Father/Son Water Skiers Back to Doing What They Love

Posted on: November 9th, 2022 by Lynne Pratt

This father/son duo are back in the water and at center stage!

Aragorn and Gerry Luiting

Gerry and Aragorn Luiting have performed together in water ski shows for decades, but injuries for both almost sidelined them completely. The men saw OrthoIllinois surgeons just six months apart for successful knee surgeries that had them in the spotlight once again for the 2022 water ski season.

Jerry and Aragorn back barefoot skiing after surgeries.


Performers with Janesville’s Rock Aqua Jays, the Luitings are familiar with the physical demands that come with their sport. Water skiing involves plenty of coordinated stunts, jumps, and lifts. In fact, they will top speeds of 35 miles an hour on the water and launching off a ramp will take them 18 feet in the air.

But it’s a family affair for the Luitings, who have been waterskiing most of their lives. At 64 years old, Gerry recently completed his 47th season with the Aqua Jays. He brought his son into the sport as a young child, piquing his interest with the goal of performing a barefooted stunt together. Since then, Aragorn, now 27 years old, has skied professionally at the Tommy Bartlett’s show, and has competed internationally with Team USA.

Gerry was the second to be sidelined when he had a complete knee replacement in December 2021.

“You know, I feel like my injury was just a result of being old, Gerry joked. “I am also bow-legged and was active in football, wrestling, track, racquet ball and golf both growing up and to this day, so my body was just telling me to stop.”

Aragorn, on the other hand, obtained his injuries while water skiing. While performing a stunt, he tore his right ACL and meniscus. This wasn’t his first ACL injury either. An active teenager, he had his first ACL injury while playing basketball in high school.

“I was going to school to become a physical therapist when my water-skiing injury happened, and I tried to push through and get to graduation, but unfortunately my body had other plans,” Aragorn shared.

After their most recent injuries, both Gerry and Aragorn immediately knew they would go to OrthoIllinois. After all, Gerry had visited the practice in the past and Aragorn had his sights set on working for the organization as a physical therapist someday.

Aragorn underwent surgery with Dr. Geoffrey Van Thiel and Gerry followed up a few months later with Dr. John Bottros. Both men brought special requests to their doctors.

“I was really hoping to still do some of the activities I’m used to, like ski jumping and acrobatics,” Gerry explained.

Dr. Bottros spent the time showing him models of knees and explaining what his body would be able to do after surgery. As it happened, he was starting physical therapy just days after his knee replacement. Immediately, his bone pain was gone and within a few months, he was entirely pain-free. Throughout therapy, he brought waterskiing pictures and videos to his therapists, so they could tailor his recovery to maximize range of motion and balance.

“They were very goal-focused and conscientious,” he said.

Gerry and wife Cathy performing with the Janesville Rock Aqua Jays

Gerry was cleared to return to waterskiing by the end of January and spent several months learning to use his legs in the same way again. But by May, Gerry was back in the swing of things, just in time to lift his wife for their signature move for the ski season.

For Aragon, being able to waterski was an important goal – but not the only one. When he met with Dr. Van Thiel, he explained that he was completing physical therapy school and needed to be able to get around for rotations in the fall.

While his mobility was limited for the first six weeks, Aragon’s therapists had him up and moving to start his clinical rotations just seven weeks after surgery.

“Every therapist I saw was awesome,” he said.

Aragorn shoe skiing for the Janesville Rock Aqua Jays

Aragon waited nine months before hitting the water again, even then taking it easy until a year post-surgery. Today, however, he has all of his old tricks back like no time was lost at all.

And these days, Aragorn is paying it forward in his work caring for patients as a physical therapist at OrthoIllinois.

On Father’s Day 2022, Gerry and Aragorn performed together for the first time since their surgeries. It had been six months since Gerry’s knee replacement and a year since Aragorn’s ACL repair.

“I’ve been very pleased – not just with the end results, but the whole process,” Gerry said. “The experience was very personalized. I didn’t feel like just a number to the doctors and therapists.”

Aragon was quick to agree.

“You never feel worried you are missing anything,” he said, “You can tell that they really care.”

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