Five years ago (2013), Alex Luther didn’t know how to waterski. But things change.
On July 5, 2018 the 36-year-old Australian grandson of world-record-setting waterskier Harry Luther successfully replicated his grandfather’s route along the Mediterranean coast from Tangiers, Morocco, to Pula, Croatia. The 10-day, 2,219-mile ski included stops at 22 ports in seven countries.
Harry discovered the sport in the 1960s, and from the beginning he was a natural. Nicknamed “Canguro” (Italian for kangaroo), he went on to win nearly every long-distance race he entered. Pulled behind his 17-foot Pride Fury that was fondly named Miss Pepsi (Harry was a delivery driver for Pepsi), in 1970 he skied 3,144 miles of the Mediterranean in 10 days as a “warm-up” for another race. Hardly a warm-up, it became the world record for marathon waterskiing.
Gallery: Chasing Canguro
Alex’s recreation of his grandfather’s journey was inspired by a family scrapbook documenting Harry’s love for the sport. Its pages brim with telegrams, newspaper articles and photos of Harry’s brief yet illustrious waterskiing career. “He kept it for a reason—he wanted to share it with people,” says Alex. But he never got the chance. Harry passed away in a cycling accident when Alex was just 7 years old.
Alex, who runs his own finance company, wanted to chase his grandfather’s legacy and tell his story. “Once I got the idea in my head, it just stuck and I didn’t let go,” he says. First, he had to overcome a minor hurdle: learning to waterski.
Surprisingly, he wasn’t worried about that part. “I was more worried about whether I was going to be able to last the distance,” he says. For seven—yes, seven—years he woke up every day and focused on some aspect of the goal, whether it was training in the frigid Sydney Harbour, coordinating logistics, mapping or planning the recon trip. “It’s been such a massive part of my life,” he says, with a hint of sadness now that it’s over.
His training came in handy when, on day four of the challenge, he encountered rough seas between Barcelona and Monaco. Swells reached 16 feet, testing him both physically and mentally. “I thought, I don’t know whether we’re going to be able to do this,” he says. He was being pulled behind an Axopar 37 Sun-Top with twin 300-hp Mercury Verados, and rough seas meant the boat was moving slower than planned and using more fuel.
After taking a brief break, he jumped up and screamed at the ocean, “I’ve got to get to Monaco!” For the next six hours, he pushed his body and mind beyond anything he thought possible. He logged 347 miles over the course of 11 hours that day.
The effort paid off: Upon arriving in Monaco, he was greeted by H.S.H. Prince Albert II. The Principality of Monaco had supported Alex’s journey from the start, just as it had his grandfather’s. With the Prince’s backing, Alex had secured sponsors Axopar and Mercury. “Everything fell into place for the right reasons with the right people at the right time,” he says.
After seven years of planning and 10 intense days on the water, Alex has mixed emotions now that the adventure is behind him. “I feel lost, but at the same time I feel ecstatic that I was able to accomplish something I set out to achieve so long ago,” he says. He plans to go for a social ski when he gets back home to Australia. “I’m a little bit bored now,” he laughs. “I’m not one that can sit still very easily.”
He hopes his journey will inspire others with lofty dreams. “Just go out there and try it,” he says. “Don’t ever let go of [your dream]. Keep going and keep going.”