The new USA Water Ski executive director poses for a photo in board shorts and a blazer

Kevin Michael: A Revolutionary in Board Shorts


Kevin Michael: A revolutionary in board shorts

The new USA Water Ski executive director poses for a photo in board shorts and a blazer

Kevin Michael, USA-WSWS’ new Executive Director, poses for a photo opportunity during his first month on the job (image: @gangstersofflight)

By Jack Burden

In many ways, Kevin Michael embodies what is great about the sport of water skiing. A laid-back Midwesterner with a penchant for cracking jokes and flashing smiles, his passion ignites when the conversation turns to the lake. Whether it’s slalom, wakeboarding, freestyle jumping, or any other watersport activity, if it involves enjoying a summer’s day behind a boat with friends, count Michael in. But can this man, recently appointed as the Executive Director of USA Water Ski and Wake Sports, effectively lead one of the sport’s most influential organizations, clad in board shorts and a blazer?

It’s a tough gig, to say the least. Steering and expanding towed water sports in the United States—the world’s largest market—is akin to pushing against the tide. By all accounts, Michael’s predecessors were highly competent and managed to navigate the organization through difficult times. Nate Boudreaux, the outgoing Executive Director, was an experienced manager of large sports organizations, excelling at financial stewardship and running a tight ship. However, it is hard to imagine an outsider to the sport, like Boudreaux, having the passion, reach, and insider knowledge to turn the tide on a sport in decline.

This is where Michael steps in. A 30-year industry veteran, his passion for towed water sports has taken him far and wide. With stints in marketing and media roles at Waterski and Wakeboarding Magazine, Malibu Boats, and as the executive director of the Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA), he’s well-versed in the industry’s ins and outs. In the latter role, he rubbed shoulders with politicians in Washington D.C., advocating for the industry’s interests—presumably, his wardrobe does include attire beyond just board shorts.

Michael’s strengths lie in marketing towed water sports and lobbying for the sport’s interests—an ideal fit for the organization’s needs. As a lifelong participant himself, he understands the importance of grassroots campaigns and broad audience visibility to drive participation. He injects fresh energy and innovative ideas into a sport often bogged down in tradition. While many in the sport focus solely on their preferred discipline, Michael has the cross-discipline passion to unite disparate groups under the same tent.

In his first month on the job, Michael has already made promising strides. He recently appeared on both the Water Skier Magazine’s Hit It! podcast and the TWBC podcast, sharing his vision for the future of the organization. His optimism and desire to build forward momentum are infectious. He’s even taken over the organization’s social media accounts, producing videos featuring some of the USA’s top athletes.

However, it’s crucial to temper expectations. Michael now oversees an organization with 14,000 members across nine sport disciplines—a monumental responsibility. Navigating relationships with the U.S. Olympic Committee and other government bodies, providing insurance for clubs and tournaments, and appeasing elected representatives from the various disciplines are no small feats.

Yet, Michael remains undaunted. Embracing the challenge, he emphasizes the need for grassroots involvement and hands-on participation from the water skiing community. Sharing on the Hit It! podcast: “Everyone asks me, ‘What can I do? How can I help?’ I keep telling everybody, I need you on the water, and I need you to teach people for the first time how to do anything behind the boat… introduce people to the sport.”

Author Frank Herbert once remarked, “Bureaucracy destroys initiative.” We hope that Michael, in his new role at USA Water Ski and Wake Sports, is the exception that proves the rule. He has the opportunity to challenge the norm and pave the way for a brighter future. As he embarks on this “revolution,” Michael’s leadership could redefine the landscape of towed water sports for generations to come.

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