Throughout each day at X Games Austin, people walked past a kiddie pool, curious as to what would take place.
Fifteen minutes before the start time of the X Games event, a crowd formed around the kiddie pool.
“[I’m] very excited,” 10-year-old Behrouz Aminian said.
Five minutes prior, nearly 200 heat-exhausted adults, teenagers and children began to chant: “Twiggy! Twiggy! Twiggy!”
One would think Twiggy is a star athlete. In reality, she is a star, but she’s not an athlete — hell, she’s not even human.
Twiggy is a squirrel — a water-skiing squirrel to be precise.
Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff
“It’s adorable,” Chuck Best, one of Twiggy’s trainers and her unofficial “brother,” said. “How do you not like a squirrel on water skis? The cool effect and adorability all in one.”
While the shows were more allotted for small children, adults were often standing on their toes, looking over people’s shoulder just to try to get a glimpse of Twiggy.
Frank Cerone, an X Games attendee from New York, was trying to get the perfect picture of the spectacle to show off to friends.
“I like taking pictures, and a water skiing squirrel — you don’t see [that] every day,” Cerone said.
Twiggy took a couple of laps around the pool and then her head trainer Lou Ann Best stopped her. Lou Ann singled out a child volunteer, who got to pick how many more laps Twiggy will run.
The show only lasted 15 minutes, but, during that time, Twiggy seemed to draw a crowd larger than some of the X Games extreme sports events.
After a successful tour in Europe and movie debut, Twiggy could be considered a celebrity.
“We’ve been to Europe; we’ve been to Germany — all over the U.S. and Canada doing shows,” Lou Ann said. “She’s been in movies like Anchorman, Dodgeball and a few more. She’s been in commercials. You can even see Twiggy number eight in Brad Paisley’s ‘River Bank’ video.”
Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff
The shows with Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel started almost 37 years ago. The Twiggy demonstrating her skills at the X Games is the seventh generation squirrel the Bests have taught to water-ski.
“We got the first Twiggy back in 1978 after she was blown out of her nest by a hurricane.” Lou Ann said.
Once Lou Ann and her husband nursed the first Twiggy back to health, they decided to keep her as a family pet. Then, when Lou Ann’s husband got their daughter a remote control boat for her birthday, the saga began.
“We taught [Twiggy] as a joke,” Lou Ann said. “[My husband] got teased so much for buying [our daughter] this boat that he played with it all the time. So everybody kept saying that he bought it for himself, not for her.”
Most people are curious about how the Bests taught their squirrels how to water ski.
“You just got to give them a lot of love and attention and basically tell them to do what they need to do,” Lou Ann said. “It takes a while but they actually are very smart intelligent creatures.”
It takes about a year to teach each Twiggy to water ski.
“Getting them used to the atmosphere—it’s the biggest thing,” Lou Ann said. “With so many people around and being petted, they have to learn to count, they have to learn hand signals and voice commands.”
Lou Ann said the Bests are looking forward to training more Twiggies in the future.
“I’ve been doing it for 36 years,” Lou Ann said. “My son [Chuck] is fixing to start taking over, so we’re working toward him going in to take it over.”
After the show ended, people lined up to take pictures and pet Twiggy the eighth, Twiggy the seventh's understudy.
While the process to teach each Twiggy to water-ski may take a year, the audience got to see a 15-minute show they’d never forget.
Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff