I’ve never held the record for anything, so I have no idea how it feels to have my record broken. My good friend Chuck Larson, however, set a record that stood for 46 years. In 1977, as a member of the Green Lake Buoy Bashers ski club, Chuck established a record for the earliest lap of this little -Wisconsin lake, making a circuit counterclockwise on a slalom ski on April 22. Air temperature was 46 degrees, the water temp was 37 degrees, and ice had been out of the lake for roughly two weeks.
Throughout our high school years, there had been a running contest to be first on the lake, and I recall one of the Nichols brothers held the record before Chuck. The Buoy Bashers ski club is still active, maintaining a slalom course on the lake. The members are the age of Chuck’s grandchildren, which is kind of cool. Through all these years, nobody had ever challenged Chuck’s first-out record. It became a dusty legend, commemorated in a faded color photo that still hangs in the Lake View Inn.
I was the spotter, photographer and witness in the boat when we pulled Chuck off the dock on his trusty red Connelly ski. He wore a borrowed black wetsuit and a pair of ski goggles. It took perhaps four minutes to circle the lake, and he was grinning through blue lips when we pulled him into the boat. The photo has moved around the Lake View, from a spot near the coat rack to one over the men’s room door to its present location behind the bar, right next to bartender Wally’s vintage animated Hamm’s Beer illuminated sign and his autographed Jim Taylor photo.
Of course, I would not be going on about Chuck’s record if it had not been broken by, you guessed it, the grandson of one of the Nichols boys. Last spring, the kid lapped the lake on April 16 and documented his feat in a TikTok video and a photo on -Instagram. This has been eating at Chuck, who plotted to reclaim his -legacy all winter, an effort the rest of us thought was ill-advised. Did -Kareem lace up his sneakers when LeBron broke his scoring record? No! He gracefully congratulated King James and went back to his rocking chair. We thought Chuck would be smart to do the same.
Chuck could not be persuaded. And so, on April 15, I found myself with a camera ready, hunkered down in the cockpit of a ski boat, dressed in goose down and wool. Chuck was sitting on the edge of a dock, looking over that same red ski, wearing the same borrowed wetsuit—which, unfortunately, would not zip past his 64-year-old gut. He wore goggles and a wool cap. As I watched the slack take up in the towline, I noted the steely determination on my friend’s visage. “Hit it!” Chuck called through gritted teeth.
I’d wager Kareem can still nail a skyhook, and Chuck has still got it too. He made his lap, then stood shivering on the boarding platform, arms raised, and let out a primal howl. Take that, world. Old guys rule.