The biggest star at the Toronto International Boat Show? An iconic squirrel on water skis (see the nutty pics here)

People from all over the province come to the annual Toronto International Boat Show to get their fix of all things boating. But one pint-sized creature always draws eyes as it leaves other talented critters in its wake. As Metrolinx offers up GO combo tickets to the upcoming show, we go a little nuts over Twiggy, the legendary water skiing squirrel.

Twiggy was a viral star, before the world even had a name for that brand of celebrity.

For more than four decades, the American-born popular attraction – or at least 10 different versions of trained squirrels carrying on the legacy and name – has been performing a water skiing act for up to eight months a year across North America.

Image shows Twiggy on the water.

Twiggy is affection motivated, which means she responds to cuddles and kisses.

Chances are, even as children sitting on the floor in front of the TV, you may have seen Twiggy zooming around a small pool. Her antics have been used by generations of television news readers to provide lighter side moments, including for Will Ferrell’s character Ron Burgundy in the 2004 movie, Anchorman.

Twiggy may arguably be more famous than most of the people who have talked about her on TV over the years.

The original Twiggy began performing in 1979, and the versions that have followed usually start training to water ski at four months old. It can take anywhere from six to 12 months to teach a squirrel how to water ski.

A close up of Twiggy while performing.

Twiggy in action. It can take months to train a squirrel to ski.

One of the biggest hurdles? Just trying to stop the various Twiggys from chewing up everything in sight.

“They definitely act out to get attention, but mostly because they have such a playful nature,” explains handler Sydney Garrett.

“They chew everything. (We’ve) lost about $500 worth of electronics (as) they always get into our snacks, they chew on wood furniture – they also like to nibble on our ears or toes and then run away.”

Chuck Best Sr. was the first to see potential in pairing a squirrel with water skis. He first tried it with one of his children’s remote control boats.

Best drowned in 1997 while saving his step-father. And since then, the family’s travelling Twiggy show has featured a strong water safety message, including Twiggy wearing a tiny lifejacket.

“Chuck Best Sr. would be so incredibly proud of what his family has accomplished and that they turned a tragedy into an educational experience,” writes Garrett, in an email exchange. “He would have wanted Twiggy’s legacy to continue and we’re sure he would be awestruck at how much she has accomplished.”

Twiggu wears a small life jacket while performing.

During performances, Twiggy wears a small lifejacket, to teach water safety.

While an underlining serious theme, Twiggy has always offered a moment for people to pause and just smile at the oddness of the act.

Here are some more squirrely facts about Twiggy:

  • In different versions, Twiggy has performed in more than 700 shows, and travelled close to a million miles since she started performing in 1979
  • Twiggy’s favourite food? Every squirrel has different tastes, but generally, avocado and mushrooms
  • Twiggy’s hobbies, other than skiing, include chewing, climbing, chewing, sleeping, chewing and of course snuggling, as they are affection motivated
  • Hometown? Sanford, Florida
Twiggy wears a small red life jacket.

A better look at the life jacket Twiggy wears. (Metrolinx photo)

Twiggy also has a sidekick, and ad hoc ‘lifeguard’ – a dog named Roxie, that watched from outside the pool.

A dog stands on its hind legs beside a pool.

Because we know you’d want to actually see him, here’s Roxie watching Twiggy, from the side of the pool. (Metrolinx photo)

Want to see Twiggy hit the water or shop for a summer lake ride at the Toronto International Boat Show? Take GO Transit with a GO combo ticket.

The show runs from January 17 to 26 at the Enercare Centre, at Toronto’s Exhibition Place. It’s a quick walk from Exhibition GO on the Lakeshore West GO Train line.

Customers can buy a GO combo ticket online and save on round trip GO fare and show admission.

PRESTO cardholders can save 20 per cent off show admissions by purchasing tickets at the box office.

Click here for details.

And want to see Twiggy hot-dogging it on the water? Click here to see her on GO’s Instagram channel.

One last thing – attendees may want to keep their PRESTO cards away from Twiggy, given the whole chewing habit.

Story by Chris Challenger, Metrolinx senior advisor, partnerships and events.