How I Got This Body: Rolling on the river

  • Article by: SHEILA MULROONEY ELDRED , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 9, 2012 - 10:36 AM

Audrey Mundstock performs with the Twin Cities River Rats, a water-ski show team that wows crowds on the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis every summer.

Audrey Mundstock learned to ski on Lake Pepin, where water skiing was invented. As a little girl, she did gymnastics for four years but never loved it. Water skiing was different: She was passionate about it from the first time the boat pulled her out of the water, and she plans on joining the water ski team at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the fall. Ever since middle school, she’s been performing with the Twin Cities River Rats, a water-ski show team that wows crowds on the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis every summer.

TRICKS ARE FOR KIDS "My dad knew about this water-ski team, and he put me on it. I was super-apprehensive, but I really liked it. At my first practice, someone pulled me aside to ask me to double, because I had a gymnastics background. Now it's my fifth summer. We do a five-tier pyramid, jumping, swiveling. We use show boards, which are 8 or 9 inches wide with a small 1-inch rudder, and give you more buoyancy. They're super-easy to get up on."

TOP-DOWN APPROACH "When I started doing pyramids, I was on the top, and now I'm down closer to the bottom, which is harder. I'm 5-5 and 110 pounds, and I have one or two girls on top of me. It's a workout. You have to be strong enough and stable enough to hold the people on top of you; two years ago, I wasn't able to hold people up. Swiveling is the hardest. The binding has a 360-degree rotating piece, and there's a special rope. It's a very graceful act, and the most complicated. I've been working on it for two summers."

'BEAUTY BRUISES' "A lot of it is being willing to go for it. It's all really dangerous, to ski on the river with the strong current. We have small little life jackets that aren't even an inch thick, and they're not U.S. Coast Guard-approved. You have to swim, and you drift in the current really quickly, so the pickup boats are always ready. If you fall from a pyramid and hit a ski, you can get a concussion. For jumping, you can blow out your knee. And with helicopters and flips (which is what I'll do next), some people tear their anterior cruciate ligament. We always have beauty bruises. But I've skied with the team for five years, and I've never had anything serious, so I'm not too nervous. Every summer, we try to train everyone to fall backward. Once you've fallen forward "onto a ski, you don't do it again."

SMELLS LIKE A RAT "The river is very nasty. It's pretty gross, but we all do it. We wash all our stuff afterward, and we only use that stuff in the river."

SOLITARY PURSUIT "I've always had a passion for water skiing, but no one really understands what it is. It's a weird thing. I have some friends who come to my shows, and I've taught a lot of people to ski at the cabin. I spend a ton of time slaloming at the cabin. Slaloming is the best workout for your arms. I'm also an avid runner; I try to run most days. And I did rugby, but I didn't have time this year."

SET FOR LIFE "The River Rats compete against other show teams in tournaments. Last year, we placed second in the Midwest regional tournament. The team is something people stay on for their whole lives; I anticipate doing it for a long time."

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  • Audrey Mundstock, center

  • Audrey Mundstock practiced a lift with a partner.

  • RIVER RATS

    What: Summer water-ski show on the Mississippi River

    When: 7 p.m. Thu. and throughout the summer

    Where: 1758 W. River Rd., Mpls.

    Cost: Free

    Info: www.tcriverrats.com

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