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Commentary: Get Sporty

The first performance-boat owner I heard use the word “sporty” to describe water conditions was Greg Harris who lives in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area. That’s not to say Harris invented the application, only that he was the first person I heard use it that way. For the moment at least, I’ve embraced it and I need to give credit where it’s due.

Harris and Yvonne Aleman, his longtime girlfriend, had just returned from running their 32-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran—they now have an MTI 340X cat—at an event in the Florida Keys and I asked him about the conditions.

Now matter how tall and steep you think these seas are, they definitely qualify as super-sporty. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

He came back with, “Sporty.”

Now, it’s everywhere.

Last weekend, Harris and I were exchanging texts and I asked him a simple question: Why has sporty caught fire with so many go-fast powerboat enthusiasts these days?

“It’s definitely a term that everyone uses to try to avoid getting pinned down on wave heights and other things prone to exaggeration,” he wrote.

That made sense. When it comes to wave heights and conditions, people do tend to exaggerate now and again.

These conditions are solidly sporty, though far from super-sporty. Photo by Halsey Fulton copyright Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats.

Yet even when they get it right—and let’s face it, none of us is using laser instruments to measure wave heights—they get told they’re wrong. (God bless the Internet and its devil-spawn, social media.) There is always some wave-gauging genius who wasn’t there but is eager to make a snap-judgement and pop off based on an image captured in a fraction of second. There’s always someone willing to tell you how the big seas you experienced firsthand really weren’t that big at all.

And if said joker stays true to form, he’ll finish with the sage, “You would have been fine if you’d just gotten on top of it.”

Any pushback on your part likely will lead to the tedious and pointless, ocean-versus-lake debate, which could well be the silliest debate in the history of silly debates.

One thing I’ve noticed? You’ll get a lot more latitude with exaggeration if you were running in the ocean than on a lake. Never mind that ships sink in the Great Lakes, as well as oceans, and that the Lake of the Ozarks on a busy summer Saturday will loosen your fillings. If you call lake conditions anything bigger than four feet, expect a challenge.

So using sporty makes a lot of sense. It’s safe.

But it’s also a bit limiting, so I’ve coined another term for describing water conditions: sporty-plus. And I do believe it will lead to super-sporty at the upper end of the sporty wave-description scale, as well as semi- and not-so-sporty on the lower end.

Who can argue with that? No clue here, but I do know this. Someone always will try.

And then we’ll need another word. But for now, get sporty.

Not-so-sporty will apply to those calmer-water days. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

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