That squirrel can waterski: Twiggy back to work after retirement

Famous squirrel first hit the water in 1979

SANFORD, Fla. – Twiggy the waterskiing squirrel got her start in Sanford in 1979. Since then she has appeared in several movies and a music video and performed at the X Games.

She retired in 2018, but now she is back.

Chuck Best Jr. told Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden on Florida’s Fourth Estate it all started when someone gave his mom and dad, Chuck and Lou Ann Best a baby squirrel.

Around the same time Chuck Best Sr. bought a miniature electronic boat for his daughter. Then he decided to train the pet to waterski in the family’s bathtub.

After Twiggy got the hang of waterskiing, Chuck Best Sr. put the squirrel in the newspaper.

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In the last 44 years, the family has taught 10 other squirrels to water ski.

“We are on Twiggy number 9, 10 and 11,” Chuck Best Jr. said.

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Chuck Best Jr. said there have been three male and eight female Twiggy’s over the years and training them is not as hard as you may think.

“It’s just a lot of repetition, a lot of love and affection, making them feel comfortable, just like training any animal, positive reinforcement,” he said. “Once they do something good, they do one lap, then we give them hugs, kisses, then we increase the amount of laps, then eventually a month later or so, you might have a waterskiing squirrel.”

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After training with the family, the squirrels go out on the road and perform for audiences large and small.

It’s not just about making people smile, but as the spokes animal for the Wear It campaign, Twiggy also spreads an important message about water safety.

Chuck Best Jr. said it’s something that is very important to his family.

“My dad, we were out on the Wekiva and we were on our houseboat and my step-grandfather fell overboard,” he said. “My Dad then jumped into the water to save him and in the process, he actually lost his life, he had a heart attack and he drowned. If my Dad or my step-grandfather were wearing a life jacket, my Dad would still be here today. In memory of that, my Mom put a life jacket out of a koozie onto the squirrel to promote water safety to hopefully save somebody else’s life.”

Twiggy doesn’t just perform and spread an important safety message; her owner said she also lives a life of luxury.

“She has the whole garage built out to where she pretty much plays most of the day,” he said.

Chuck Best Jr. said the squirrels also gnaw at their furniture and can be a bit messy.

But, they don’t mind because training and traveling with the squirrels is the family’s main focus right now.

You can see Twiggy perform live at the Orlando Boat Show on Aug. 18-20.

You can also learn more about the squirrels and what it’s like to live with them on Florida’s Fourth Estate. You can download the podcast from wherever you listen to podcasts or anytime on News 6+.

You can listen to every episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate in the media player below:

About the Authors:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 3:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.

Emmy Award-winning anchor Matt Austin joined the News 6 team in June 2011 and has been the evening news co-anchor since December 2013.