Fonzie jumping a shark on water skis in an episode of Happy Days that originally aired in September 1977 was so ridiculous an act, it went on to become a catch phrase used to describe any far-fetched attempt or stunt a television series pulls to try and get ratings.
What’s perhaps most interesting about this silly TV stunt though are its origins at summer camp.
Actor Henry Winkler, it turns out, was a water ski instructor when he was a camp counselor at Blue Mountain Camps in East Stroudsburg, Pa. For whatever reason, Henry’s dad shared this piece of information more than once with show runner Garry Marshall, who then decided to make use of Winkler’s water skiing skills for the three-part “Hollywood” episode that kicked off the fifth season of TV show that made him a household name.
“I was once a counselor in summer camp and I did a lot of water skiing,” Winkler said in an interview in March. “My father would always tell Gary Marshall about it. So they wrote it in. I just went with the flow.”
Winkler didn’t actually end up doing the famous jump – the production could risk injury – but he did do much of the waterskiing in the episode.