaker system-a handy upgrade that serves as a way to keep the boarder informed, not to mention a little heckled, over the roar of the engine. "We don't call it pushing in," he adds, "just positive reinforcement." Talk turns to beer-commercial clichés and how the whole scene would have been better if a bikini-clad crew had dunked Chris. "Well, Ricky's got that look
" laughs Kevin, trailing off as he takes a couple of playful shots to the shoulder.
One might expect a few real punches to fly with all the taunting going on, but the guys are longtime friends from their undergraduate days at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and they sink into the comfort of their friendly bullying like a familiar ratty fraternity couch. Chris, now at ease in the water, flashes a dripping grin that signals the green light to bring it on. After all, he's the only one daring enough to take on the wake so far. Dry and cozy in the open bow, Ricky Comery's own grin drips with sarcasm as he calls out, "Alright, lots of tricks now."
Above his dimpled smile, Chris' eyes fill with concentration as he gets into the perfect stance, a squat that will help propel him out of the water as the 210 Select pops out of the hole. Kevin opens up the throttle, watching his friend in the large helm-mounted tinted ski mirror. Muscle memory launches Chris through the motions of swiveling the board in line with the Sea Ray, finding the proper standing position and getting the right back-foot weight balance. The combination of the mid-morning sun and a surge of adrenaline melt away the chill factor, and he skims his way around a crab trap bouy and toward the starboard side wake. "Jump it," encourages Patrick, in case Chris was getting too comfortable with the soothing reggae music booming from the tower speakers.
But this ain't Chris' first rodeo, and he knows better than to waste himself at the start. A transplant from Vermont, he was heavily into snowboarding, skiing and skateboarding. "You've got to do something you know," Chris says later, in between sips of Gatorade during a break on the sunpad. "When Kevin got this boat, I really got started on the water." After a few warm-up rounds, he's ready to show off. He heads for the portside wake, cuts toward the middle, leans back and nails a jump.
The blue hull of the 210 Select is a contrasting blur against the salt marsh backdrop. The guys' playground consists of a protected stretch of water formed by the barriers of Skidaway Island, Dutch Island and the Isle of Hope. They have the luxury of skimming the waters in a no-wake zone for boats longer than 26-feet. While trawlers and other craft idle by, Kevin, captaining the spry Sea Ray sport boat, gets to hit the throttle.
"This boat has the perfect setup for wakeboarding," says Kevin, who owns the 210 with his business partner, Bob Clagatt, and another friend, Bert Jolley. "We know Sea Ray is top quality. It's one of the finest." Kevin is the president of BFG International. He and the boat's co-owners and their wakeboarding mates are all in the creative field and met either through school or their respective jobs.
"Savannah is just so tight-knit when you're involved in that field," says Patrick, explaining how they were all transplants who came to study design-both Ricky and Kevin are from the Bahamas-and how they all became fast friends. "Now it's so cliché," he adds. "We hang out together and do the same things. If one of us buys a boat, the others do, too." Patrick, the creative director for a design firm, has been admiring Kevin's recent purchase from Sea Ray of Savannah. "There is a huge quality difference between Sea Ray and other brands," he says. "I just love the yachts and how they utilize space. It's just amazing."
Saturdays for these guys aren't all about catching air, lounging in the sun and giving each other a hard time. Kevin's wife, Luci, recently gave birth to a baby girl, Ayla, and Ricky has just started a family of his own, too. While the water is a huge draw in this riverfront town, in Savannah's Historic District, the series of beautiful squares are perfect for strolling, picnicking, boutique shopping and spending the day with family.
General James Oglethorpe designed the city as wards around 24 central squares. Public buildings and churches were built on the east and west sides of the squares, and private houses were built on the north and south sides. Savannah became the first-ever "planned" city in the United States and is still considered one of the best designed in the country by many urban planners. After the sun disappears on this particular Halloween weekend, the City Market will bustle with fiddlers and other musicians entertaining outdoor diners while hungry ghosts and ghouls flit in and out of the eaves of the town's ornate Romanesque, Greek and Gothic Revival architecture.
For Kevin, Patrick, Ricky and Chris, getting together to shred a little wake at the front end of a Saturday adds the perfect balance to wherever the weekend might take each of them-be it changing diapers or relaxing and watching the Georgia vs. Florida game at a local pub. Their college days may have faded behind them, but the camaraderie they still share hangs thick like the Spanish moss on the oaks that tower around the gothic halls of their alma mater. And when Chris maneuvers up the starboard wake and wipes out face first, they all feel it, turning their heads as if it were their own cheeks slapping the water.
Sympathetic "oohs" coupled with winces echo around the 210 Select. The guys help a breathless Chris onto the swim platform. Patrick hands him a bottle of Gatorade, and Ricky tosses him a towel. For a minute it appears that his face plant won't become fodder for his pals, out of admiration for his show of nerves. But as soon as he confirms that he's OK, it's game on. There's a joke about a bikini again, and hands ruffle his soaked head. It's just part of that male code. And based on his smile, Chris can feel the respect in every loving jab.