Five burning questions for the 2024 water ski season
What to watch throughout the 2024 water ski season.
By Jack Burden
As the water ski community eagerly anticipates the 2024 season, there are five burning questions on our mind, shaping the narrative of what promises to be another exhilarating year. From records under threat to a potential changing of the guard, here are some of the key storylines to watch:
1. Is Berdnikava’s Overall Record in Danger?
Natallia Berdnikava’s overall world record, set in 2012, has seemed unassailable for over a decade. However, Hanna Straltsova and Giannina Bonnemann Mechler may pose a threat to the longest standing open world record in three-event water skiing. In 2023, both Straltsova and Bonnemann Mechler posted scores that, if performed in the same round, would have surpassed Berdnikava’s mark. Straltsova, now the joint second-highest scoring women’s jumper of all time (tied with Berdnikava), begins the season as the top-ranked overall skier in the world. Likewise, Bonnemann Mechler, one of only six women to score over 10,000 points, put herself in contention after running 11.25m (38’ off) for the first time last season.
2. Who Will Be the Next Man to Win a Professional Slalom Title?
Men’s slalom in 2023 was dominated by just two men, Nate Smith and Freddie Winter. The only other man to win a professional title was Thomas Degasperi, making him the oldest-ever professional slalom champion with his victory at the Malibu Open. Since Daniel Odvarko won the Ski Stillwaters Pro Team Challenge in 2020, no one other than Smith, Winter, Degasperi, or Will Asher has claimed an event. A whole generation of superbly talented slalom skiers, including several members of the 41-off club, has never won an event. Look for the likes of Dane Mechler, Cole McCormick, Brando Caruso, and Rob Hazelwood to challenge for their first professional victory in 2024.
3. Will the Old Guard of Krueger and Dodd Continue to Dominate Men’s Jump?
Similarly, men’s jumping has been dominated by two men for the last decade. Since 2010, Freddy Krueger (51) and Ryan Dodd (39) have won more than twice as many professional jump titles as all other skiers combined (17). The next closest on the list, Jack Critchley and Zack Worden, have only managed four apiece. However, Krueger turns 49 this season, and Dodd will reach 40 later in the year. Will the old guard continue to dominate for another season, or will we see some young blood start to edge out these two, among the greatest to ever compete?
4. What’s the Ceiling on Trick Performances?
2023 witnessed the highest-scoring year of tricks ever, by a considerable margin. Over 25% of all scores over 12,000 points were achieved in the year. Patricio Font continued to extend the world record, approaching 13,000 points. Similarly, on the women’s side, Erika Lang extended her world record, and both Neilly Ross and Anna Gay broke 11,000 points for the first time. Perhaps most excitingly, these record-breaking scores were not confined to amateur ‘backyard’ events. Font equaled his world record at two professional tournaments and at the World Championships, and Lang broke 11,000 at the Swiss Pro Tricks and the U.S. Masters. With the level of tricks so high, even under pressure on the big stage, what kind of scores will it take to win across 2024?
5. Who Will Emerge Victorious in Women’s Slalom This Year?
The battle for the season championship on the Waterski Pro Tour was hotly contested throughout 2023. No one skier was able to dominate, with Jaimee Bull, Regina Jaquess, and Whitney McClintock Rini all winning multiple events. Also in the mix was Allie Nicholson, the only skier to compete in every event, showing incredible consistency. Ultimately, Bull edged Jaquess by two tour points in a field where only 40 points separated 1st through 4th. Who will claim the season title in 2024?