SAN DIEGO – A local college student-athlete loves to water ski, but he really feels that he needs to ski.
“I definitely want to do it for my dad,” Tyler Yager said.
But five years ago, at the age of 52, Brett Yager died in a freak water skiing accident in Acapulco, Mexico.
“He crashed and the handle got wrapped around his neck,” Yager said. “The line went taught and pretty much broke his neck. It was pretty much like my life was over. I couldn’t control myself. I felt like everything slipped away from me.”
Yager realized the only way to regain his grip was to keep his grip on his water ski handle.
“Skiing was a big part of my dad’s life,” Yager said. “He was very passionate about it. His passion rubbed off onto me and made me want to pursue the sport just because that was a dynamic part of our relationship. I wanted to keep that going because it makes me feel like he’s still with me, almost.”
Yager said he thinks about his dad everyday and before every competition. The tip of his ski has “RIP Banchee” on it and he says it helps him ski better.
“Everyone called (Brett) ‘The Banchee’ because he was an extremely radical skier,” Yager said. “I think about him watching over me because it gives me that sensation of relaxation before each and every pass.”
Yager carries a journal where he writes notes on his skiing and keeps pictures of his dad.
Family friends and members of the ski community tell Yager he walks and talks like his father, but does not ski like him. Rather, skis smoother and better.
“His dad was a scrapper, a tough competitor,” said family friend Steve Cesnauskas. “Basically, he would hang on to anything and get through it and he could do it. He was a carpenter and he was tough as nails and tough on the water.”
Yager’s following his dad’s path off the water, too. He’s majoring in structural engineering at UCSD where he set the school and the Pacific Conference slalom record and won a regional championship last fall.
The 21-year-old plans to ski in pro events this summer and says he currently ranks 27th in the world and 13th in the nation – levels his dad never reached.
“I think he would be stoked for me and very proud of me,” Yager said.