The clouds were thick and a light breeze caused annoying ripples on Lake Ossawinnamakee, but that didn’t stop the “Ossie Ski Team” from slipping into the lake to take turns water skiing Friday morning, July 26.
The early morning outing is their summertime tradition, which includes waving to and talking to neighbors around the lake who were enjoying coffee on their decks or docks. The neighbors are accustomed to seeing this foursome, led by Ron Engblom, on the lake. This summer they’ve started taking evening water ski runs as well.
Engblom - otherwise known as Banana Ron - is a 71-year-old water ski enthusiast who loves nothing more than taking a spin around the lake every summer morning, afternoon and evening.
“I ski every day unless it’s rainy or windy. If I can get in three runs, I’m pretty happy,” Engblom said of his summertime passion while sipping coffee from a cup brandishing a picture of himself barefoot skiing. The Engblom home decor includes a chair made from water skis, pillows sporting pictures of friends and family water skiing, and even a lampshade with family water skiing photos.
A water ski run only lasts several minutes, so for Engblom, it’s the experience as a whole that means so much. Friendship and camaraderie play as much a part in his self-proclaimed “million dollar mornings” as the act of water skiing itself. His “Ossie Ski Team” includes his neighbors, Tony Sandeen and his children - Thad, 13, and Audrey, 11.
Tony and Hillary Sandeen and their children live in Hong Kong, but the family returns to Lake Ossie every summer. Tony now owns the family cabin, and grew up spending summers on the lake. Engblom helped teach Thad and Audrey to water ski, and during the summer the group meets up around 7 a.m. most days for water ski runs around part of the lake.
“I cannot tell you what a joy our friendship with Ron is and what our million dollar mornings mean to us all,” Tony said. “Our million dollar mornings with Ron start at 7, one of us picking the other up dockside, where we slow motor (to minimize wake) our way to the south end of the north arm. Most days, the water surface is glass and the chilly air makes the water seem all the warmer. We take turns with our sets, Ron usually first, followed by my kids, Thad and Audrey, with me going last. For good measure, the kids each get a second set in before we are finished for the morning.”
He agrees it’s the overall experience that counts. Their July 26 water ski run was followed by breakfast at the Engblom home.
“While the skiing is great, the best part happens after as we've finished, floating in a quiet bay, the sun warming us up, talking, laughing and realizing how good we have it,” Tony said.
Audrey called the million dollar mornings one of a kind: “Million dollar mornings mean a lot to me because I love to spend time with Mr. Ron and be with him to do what we all love,” she said.
Thad called their million dollar mornings a special feeling that can be found nowhere else.
Engblom’s evening run includes wife Lisa as boat captain and their dog, Winston, who loves to ride shotgun. Again, it’s the entire experience that is so special as the couple takes time together after Engblom skis to turn on music, have dinner, talk about their day and soak in what Mother Nature offers.
“There’s nothing I’d rather do,” Engblom said. “I always enjoyed the lake. It’s a real workout to shortline water ski and barefoot (ski). God has blessed us with an opportunity to be in an area that’s perfect.”
He has other skiing companions on the lake, including good friend Joe Eberhardt, whom Engblom motivated to start water skiing again.
For those wondering where he got his name “Banana Ron,” Engblom shares the story. Water skier George Alfred Blair was a well-known ambassador for barefoot water skiing who became known as “Banana George” because of the yellow wetsuit he wore. He lived to age 98, and more spectacularly, he was still barefoot skiing at age 93.
“My goal is to beat Banana George,” Engblom said without hesitation, noting neighbors started calling him Banana Ron.
He and his daughter, Brittney, ran Banana Ron’s Water Ski School for a couple of summers in the early 2000s, teaching people to water ski. Over the past 55 years he’s shared his passion with hundreds of friends and relatives by teaching them to ski as well.
Engblom’s father got his son hooked on water skiing as a boy. Engblom grew up in Robbinsdale. His father worked hard and was able to buy a family cabin on Cedar Lake in the Maple Lake/Annandale area where the family spent their summers. They got a boat, and Engblom learned to water ski at age 10. He started barefoot skiing around age 15.
“I can tell you the kind of boat and motor I learned behind,” he said.
After working for 35 years in Robbinsdale, first as a park and recreation director and then for 22 years as a city police detective, Engblom retired at age 53 and his family moved to their home on Lake Ossie that they had bought in 1998.
“I grew up on a lake in the summertime. I wanted to buy a lake place,” Engblom said.
“I knew it was a fantastic ski lake,” he said of Lake Ossawinnamakee. “This is heaven for me because my passion was skiing.”
“Give it (water skiing) a try. I’ll gladly pull people, introduce them to the sport,” he said.
That’s Engblom’s plan - to keep water skiing and barefoot skiing.
“My passion started as a young kid and I’ll never give it up as long as I can get down to the boathouse and I can ski,” he said.
He even published a video on YouTube in August 2018 titled “OLD MAN [70 1/2} BAREFOOTING ON LAKE OSSIE BREEZY POINT.” Check it out.