Twiggy - the Water Skiing Squirrel

Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel

Twiggy at the 2004 Tulsa Boat Show

Twiggy makes the major boat show tour and appeared in Tulsa for the first time this year. For those who do not know the history of Twiggy, she is the world's only water skiing squirrel. In 1978 Chuck and Lou Ann Best found a squirrel blown out its nest by Hurricane David. On a lark, Chuck began training her to water ski behind his daughter's remote control boat and now 6 generations later, Twiggy is well known in boat show circles. Chuck has since passed on, but Lou Ann and a friend are still making the route. The Twiggy in our session, was "Twiggy V".

Two ladies ran the operation. One (Lou Ann Best) was in the pool talking with the crowd and assisting Twiggy, while the other operated the remote control for Twiggy's boat. The session started with encouraging the many children present to learn to swim and wear personal floatation devices. She worked the crowd very well and was Twiggy was great with the children. Seating could have been improved. Perhaps 30 chairs lined one edge (west edge) of the pool, while several times that many chairs were on the north side, but they all faced at 90 degrees to the pool. They were setup for a fishing demonstration area. The east edge was taken up by a table for Twiggy's gear and the south edge was butted up pretty close to the ski boat area. All in all, seating was very weak for as much promotion as was given to the show. The crowd seemed to deal with it and many of the kids went up front and sat on the floor near the pool. Seems like it would have been pretty easy to send a crew in and rearrange the fishing demonstration chairs before Twiggy's waterskiing appearance and reset them afterwards. I suspect seating was much worse at the later show (Twiggy performed at 4pm and 7pm Wed through Friday). Would have been even nicer if they had some bleachers so those further back could look down at the pool.



Twiggy skis in a 25 foot diameter pool behind a Ski Nautique sponsored remote controlled boat.


Twiggy on her skis, with a "stuffed" squirrel in the boat.





twiggy boat

Twiggy's boat.

twiggy water skis

Twiggy's water skis.

Lou Ann called our attention to Twiggy keeping her tail up out of the water while she skis. She also had Twiggy do a trick where a child picks a number of laps and Twiggy is supposed to count them and jump off at the end. At the end, they let the kids pet Twiggy. The kids loved it. When it was all over, I suggested the idea of using a large plywood display of Twiggy water skiing (where she is about the size of a kid) that kids could stick their heads though for photos, like those currently at the Tulsa Zoo. They liked the idea.

Tips and Ramblings for Future Twiggy Photographers

I shot with a Fuji A210 digital camera from a considerable distance (perhaps nine feet from the edge of the pool). We were in the chairs to the north that were at 90 degrees to the pool. I was in the second chair in the row. We were too far away for my flash to be effective in stopping the action (it only works to about 10 feet). Most of the images were shot at the 3 mega pixel setting. I have a 3X optical zoom and a 3.2X digital zoom. The wider shots were shot with minimal zoom, while the closeups were shot at full optical and digital zoom. The ski and boat photos near the bottom above, were shot with the macro feature. I cropped all the images on Photoshop and brightened them up a bit, then reduced each image size for this site. I suggest you get a bit closer. I also shot in fully auto mode. Looks like things were happening a bit too fast. It would have been nice to have had a camera I could have forced to shoot at a higher shutter speed (stop the motion). Also, was humorous to see Twiggy get the same "red eye" that people get from flash photography. That was a bit surprising as she was being hit with a lot of flashes. I think a human's eye might have adjusted to that. Bottom line, get close and shoot at a higher than normal shutter speed. Most people are shooting digitally and can correct for the fluorescent lighting if necessary after downloading them to their computer. I thought my photos came out pretty nice for point and shoot.

My digital camera was a bit unnerving as it shoots perhaps 1/2 a second after you depress the shutter button. You have to guess where Twiggy is going to be. The viewfinder temporarily freezes the view present when I snapped the photo, then shortly later switches momentarily to the actual image which is much different due to the motion of Twiggy during the interval. One of the new digital cameras that responds quicker to the shutter would be helpful. Also would be nice if my camera recovered faster for the next shot. I kept waiting for it to get ready to shoot. I still think I would rather shoot it than a conventional camera because you have some idea of what you captured while you are shooting, vs. waiting for the film to develop and getting nothing for some unpredicted reason. Plus I did not have to spend a few hours scanning the images. Good luck to future Twiggy photographers!

Later, I noticed a nice Twiggy photo in the Tulsa World (Jan. 29, Pg. A12). They shot it at pool level (got the camera nice an low to get more of a "side photo" than one that looks like it was taken from a blimp). They also had the aperture set pretty open so Twiggy is in focus and the children in the background (on the other side of the pool) are fuzzy. That was a nice touch. The image in their picture cuts out the other side of the pool. My guess is they had a pretty strong reflection from their flash off it. You might consider that while shooting your photos.

If you are going to a Twiggy appearance and want to shoot some nice photos, here is a checklist of thoughts:

I realize this sounds like a lot of advice from someone who shot some pretty sorry photos, but I had a good time and hope you do the same, plus get some better photos than I did. If any body shoots some great photos they would like to share, send them to us and we will post them.
I put the word squirel down here just for those using the search engines having trouble spelling squirrel.

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