Let’s Move Quad Cities celebrates the spirit and determination Quad City area residents take to promote movement and fitness. We welcome guest blogger, Bill Michaels, veteran radio personality best known for the “Dwyer and Michaels” show on 97X. In addition to his popular radio presence, Bill and his family are avid water skiers with the QC’s Backwater Gamblers Water Ski Show Team, as well as advocates for education regarding scoliosis, a spinal condition that has affected his family. We asked Bill to not only talk about his family’s love for skiing, but their passion to support and educate others about scoliosis.
Waterskiing is Why We Move
By Bill Michaels
I started skiing as a kid during summer vacations in northern Wisconsin. The same family friend who taught me also taught my kids to ski using the exact same 17 foot 1972 Larson boat!
We’ve been skiing with the Backwater Gamblers for 3 seasons. It’s been fun watching my kids embrace the sport and surpass me (by a LOT).
All three of my kids (Mallory, 16; Megan, 15; and Zachary, 11) can barefoot. The girls are currently working on swivel skiing and “around the boat” in addition to conventionals, trios and the ballet line. (Don’t tell my wife, but they’re going to start jumping soon. Shhhh!)
I ski in 4 acts this year but my favorite is Final Pyramid for a couple reasons: it’s a challenge every time we leave the dock but also because my daughters are up above me…somewhere! Mallory is my partner as we bring down the pyramid so it’s my job to get her down and back into shore.
Backwater Gamblers Practice Schedule
Between practices and full ski shows, we’re on the water about 5 or 6 nights per week. Our dry land practice begins in January where we go through all the moves required to assemble pyramids. The idea is to learn to assemble and take down pyramids quickly and safely so that when we’re out on the water, all the skiers are on the same page working as a team.
It’s a pretty demanding schedule, but also a great way to spend the summer. Plus, we’re all together as a family.
Waterskiing Health Benefits
I hadn’t given much thought to the health benefit until last year. It was in March when I went for my annual physical that my doctor noticed some of the numbers from my blood work were “elevated.” He told me it wasn’t anything to be too concerned about, but he wanted to keep an eye on things and scheduled me for a follow up visit later in the summer.
I should point out that my eating habits could only be considered “atrocious” or “awful” at best.
Honestly, I eat like a 10-year-old kid. Fast food, potato chips, fried food, Spaghetti O’s, mac n cheese…those are building blocks of my daily food pyramid!
So, it really wasn’t a surprise that my blood pressure reading, cholesterol and sugar levels would be “elevated.”
At that 6-month appointment he commented that all my numbers were right back in the “optimal” range and asked if I’d been working out or running. Nope…I drive past a gym on my way to work, but that’s about it. He added that these readings don’t just fall for any reason so I must be doing SOMETHING. Then I told him about our schedule with the ski team. That was the explanation!
Daughters’ Spine Surgeries
It’s a special thrill to ski with my daughters now because both of them were diagnosed with severe cases of scoliosis (curvature of the spine) requiring spinal fusion surgery. It’s about 6-7-hour surgery with a highly restrictive 6-month recovery–no bending, stretching, running or lifting. Our initial fear was paralysis potentially resulting from the surgery.
But the overwhelming concern was “Will they be able to lead normal physically active lives?” What we learned was that if they followed the prescribed recovery program, there would be no reason to think they could resume all their favorite activities.
Our surgeon was hesitant to endorse participation in any type of high-risk physical activity. But secretly, I think he likes using our two daughters’ recoveries as illustrations to current patients of the potential that exists after spinal fusion surgery. Risky activity or not, his advice was “live your life, but use your head.”
The Backwater Gamblers has been a Quad City tradition for 35 years and we’re happy to be a part of the team. While physically different from my job on 97X, water skiing and radio ultimately are performance-based forms of entertainment. And, both are free!
Days Begin at 4:30 A.M.
I grew up north of Chicago and came to the QC in 1990 following a short run in Peoria. This year, my morning radio show with Greg Dwyer will mark 25 years on the air in the Quad Cities.
My day begins at about 4:30 in the morning and I’m usually back home by noon. That gives me a few hours to set up the next day’s show, transition to dad/husband mode and finally, round up the wife and minions to head down to the Rock River to practice with the Backwater Gamblers. Then, it’s pretty much rinse, lather, repeat. In my spare time, I enjoy trying to find some spare time so I can slow down and do nothing!
Both Dwyer and I are grateful for the chance to enjoy our careers and raise our families in the Quad Cities. It’s a GREAT place to call home!
Editor’s Note: Bill’s daughter, Mallory, wrote a book about her experiences with scoliosis called, “Magnificent Mallory: Scoliosis Survivor.” Mallory wanted to help and inspire others by sharing her own scoliosis journey. Proceeds from the book benefit the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.