blimp-towed-waters-skiing (Image: British Pathé via YouTube)

In the same September 2000 issue that claimed the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) was investigating a ‘Heavenly Messenger’ who saved 398 people from dying in a fiery plane crash, Weekly World News ran an article about a dangerous “new sport” that was as thrilling as it was deadly. Thrill-seekers, it claimed, had developed a potentially deadly version of waterskiing where the skier was towed by a blimp rather than a boat. (See video below.)

Weird as it may sound, blimp-towed waterskiing really was a thing (and not a particularly new one), beginning – and pretty much ending – in the 1930s. While being towed by a blimp might not seem like the fastest way to go, videos from the time reveal that though skiers may not have had the wake one might expect from a modern speedboat, they nevertheless planed along at a pretty good clip – and definitely fast enough for some tricks.

blimp-towed-waters-skiing-2 (Image: British Pathé via YouTube)

At first glance it may seem like the retro forerunner to kite surfing, but blimp-towed water skiing unsurprisingly proved a logistical nightmare. Blimps weren’t exactly common household accessories, and running one was rather more costly than operating a boat. Nevertheless, the concept showed up here and there throughout the decades.

In February of 1956, the Miami News ran an epically dated piece on blimp-towed water skiers that reflects just how far women have come. Model Delores Kipple, who was behind the blimp for a swimsuit shoot, was quoted as being incredibly concerned about what skiing at 20 miles per hour was doing to her hair.

The official shoot was interrupted by a US Navy helicopter flying overheard, ‘practicing’ their reconnaissance skills by snapping pictures of the worried swimsuit model. The paper notes that the exercise was “not hard to take as Navy training goes”. Suffice to say, blimp-towed water skiing, like many other extinct sports, failed to take off.

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