The 10 Greatest Left-Foot-Forward Slalom Skiers of All Time, Ranked
Ranking the best male left-foot-forward slalomers of all time.
When it comes to slalom skiing, ‘righties’ dominate. Whether it’s because they have an inherent advantage or simply a larger pool of skiers to pull from, that remains an open question. Nevertheless, the world of slalom skiing has seen its fair share of exceptional ‘lefties’ over the years.
From late starters who defied the odds to consistent big-match players, these skiers have consistently displayed their skill and precision on the water. In this article, we take a closer look at the ten greatest male left-foot-forward slalom skiers of all time. Their impressive achievements and contributions to the sport have earned them a well-deserved place in the annals of water skiing history.
‘Greatest Of’ lists in any sport are inherently subjective and water skiing is no exception. There’s no definitive checklist to crown someone as the absolute best. Every fan out there has their own opinion. But decisions had to be made. We proudly present our picks for the 10 best male left-foot-forward slalomers in the history of competitive water skiing. So sit back, enjoy, and maybe even debate a little over our choices—after all, that’s the fun of it!
Image: McClintock’s Ski School
10. Jason McClintock
From the legendary McClintock family, which has an impressive tally of eight open world titles to their name, “JMAC” was no exception. The Canadian’s talent shone brightly early on, securing the junior world slalom championship in 2004. Throughout the following decade, from 2008 to 2018, he was a regular on the professional circuit. Not only did his talent in slalom and trick contribute to Canada’s triumphs in team titles in 2009 and 2015, but he also earned himself a silver medal in slalom at the 2017 world championships held in Paris, France.
Image: HO Sports
9. Jonathan Travers
Raised under the tutelage of his father, the world renowned coach Jack Travers, at their Central Florida ski school, Jon Travers was always destined to be a star. Establishing himself as a prominent figure on the professional circuit since his teenage years, he achieved victory at the Under-21 World Championships in 2009 and claimed the U.S. Masters title in 2011. Notably, Travers is a member of the exclusive club of skiers who have successfully run the 10.25m (41’ off) during a tournament.
Image: Joel Howley (via Youtube)
8. Joel Howley
The eccentric Australian was a late starter in the sport, not competing in his first tournament until the age of 18. Despite this, his unconventional training methods proved to be effective. Howley won the 2019 world championships in Malaysia, beating Will Asher and Freddie Winter in an exciting three-way runoff. Skiing in challenging conditions, Howley threw himself (unsuccessfully) outside of two for the quarter buoy on his 10.25m (41’ off) pass. The resulting fall broke his ankle, but with Asher still to come he kept the injury a secret to ensure his competitor remained unaware of his inability to participate in any subsequent runoff. Howley was a regular on the professional circuit pre-Covid, frequently finishing in the top 5 at major events but has kept a relatively low profile in recent years. We hope to see him back on the tour in the future!
Image: Edward Wadsworth
7. Lucky Lowe
Initially known for his prowess in jumping, Lowe achieved remarkable success with jump wins at the U.S. Masters, multiple pro tour stops, and a silver medal at the 1985 World Championships. However, it was in the slalom event where he blossomed later in his career. Striving to make the U.S. Elite Water Ski Team, Lowe honed his slalom and tricks skills, contributing significantly to the team’s four consecutive titles from 1979 to 1985. Notably, at the 1991 World Championships in Austria, he participated in a three-way run off for the gold medal against Andy Mapple and Mike Kjellander, resulting in one of the most exhilarating slalom battles in history. Lowe emerged victorious in 1991 and followed it up with a bronze medal in 1993.
6. Brett Thurley
Brett Thurley, the plucky Australian red-head, thrived in adverse conditions. Hailing from Tasmania, Thurley’s tenacity and competitive spirit set him apart as a scrappy competitor. Remembered primarily for his victory at the 1993 world championships held in Singapore, Thurley became the first Australian to win a world slalom title. During the late eighties and early nineties, he became a familiar face on the U.S. Pro Tour, leaving his mark with a tour stop victory in Madison, WI in 1988. Additionally, he earned the Moomba Masters champion title twice, in 1986 and 1995.
Image: Radar Skis
5. Aaron Larkin
The loud and boisterous kiwi was a formidable competitor, renowned for his ability to perform under pressure. Despite well-known struggles with turning his off-side at 10.25m (41′ off), his remarkable consistency in reaching two-ball, regardless of the conditions, always kept him in the running. Particularly dominant on the Yarra, he secured top-three finishes at the Moomba Masters six times between 2007 and 2014, achieving back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011. Larkin’s exceptional performance throughout 2011, which included a second-place finish at the World Championships, earned him the prestigious top spot on the elite ranking list for that year.
Larkin has since run the 10.25m (41′ off) pass at 55kph (34mph) after his retirement from professional skiing.
Image: USA-WWF Hall of Fame (via Youtube)
4. Jeff Rodgers
The ‘Cinderella Story’ of water skiing, Jeff Rodgers, a working-class well-driller from South Carolina will forever be etched in the record books as the first man to run 10.25m (41’ off). Rodgers prioritized his career and family over water skiing, rarely traveling outside of the U.S. in an era where professional water skiing expanded into a global circuit of events. He achieved modest success in the early nineties on the Budwesier Water Ski Tour, securing two tour stop titles. However, it was in 1997 that Rodgers truly made waves, snatching the world record from Andy Mapple’s grasp for the first time since 1988 with an impressive score of 5 @ 10.25m (41’ off) in his home state of South Carolina. The very next round he followed up with his historic 1 @ 9.75m (43’ off). Then, when the world championships came to Florida in 2003, he clinched the gold. A true master when the conditions aligned, Rodgers’ potential dominance will always remain an intriguing “what if” in the sport’s history.
Image: Todd Ristorcelli (via Waterski Journal)
3. Jamie Beauchesne
The elusive American who soared to the pinnacle of the sport only to step away, remains a figure of intrigue. Renowned for his exceptional talent, he showcased ability both on powder and water, often taking extended breaks from water skiing to hit the slopes during winter, sometimes up to 6 months. Bursting onto the scene in the mid-nineties, he claimed the title of junior world slalom champion in 1994 and followed it up the next year with a victory in his debut professional tournament. A meticulous technician, Beauchesne was a trailblazer in numerous technical innovations during the early 2000’s. In 2003, he further cemented his legacy, tying the world record and becoming the third skier ever to run 10.25m (41’ off). His impressive track record includes two U.S. Masters championships in 2004 and 2007, and a remarkable winning percentage of nearly 25% in the final decade of his career. Yet, right at the peak of his dominance, midway through the 2012 season, he made the abrupt decision to bid farewell to water skiing—for good.
Helena & Mike Kjellander (Image: NT)
2. Mike Kjellander
The big strapping Swede was known for his distinctive slalom style. A mainstay on the U.S. pro tour, he entertained audiences with his characteristic slam dunk on-side turns. Kjellander’s dominance was evident as he clinched the season championships three times on the U.S Pro Tour in 1985, 1988, and 1990, securing a remarkable 15 tour stop victories amidst fierce competition from renowned skiers like Andy Mapple, Bob, and Kris LaPoint. He was two-time U.S. Masters champion (in 1989 and 1993) and Moomba Masters champion (in 1988 and 1992). Kjellander was the first skier to run the 10.75m (39.5’ off) pass, holding the world record outright for less than 24 hours until Andy Mapple tied him in the 2nd round. Despite his stellar achievements, world championship gold eluded him, with Kjellander finishing agonizingly close as a runner-up in 1991 and 1995.
Chris Parrish USA makes it look easy (Image: IWWF)
1. Chris Parrish
Nicknamed ‘The Tower’ for his imposing six-foot-five stature and extraordinary wingspan, Parrish could have been built in a laboratory for slalom skiing. He burst onto the scene in 1996, claiming victory at the junior world championships, setting the stage for a remarkable career. Over two decades of professional skiing, Parrish’s prowess earned him numerous accolades, including four Moomba Masters titles (in 2000, 2008, 2009, and 2013) and two U.S. Masters championships (in 2002 and 2005). For an impressive eight years, he held the world record, surpassing it three times between 2005 and 2010. In 2002, he unseated the legendary Andy Mapple to become the top elite skier in the world, a distinction he held for three seasons, notably dominating in 2005 with six out of nine pro event wins. Despite occasional battles with consistency, Parrish remained a formidable force, securing a spot in the top 10 elite rankings for over a decade. Perhaps the one blemish on his otherwise illustrious record, Parrish never won a world championships, losing to Mapple by just one buoy in 2001.
Dane Mechler and Robert Pigozzi
Two young, up-and-coming skiers who are members of the exclusive 10.25m (41-off) club.
Former world record holder and a regular finalist on the Coors Light Water Ski Tour during its inaugural season.
Patrice Martin, Mike Hazelwood, and Kreg Llewellyn
Though primarily overall skiers, these athletes earned world championship medals in slalom.
Robby Zucchi, Chuck Stearns, and Joe Cash
Measuring success in the pre-professional era is challenging, but all three of these men deserve credit as world champions and pioneers of the sport.