Shrek on Skis!

Andy Cope's unusual water skier

Last year I found myself reading a magazine article about the difficulties a fellow modeller had when trying to create a scale water-skiing doll to tow behind a model speedboat. The main issue seemed to be how to get the skier to stand upright with scale size skis planing on the water’s surface. Clearly a very difficult balancing act, which usually necessitates the use of oversize skies acting as miniature hulls for buoyancy, which compromises the scale look. The second option modellers have adopted, is to create a circular hull to support the skier, the hull floating when stationary, but planing up out of the water when on tow. This latter option is easiest to construct, but does not provide a realistic water-skiing effect.

Both these options have their merits and pitfalls, but this attempt at a scale water skier aims to take advantage of the best of both these ideas with a scale water-skiing model, towed on a submerged non-planing hull that would be hopefully hidden by the water. Now I guess that no sane person wakes up in the morning and says; 'I know, I’ll make a water skiing Shrek', but nevertheless, the idea started with some small plastic 'action' figures, but when I stumbled across Shrek as an unwanted toy from a McDonalds Happy Meal promotion, the challenge became irresistible.

Shrek - the model

First, a float for Shrek to stand on was needed, and he uses a small circular plastic Tupperware tub, 120mm diameter and 45mm deep. This empty tub was put into a sink of water with Shrek and lead shot added to it, until it just stayed afloat. Hopefully. this would make the tub float level with the water’s surface upon final completion. Shrek was then removed from the tub, leaving the lead shot, which was then over-sprayed in expanding builder’s gap filling foam, which when cured was cut level with the top of the tub. Finally a circle of thin plywood was glued to the top of this tub so Shrek could be easily screwed, by his feet, to the top.

Hey-presto, an unsinkable float for Shrek to stand on which floated level with at the water’s surface, the lead acting as a counterweight. After painting the float with satin black paint, two lollypop skies were added for effect.

 On the water

Initially it was thought that Shrek could be towed just like any ‘normal’ water-skier and that was by the hands, with some nylon cord tied between them and the back of the boat. Initial trials using this method and a Fairey Swordsman powerboat ended up with Shrek drowning face down in the boat's wake! So, a somewhat humiliating defeat and not least as it took place in front of a gathered crowd of spectators at the Buxton MBC Club boating lake.

So, opting for Plan B, a line was attached directly to the float itself for stability, but that didn’t work either, as the float pitched Shrek backwards and he kept falling over side-wise under tow, but at least he didn’t drown this time.

Third time lucky now and this was to keep the float line in place, but re-attaching the first line (from Shrek’s hands) directly to the float towing line with a movable bowsie to tension it. By doing this, the forward drag of the float could be balanced against the back rotation of Shrek under tow, and yes success, as Shrek had now learnt to water-ski.


The pictures of Shrek being towed show the connection and bowsie about mid-way above the lower line, and this has stopped the skier falling over, doing somersaults or just drowning, and the principle of the two lines going into one is equally applicable for other similar models. And the Shrek model? Well, having a McDonalds Happy Meal to get one free is hardly a hardship is it?

To see a short video of Shrek in Action, please go to YouTube and search for:

 ‘Buxton Model Boat Club 11’.

Enjoy your hobby - Andy Cope

Buxton Model Boat Club

The club operates on the Pavilion Gardens Pond on Thursdays and Sundays (0900hrs to 1200hrs), set within the Victorian Gardens in the Spa Town of Buxton in the Peak District, Derbyshire.