Freddy Krueger: 30 years of professional water ski jumping

Freddy Krueger: 30 Stats For His 30th Season of Professional Jumping

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Freddy Krueger: 30 stats for his 30th season of professional jumping

Famed waterski jumper Freddy Krueger is entering his 30th season as a professional jumper

The winningest men’s jumper in history (image: MasterCraft)

By Jack Burden


From professional victory milestones to world records and more, it’s a parade of unbelievable stats for the greatest jumper of all time. With his entry in the US Masters this weekend, Freddy Krueger steps into his 30th consecutive year of professional water ski jumping. Here are 30 career stats to celebrate this remarkable achievement:

He has won a professional jump event for 26 consecutive calendar years. Only in the 1997 season of his 30-year career did he fail to secure at least one victory.

His first professional victory came at the Shreveport, Louisiana stop on the 1995 Bud Pro Tour. Over two-thirds of his competitors on the Waterski Pro Tour last year were not born at that time.

He took 21 out the fronts in his first three seasons as a professional. While we associate Krueger with longevity today, his path to the top was anything but easy.

He set his first world record at the 1999 U.S. Open, taking the record off Bruce Neville and Jaret Llewellyn, the latter of whom had set his mark in the preliminary round of the same tournament.

He has broken the world jump record more times than any skier, male or female. His eight world records surpass Sammy Duvall’s six.

His reign as the world record holder, from 2005 to 2017, is the longest in the jump event. Only Tawn Larsen Hahn (tricks) and Jaret Llewellyn (overall) have held records for a longer duration.

He holds the world Ski Fly record as the first and only man to jump over 300 feet. His mark of 95 meters (312 feet) from 2015 may never be broken as the discipline is no longer practiced.

He has the most professional victories of any skier, male or female, in the 21st century. Krueger has won over 100 professional events since the turn of the century.

He is the oldest skier, male or female, to win a professional water ski event at 48 years, 4 months, 13 days. The next oldest is Thomas Degasperi at 42 years.

He is the only jumper to win a professional event over the age of 40. Ryan Dodd is the next oldest at 39.

He’s tied with Jacinta Carroll and Ryan Dodd for the most world titles in jump, with five. Only Patrice Martin (men’s overall) and Andy Mapple (men’s slalom) have more in a single event.

He now has the most World Championships medals in a single event. His silver in 2023 brought his total to 11 podium finishes in men’s jump, surpassing Andy Mapple’s 10 in men’s slalom.

He’s now tied for the longest span between first and last World Championships medals, winning his first in 1999 and most recently 24 years later in 2023. Jaret Llewellyn’s first and last were also 24 years apart, from 1991 to 2015.

He has a winning record against every single jumper in professional events for the last 20 years. His closest rival in this period, Ryan Dodd, has beaten Krueger at 42 out of 96 events since 2005 for a 44% winning record.

He has not missed the podium at a jump event he has entered since 2017. That’s over 30 consecutive podium finishes.

His first season championship came on the 2000 U.S. Pro Water Ski and Wakeboard Tour. Krueger edged out Jaret Llewellyn despite only winning a single stop to Llewellyn’s three.

His most recent season championship came on the 2023 Waterski Pro Tour, 23 years after his first.

He has been on the professional circuit so long that he now competes against his main rival’s son. Krueger and Jaret Llewellyn were one of our sport’s greatest rivalries through the 2000s; now, however, Krueger regularly competes against Dorien Llewellyn, Jaret’s son.

He was the number one ranked elite men’s jumper for 11 consecutive years from 2004 to 2014. Jimmy Siemers and Ryan Dodd were the only other skiers to claim the top ranking during the 18 years of the list’s existence.

He matched Andy Mapple’s 14 U.S. Masters titles, the most by a man. Liz Allan still has the most of any skier with 24.

He has won more Moomba Masters jump titles than any other man. Krueger has nine victories on the Yarra between 2004 and 2020, before even counting his night jump titles.

He has won over 50% of all jump events on the Waterski Pro Tour. That’s a lot considering he was 45 when the Pro Tour began.

He is the only skier to make the finals on the U.S. Pro Tour in both jump and wakeboard. Krueger was a regular on the professional wakeboard circuit during the 1990s.

He has been a part of five World Championships winning teams for the U.S. In total, he has won nine medals as part of Team USA.

He was a strong three-event skier before specializing in jump in the mid-2000s. Krueger placed 10th in overall at the 2001 World Championships and competed in all three events through to the 2005 Worlds.

He jumped 200 feet for the first time in 1995, making him the 16th member of the 200-foot club. He won two pro tour stops that year, his debut season.

He jumped 70 meters (230 feet) for the first time in 2002, making him the 4th member of the 70m (230’) club. He was preceded only by Jaret Llewellyn, Scot Ellis, and Jimmy Siemers.

Since then, he has jumped 70 meters (230 feet) more times than all other skiers combined. Krueger has scored over 70 meters 139 times.

He holds the World Championship tournament record. His mark of 72.4 meters (238 feet) was set during the 2007 Worlds in Linz, Austria.

He has the record for the longest distance at night, jumping 73.1 meters (240 feet) at the 2011 Louisiana Night Jam.

Why it's time to rethink the Master's Florida-centric qualification criteria

Why It’s Time to Rethink the Masters’ Florida-Centric Qualification Criteria

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Why it’s time to rethink the U.S. Masters’ Florida-centric qualification criteria

Why it's time to rethink the Master's Florida-centric qualification criteria

The Masters Water Ski & Wakeboard Tournament, presented by GM Marine (image: masterswaterski.com)

By Jack Burden


For over six decades, the Masters Waterski and Wakeboard Tournament has built one of the most enduring brands in our sport. Hosted annually at Robin Lake in Callaway Gardens, Georgia, this event has been a proving ground for many of our sport’s greatest athletes. The Pavilion, built for the inaugural Masters in 1959 is iconic. The Master’s even has its own song.

However, as the saying goes, it takes decades to build a reputation and only moments to jeopardize it. The Masters was primarily a U.S. domestic competition until it turned professional in 1985. Less than 15% of titles were claimed by non-Americans in the amateur era, compared to 55% since it turned professional. Despite maintaining one of the largest prize purses in the sport, the current qualification criteria raise concerns about potentially limiting the event to a local derby once again.

The current criteria, introduced during the height of the pandemic in 2021, was a sensible response to the lack of events, both elite and amateur, in the prior year. Since the elite ranking list was effectively defunct and there had been limited opportunities to post scores to the performance based ranking list, the Master’s organizers decided to hold a series of qualifying tournaments to determine invitees. However, as we move into 2024, the continuation of this system, with only minimal adjustments, could be hindering the event’s potential.

For the upcoming 2024 Masters, reserved spots for the defending Masters champion, current world champion, and winners of three other Nautique-sponsored events are in place. However, these slots often represent only one or two individuals. The majority of invitations will be determined through two ‘Last Chance Qualifier’ (LCQ) tournaments in Florida. While having a true last chance qualifier adds excitement, allocating most invitations through amateur events in Central Florida in the month leading up to the Masters seems arbitrary and potentially exclusive.

This approach raises questions about the accessibility of the Masters for international athletes, particularly those from the Southern Hemisphere. Imagine the burden on a skier from this region, leaving their home during comfortable skiing weather, incurring expenses for accommodation and training in Florida, all for the off chance of qualifying. This situation would be akin to the Moomba Masters requiring entrants to travel to Australia in early February for two tournaments in New South Wales (a neighboring state) for the opportunity to compete on the Yarra. The expenses and risks involved would deter many.

This isn’t just an unnecessary burden for Southern Hemisphere skiers. Conditions are comfortably skiable through much of Southern Europe and North America in May. Even domestically, it seems unfair that a skier in a different part of the country is forced to spend the better part of a month in Florida, incurring significant personal expenses, to qualify for the Masters. The situation is even more challenging for juniors, who must sacrifice school time for a chance at qualification.

While there might not be a perfect solution, protecting spots for defending champions and winners of major tournaments is a good start. For slalom, considering the Waterski Pro Tour standings could be a viable option, perhaps leaving one spot open for an LCQ. The challenge for trick and, to some extent, jump is that there are far fewer professional events. Despite valid concerns with the IWWF performance-based ranking lists, they could offer an opportunity for athletes training outside Florida. The amateur performance-based ranking lists seem a logical choice for Junior Masters, an amateur competition.

While many elite athletes currently reside and train in Florida, it doesn’t have to be the exclusive norm. California once rivaled Florida’s dominance, Australia has produced many of the world’s best jumpers, and France countless top trickers. Making residency in Florida a prerequisite for elite competition risks limiting the diversity of our talent pool.

The event, Nautique’s flagship, has lost some of its sheen in recent years. Proactively revising the qualification criteria to embrace diversity and inclusivity could ensure its continued prominence. With its substantial prize purse and multi-event format, paralleled only by Moomba, the Masters will always be a major draw, but evolving with a more inclusive approach can secure its legacy as a global waterskiing spectacle. The same allure that consistently brought in the best skiers in America and further abroad for over 25 years as an amateur event still holds today, although it is perhaps in danger.

Joel Poland wins the inaugural Swiss Pro Tricks

The Rise of the Trick Event, Water Skiing’s Best Kept Secret

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And now, for our next trick… The rise of water skiing’s best kept secret

Joel Poland wins the inaugural Swiss Pro Tricks

Joel Poland often appears to be a one-man excitement machine (image: @johnwaldronimages)

By Jack Burden


Hardest, bestest, fastest, strongest – Announcer Tony Lightfoot may have found himself rifling through the thesaurus as he searched for more superlatives during Sunday’s exhilarating action. The second edition of the Swiss Pro Tricks marked the kickoff of the 2024 Waterski Pro Tour in spectacular fashion, showcasing the remarkable talent of elite trick skiers and leaving fans yearning for more. Could trick skiing be on the brink of a surge in popularity?

A survey of the most popular waterski athletes on social media certainly suggests so. Athletes like Joel Poland, Neilly Ross, and Nikolas Plytas routinely draw hundreds of thousands of views with their trick-based content, hinting at the potential for trick skiing to reach a wider audience.

Unlike distance jumping, where it can be difficult to appreciate the speed and scale on a phone screen, trick skiing thrives in the digital realm. Close-up angles captured from the boat provide viewers with an intimate look at the intricacies of high-level trick skiing, making it a captivating spectacle even through video streams. Sunday’s live action during the Swiss Pro Tricks event exemplified this, quickly becoming one of the most anticipated TWBC broadcasts of the season.

Advancements in technology, such as EyeTrick, utilized throughout the WWS Overall Tour, have further enhanced the viewer experience by providing close-to-real-time scores. This innovation has eliminated one of the biggest headaches in presenting competitive trick skiing to the public.

It seems that trick skiing may be on the cusp of a significant breakthrough, transitioning from a supporting role to a main attraction in the sport. With its fast-paced nature and compatibility with the streaming era, trick skiing is well-positioned to seize the spotlight. Tournament organizers are taking notice, recognizing the potential to elevate the sport’s profile.

Alongside the legacy ‘majors’, the US and Moomba Masters, there are three relative newcomer professional trick events in 2024, including the Swiss Pro Tricks, Monaco Slalom Cup, and BOTASKI ProAm.

Clint Stadlbaur, tournament director for the Swiss Pro Tricks, reflected on the genesis of the event, sharing, “We had this idea for about 3-4 years… The level of tricking is incredible, I think it’s very spectacular, very exciting.” Ultimately, his goal is to expand the exposure of the discipline. “I hope there will be many [events] to follow from us and other sites also.”

During a recent episode of the TWBC podcast, Stadlbaur spoke about how the trick event is often relegated to early morning or the back lake, stating, “We want to showcase this beautiful discipline… and have the trickers at the center of the event.” Recognizing the potential of trick skiing to captivate audiences, he added, “If you look at slalom, you see the top slalom skiers go through 13, 12, 11 [meters]; it’s a bit repetitive. Trick skiing [is] very dynamic from the get go.”

Similary, Gregoire Desfond, who organizes the Monaco Slalom Cup alongside Alexis Keusseoglou, sees adding tricks to the event for its second edition in 2024 as “a logical path to step up the quality of the show.” Since launching Waterski Nation in 2017, he has dreamed of creating a professional event. After a successful first year in 2023, they are excited to expand the event to include trick skiing.

The event is a fitting homecoming for trick skiing, which has been dominated by France for much of recent decades. The tournament, hosted just outside Monaco in the south of France, is the first professional trick event on the French mainland since 2005. Desfond sees the platform provided by the Waterski Pro Tour as a major factor in the willingness of sponsors to support professional events. The news that they were adding tricks in 2024 was well received by the event sponsors.

Ricardo Botas, organizer of the BOTASKI ProAm, has ambitions to bring a 3-event pro tournament to Spain. While adding professional jumping remains a challenge, 2024 will be the third consecutive year that tricks will be featured alongside slalom at the event. In 2023 the action was intense, with Patricio Font equaling the world record of 12,690 on his way to the title.

Credit is due also to Nautique, who are currently the only boat manufacturer offering meaningful support to trick events, sponsoring four out of five events in 2024. Brian Sullivan, Nautique’s VP of Marketing, shared after the first edition of tricks at the BOTASKI ProAm: “we want to keep doing bigger and better events, we want to keep growing the sport, at Nautique that’s one of our main goals.”

For now, the prize purses for these new trick events are relatively small. The combined purse from Swiss, Monaco, and BOTASKI for the trick event is less than some individual tournament prize purses for slalom this year. But it is a great starting point for showcasing trick skiing on the elite stage. The top trickers are hungry for more exposure and chances to compete, as evidenced by the 2023 Malibu Open, which attracted five 11,000 point trickers despite offering only a nominal $3,000 prize pool. This added another layer of excitement to the tournament, culminating in Poland setting a new world overall record.

The International Waterski and Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) is also working to establish new platforms for showcasing elite trick skiing. IWWF president, José Antonio Priego Perez, recently shared at the European Congress that two potential World Cup stops are in the works, which would include trick skiing alongside slalom and jump. Historically, the IWWF World Cup series throughout the 2000s was the golden age for professional trick skiing, offering the highest prize purses in the history of the sport.

Overall, these developments highlight numerous positive signs for the event, potentially signaling an end to water skiing’s best-kept secret. Trick skiing’s resurgence on the professional stage holds the promise of an exciting future for the sport and its dedicated athletes.

Ultimately, Desfond sums up the sentiment of many tournament organizers when he speaks to the endeavor as a labor of love, adding “it’s a guilty pleasure to bring [the best trickers] to our event. I cannot wait to see them fight for the title.”

Greatest Overall Skiers of All Time

The 10 Greatest Women’s Overall Skiers of All Time, Ranked

Rankings

The 10 greatest women’s overall skiers of all time, ranked

Greatest Overall Skiers of All Time

Ranking the best female overall skiers of all time.

By RTB

Top 10 Rankings


Finally, we wrap up the series with the overall event, honoring some of the true legends of the sport. In this domain where versatility is key, these athletes stand out from the crowd. While calling someone the “greatest athlete” is a matter of opinion, here, we explore the incredible journeys of those who haven’t just achieved excellence but have mastered three distinct disciplines—slalom, trick, and jump—earning them the title of the sport’s greatest overall skiers.

These individuals haven’t just succeeded; they’ve gone beyond what was thought possible. Our journey takes us from the early pioneers through the sport’s golden age in the 1990s to today’s modern day greats. Along the way, we dive into each skier’s successes and challenges. These overall skiers represent the pinnacle of the sport, demonstrating unmatched athleticism and skill across all aspects of water skiing.

‘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 female overall skiers 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!

Kaye Thurlow at the 1969 World Water Ski Championships

Kaye Thurlow receives her Australian team blazer for the 1969 World Championships in Denmark (image: VINTAGE WATER SKI PHOTOS)

10. Kaye Thurlow Faulkner

Representing Australia in five consecutive World Championships from 1967 to 1975, she earned eight medals across trick, jump, and overall, including two bronze medals in the latter event. Additionally, Kaye competed in the water skiing demonstration at the 1972 Munich Olympics, securing runner-up finishes in trick and jump.

Virtually unbeatable at the Moomba Masters, she secured an incredible 20 titles on the Yarra River, including eight titles in her favored overall event. Kaye deservedly makes this list as the most dominant skier in the only professional event of her era.

Whitney McClintock slalom skiing at 2017 Moomba Masters

McClintock won an incredible eight consecutive Moomba Masters slalom titles from 2011 to 2019 (image: @desburkekennedy)

9. Whitney McClintock Rini

Between 2009 and 2019, Whitney achieved remarkable success with two World Championship overall titles and two runner-up finishes. Her impressive collection at the World Championships includes 10 medals, with five of them being gold, spanning slalom, trick, and overall.

Excellent as a junior, Whitney secured multiple junior world championships, including an under-17 overall title and back-to-back under-21 overall titles. Despite her exceptional skills, she faced the unfortunate circumstance of never having the opportunity to compete in a professional overall tournament throughout her career.

World Champion Cindy Todd

Todd’s comeback season in 1975 was an almost instant success (image: VINTAGE WATER SKI PHOTOS)

8. Cindy Todd

Between 1977 and 1983, the Florida transplant secured an incredible seven World Championship titles spanning slalom, jump, and overall, with back-to-back victories in the overall category in 1977 and 1979.

Cindy’s dominance extended to the U.S. Masters, where she asserted herself as a four-time overall champion. Stepping into the void left by Liz Allan’s retirement, Todd claimed three consecutive titles from 1976 to 1978. Her supremacy wasn’t limited to a singular discipline; across slalom, jump, and overall, Cindy clinched a total of eight titles at the Masters, solidifying her reputation as one of the greatest skiers of her era.

Willa Worthington's father taught her to water ski on Oswego Lake in 1942 when she was 14.

Willa Worthington’s father taught her to water ski on Oswego Lake in 1942 when she was 14.

7. Willa Worthington

Water skiing’s first ever world champion, Willa came agonizingly close to sweeping a World Championships, winning slalom, jump, and overall and finishing runner-up in tricks at the inaugural event in 1949. She would go on to win a total of 14 World Championships medals, eight of them gold. At her last World Championships in 1955, she narrowly missed the clean sweep again, repeating her placements from the first event. 

At the U.S. Nationals she won nine overall titles, losing only once from 1946 to 1955. Three times she clean swept the competition, winning all four gold medals. In total, she was a 29-time U.S. National women’s champion, unmatched by any skier to this day. 

The only reason she is not placed higher on this list is because of the difficulty in gauging performances from this far in the past. While she was incredibly dominant, the women’s field was often thin in the 1940s and 1950s, with only three women competing at the inaugural World Championships. 

Natallia Berdnikava Water Ski Champion

Berdnikava held the world trick, jump, and overall records throughout her career (image: @natiski200)

6. Natallia Berdnikava

With an impressive tally of ten World Championship medals earned between 2007 and 2017, Natallia Berdnikava stands as one of the most formidable figures in water skiing. Her crowning achievement unfolded at the 2011 World Championships in Dubna, Russia, where she achieved an extraordinary sweep in women’s trick, jump, and overall events. This remarkable feat laid the foundation for Belarus’ team victory, securing its place as only the fourth nation to claim that prestigious title.

Despite limited opportunities to compete professionally in overall competitions throughout her career, Natallia clinched the 2018 Latrobe City International. Regarded among the greatest trickers and jumpers of all time, she has emerged as one of the dominant athletes in the 21st century.

A trailblazer in the sport, Natallia still holds the distinction of being the highest-scoring female of all time. She has broken the world overall record three times, maintaining her grip on it since 2012, making it one of the longest-standing records in the sport.

Elena Milakova trick skiing

Elena Thomsen-Milakova excelled in trick, jump, and overall (image: Swiss Waterski & Wake)

5. Elena Milakova

The Russian dominated the sport at the turn of the century, clinching three consecutive world overall titles from 1997 to 2001. Throughout her career, she amassed a total of nine World Championship medals, demonstrating her skills across the trick, jump, and overall events.

Her other major achievements include overall victories at the 1999 U.S. Masters and 2001 World Games, underlining her consistent excellence on the international stage. During a remarkable run of form in 2001, Elena broke the world overall record three times. This incredible feat included setting new records in both the preliminary and final rounds of the European Championships.

Waterski champion Karen Bowkett Neville

Karen and her husband Mick made up one of the sport’s greatest duos through the 1980s (image: VINTAGE WATER SKI PHOTOS)

4. Karen Bowkett Neville

The standard-bearer for Australia’s golden generation, Karen graced the overall podium in four consecutive World Championships from 1985 to 1991 and claimed the top spot twice. Her instrumental role in the Australian team led to three consecutive second-place finishes from 1985 to 1989, bringing them on the cusp of dethroning the United States’ decades-long reign. Her remarkable achievements include breaking Deena Brush Mapple’s four-year winning streak in 1989 to secure the U.S. Masters overall title, and she added another feather to her cap by winning the U.S. Open in 1991.

Karen dominated the Moomba Masters throughout the late 1980s, securing eight overall titles between 1984 and her retirement in 1993. Her remarkable tally of 20 titles across all four disciplines places her on par with Kaye Thurlow Faulkner as the most successful skier in the history of the Moomba Masters. Karen’s outstanding achievements in water skiing became a source of national pride, leading to her recognition as the Australian Sportswoman of the Year in 1985.

Deena Brush Mapple at the U.S. Masters

The Queen of Water Skiing (image: VINTAGE WATER SKI PHOTOS)

3. Deena Brush Mapple

From 1979 to 1989, the Sacramento native played a pivotal role in guiding the U.S. Team to an impressive seven consecutive World Championship team titles, showcasing her consistency by only missing the overall podium twice during this period. Following two runner-up finishes and a bronze, she solidified her legacy by claiming back-to-back world overall titles in 1987 and 1989. Her illustrious career boasts a total of 15 World Championship medals, spanning slalom, jump, and overall events, with an impressive six golds.

Renowned as one of the most dominant skiers in the history of the U.S. Masters, Deena secured a remarkable 20 titles across slalom, jump, and overall, with 14 of them earned after the Masters became professional in 1985. Her prowess in women’s overall was particularly noteworthy, experiencing only one loss between 1985 and 1993 on Robin Lake. Similarly, at the U.S. Open, she won four consecutive overall titles from 1987 to 1990, before taking the 1991 season off for the birth of her first child.

Deena stands as the sole female athlete to simultaneously hold the world slalom and jump records. Among her many accomplishments, the Grand Slam Victory in 1987 stands out, securing overall wins at the World Championships, U.S. Nationals, U.S. Masters, and the Pro Tour—a feat only matched by one other athlete. Known fondly as the ‘Queen of Water Skiing,’ Deena’s achievements place her among the greatest of all time.

World Champion Liz Allan

Liz Allan revolutionized women’s jumping through the 1960s and 70s (image: VINTAGE WATER SKI PHOTOS)

2. Liz Allan

At just 14 years old, the American phenom announced her arrival on the global stage by becoming only the second woman to jump 100 feet. In that same remarkable year, she clinched her inaugural world titles, seizing gold in both the jump and overall events.

Liz’s dominance in water skiing is unparalleled, as evidenced by her incredible tally of 15 World Championship medals between 1965 and 1975, boasting an impressive 11 golds—the highest count by any skier in history. Notably, she stands alone as the only skier to secure World Championships in all four disciplines: slalom, trick, jump, and overall, winning the latter event three times throughout her illustrious career.

In 1969, at the age of 18, Liz showcased near invincibility, very nearly effecting a clean sweep across all three events and overall at the U.S. Masters, U.S. Nationals, and World Championships. Her sole defeat that season came in slalom at the Masters. Liz’s dominance at her peak has yet to be surpassed by any other skier.

Her legacy extends to the U.S. Masters, where she reigns as the most successful skier in its storied history. Liz secured a staggering 24 titles, including an unmatched nine overall titles, with only one loss between 1966 and 1975. Liz’s extraordinary accomplishments reached their peak before she made the decision to retire from top-level competition at the remarkably young age of 24.

Regina Jaquess at the 2015 Malibu Cup

Jaquess is arguably the greatest water skier of all time, male or female (image: @regina_jaquess)

1. Regina Jaquess

Displaying exceptional talent from a young age, Regina Jaquess received her inaugural invitation to the Junior Masters at the tender age of 12. At 16, she nearly achieved a clean sweep at the Under-17 World Championships, securing victories in slalom, jump, and overall, only stumbling in the trick final, despite posting the highest score of the tournament in the preliminary round.

Undeterred, Regina clinched her first open world title in the trick event the following year at 17. She continued her dominance into the first two editions of the Under-21 World Championships, amassing a total of six gold medals. Her illustrious career includes five world overall championships, with back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2005, and an impressive three consecutive titles from 2013 to 2017. In total, Regina boasts 19 World Championship medals across slalom, trick, jump, and overall, securing 10 golds. A record-breaker, she has broken the world overall record four times and holds the World Championship tournament record.

Regina’s prowess extends to the Pan American Games, where she is a three-time overall champion, triumphing in 2011, 2019, and the most recent victory in 2023. Her outstanding performance in Chile last year, clinching gold in slalom, jump, and overall, earned her a nomination as the female athlete of the games.

Despite her remarkable achievements, Regina has faced a scarcity of opportunities to compete in professional overall tournaments, her career coinciding with a two-decade drought of events. Nonetheless, she made her mark by winning tricks and overall at the 2002 U.S. Open as an 18-year-old. In recent years, she has reached the podium on the WWS Overall Tour, reaffirming her enduring excellence in water skiing.

Honorable Mentions:

Clementine Lucine

While Clem may be best remembered as the first woman to trick 10,000 points, she boasts an impressive collection of eight World Championships medals, with four earned in overall competitions from 2003 to 2013. Her crowning achievement came in 2007 when she stood atop the podium in both the trick and overall events. Notably, she held the overall world record for an impressive five years, breaking it twice in 2004 and 2006.

Rhoni Barton Bischoff

While Rhoni could never secure top honors at the World Championships, she earned four medals, including back-to-back bronzes in the overall event in 1999 and 2001. On the professional circuit she was a two-time U.S. Masters overall champion and multiple-time U.S. Open champion. Making history, Rhoni became the first-ever world record holder in the overall category when the IWWF started recording records in the late 1990s.

Judy McClintock Messer

Between 1985 and 1995, Judy featured on the World Championships overall podium five times, finally clinching the coveted gold in 1995. She emerged as the backbone of the Canadian team, playing a pivotal role in their groundbreaking victories during the 1990s.

Ana-Maria Carrasco

Despite her greatest achievements coming in tricks, Ana-Maria secured a world overall title in 1983, alongside two runner up finishes throughout the 1980s. Throughout the decade, Carrasco consistently performed at an elite level, claiming gold in overall and trick at the inaugural World Games in 1981, and earning a U.S. Masters overall title in 1984.

Karin Roberge Woodson

The first Roberge to make their mark on the world stage, Karin secured back-to-back U.S. Masters overall titles in 1979 and 1980. She then claimed the title of world overall champion in 1981, showcasing her skills with podium finishes in both the slalom and trick events. Throughout the 1980s, she continued to shine, adding three consecutive Moomba Masters overall titles to her career achievements.

Giannina Bonnemann Mechler and Hanna Straltsova

These two young stars have been at the forefront of women’s overall for the last few seasons and are beginning to post scores that could threaten Berdnikava’s longstanding world record.

Jacinta Carroll competes in night jump at the 2023 Moomba Masters

Jacinta Carroll: Undefeated, Unmatched, and Unforgettable

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Jacinta Carroll: Undefeated, unmatched, and unforgettable

Jacinta Carroll competes in night jump at the 2023 Moomba Masters

Carroll won her 10th consecutive Moomba Masters title this year (image: @vincephotography)

By Jack Burden


The sport of water skiing farewelled an all time great this past weekend. The lively Moomba Masters crowd relished the chance to witness Jacinta Carroll hit the jump ramp one last time, even as she pushed herself to compete just 100 days after giving birth. No woman, perhaps no skier, attacks the ramp with quite the same intensity as the powerful Australian.

Carroll, who grew up just outside Melbourne in Geelong, has dominated women’s jump for over a decade. Her most recent achievement, securing her 10th consecutive Moomba Masters jump title just three months after giving birth, serves as further evidence of her brilliance. No one would have blamed her for skipping this year’s tournament as she recovered from her pregnancy.

Yet, at the same time, the occasion was bittersweet. As I watched her take to the water, I didn’t want it to end, because, even before she officially announced her retirement, her recent absences had hammered home the fact that the greatest female jumper of all time wouldn’t be around forever.

Despite her ongoing dominance, Carroll has stepped back from elite-level competition while still at the pinnacle of her career. Her last competitions outside Australia were in 2021, where she secured her fifth consecutive world title. Since then, she has continued to compete at the Moomba Masters but has primarily focused on her career as a physical therapist and her growing family.

Carroll’s achievements have completely overhauled expectations in women’s jump. As the first and only woman to surpass the 200-foot mark, she has maintained an undefeated streak in professional events since 2013. Carroll hasn’t just won every event; she has won them by unprecedented margins, commonly beating the rest of the field by up to 5 meters.

Yet, this dominance has prompted reflection within the sport. Carroll herself has expressed unease about the unintended consequences of her success, with some competitors assuming a secondary position before even competing.

In a candid discussion on The Water Ski Podcast, Carroll highlighted the dilemma: “It’s good that girls now can pursue 200 [feet] and can go ‘she can do it, why can’t I?’ That barrier is not there anymore. On the flip side, I know in the past there have been girls that have said ‘why would I come to Moomba for second place?’ Now they’ve lost it already.”

The debate centers on whether close competition or the pursuit of the highest possible performance is more captivating for the sport. Carroll poses the question, “Is it more exciting to see two girls battle it out, somebody has to win on their last jump, they win by 10 centimeters, is that more exciting? Or is seeing somebody go much further trying to chase a record more exciting?”

While a hyperfocus on records and performance can sometimes be detrimental to the sport, ultimately, it is big names and storylines that draw people’s attention. Asking if Carroll’s dominance has hurt women’s jumping is a bit like asking if other dominant athletes like Serena Williams or Lindsey Vonn were detrimental to their respective sports. We wouldn’t ask an athlete like Usain Bolt to run a little slower to make the race more interesting.

In fact, having one or two dominant competitors can be beneficial for a sport, at least for a period. This dominance can inspire others to strive for similar heights. Look at Andy Mapple; his prolonged dominance significantly raised the bar in men’s slalom.

For a generation of water ski fans, Carroll epitomizes women’s jump. Storylines like her quest for 200 feet have captivated us. Everyone’s had a favorite pick at some time or another for who the next skier, perhaps still an up-and-coming junior, would be to beat Carroll. Most importantly, she has redefined the expectations for women’s jump.

Women’s skiing, and in particular jump, has always struggled for the same recognition and publicity as the men. Even looking at the sport’s so-called golden age, women’s jumpers had a hard road to becoming professional. It was ultimately the star-power of Deena Brush Mapple, Carroll’s closest historical peer, that helped to get jump added to the Coors Light Pro Tour for its 4th season in 1987. Brush went undefeated for over 20 tour stops, including the entirety of the 1988 and 1989 seasons, yet no one looks back and speculates that her dominance hurt the sport.

In the post-Jacinta landscape, women’s jumpers have a hard road ahead. It’s true that everything they do will always come with comparisons to Carroll. But this is no different from the shadow of Andy Mapple hanging over men’s slalom. Ultimately, having a GOAT to compare and contrast the current athletes creates intrigue around each new milestone. Certainly, no one would question Mapple’s legacy on the sport; likewise, we applaud Carroll for all her sacrifices and contributions to women’s jump.

Monday’s performance seemed like the perfectly orchestrated exit, a final victory at the event that launched her professional career. A lap of honor in front of the hometown crowd. Retiring with her undefeated streak intact, stretching across 12 consecutive seasons. Few athletes are given the opportunity to retire on their own terms, at the top of their game. But then Jacinta has always been special.

Is it too much to ask, as fans, to see Carroll jump just a few more times? It appears so. She has given everything she has and more. It is our loss; the sport is just a little bit richer with her in it.

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

Kevin Michael: A Revolutionary in Board Shorts

Articles

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.

Greatest Overall Skiers of All Time

The 10 Greatest Men’s Overall Skiers of All Time, Ranked

Rankings

The 10 greatest men’s overall skiers of all time, ranked

Greatest Overall Skiers of All Time

Ranking the best male overall skiers of all time.

By RTB

Top 10 Rankings


Finally, we turn to the overall event, where we celebrate the true giants of the sport. In a realm where versatility reigns supreme, these athletes stand head and shoulders above the rest. The term “greatest athlete” is subjective, but here, we explore the remarkable careers of those who have not only achieved excellence but have conquered three distinct disciplines – slalom, trick, and jump – earning them the title of the sport’s greatest overall skiers.

These individuals have not just excelled; they’ve transcended the boundaries of what was thought possible. From the early pioneers, through the discipline’s professional peak in the 1990s, to the modern-day resurgence, our journey takes us through each skiers triumphs and tribulations. These overall skiers represent the pinnacle of the sport, demonstrating unmatched athleticism and finesse across the spectrum of water skiing events.

‘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 overall skiers 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!

Kreg Llewellyn Trick Skiing

Llewellyn competes at the 1999 World Championships in Milan, Italy.

10. Kreg Llewellyn

One of the first men to break 10,000 points in trick skiing, Kreg, the elder of the renowned Llewellyn brothers, was an incredibly well-rounded skier. The sole athlete in the professional era to secure World Championship medals across all four disciplines (slalom, trick, jump, and overall), Kreg played a pivotal role on the Canadian team during their groundbreaking victories in the 1990s. At the 1991 World Championships in Austria he not only secured medals in trick and jump but also finished as the runner-up in overall. Llewellyn’s margin of defeat was the tightest ever seen in the sport, with Patrice Martin claiming victory by a mere 0.2 overall points.

His performances laid the foundation for Canada’s inaugural victory in the teams competition, the first time the U.S. lost the title in the history of the tournament. Although he never quite clinched top honors, he achieved runner-up placements in men’s overall again in 1997, along with a bronze in 1999. His professional achievements include victories at the U.S. Open, U.S. Masters, and Moomba Masters.

Siemers poses next to his photo on the USA Water Ski Museum

Siemers poses next to his photo in the USA Water Ski Museum (image: @jimmy_siemers)

9. Jimmy Siemers

An exceptionally talented skier from an early age, the Texan prodigy demonstrated his prowess by clinching victories in tricks, jump, and overall at the 1998 U17 World Championships. In a remarkable feat, at the age of just 18 in 2000, he broke the world overall record, bringing an end to Patrice Martin’s nine-year reign as the world’s number one ranked overall skier. His dominance continued at the inaugural U21 World Championships in 2003, where he triumphed again in tricks, jump, and overall. Later the same year, he came tantalizingly close to replicating these achievements at the Open World Championships, securing wins in tricks and overall, along with a runner-up finish in jump. Siemers would then go back-to-back, winning a second overall world title in 2005.

However, Siemers’ ascent to the pinnacle of the sport coincided with the decline of professional overall tournaments. Unfortunately, 2000 marked the final year of overall competition at the U.S. and Moomba Masters, while the U.S. Open continued until 2003. His lone professional victory in the discipline came at the 2002 U.S. Open. Ahead of his time, it would take nearly two decades for another skier to match his incredible feat of scoring over 12,000 points in trick skiing and jumping over 70 meters (230 feet).

Joel Poland performs a Raley on his Radar trick ski

Image: @radarskis

8. Joel Poland

After securing bronze at the 2019 World Championships in both jump and overall, Poland found another gear, breaking the world overall record in 2021 before winning one of the greatest overall battles in the sport’s history against Dorien Llewellyn and taking the world record back off Llewellyn in the process.

Dominant on the WWS Overall Tour, Poland emerged victorious as tour champion after an epic season long battle with Dorien Llewellyn and Louis Duplan-Fribourg in 2022, including one memorable tour stop where he won on all borrowed equipment. He followed up with an undefeated season in 2023, winning the final stop in style by breaking his own world record. After an early fall in the trick event at the 2023 World Championships, Poland was written off in the overall event before he produced the statement performance of the tournament the following day by running 10.25m (41’ off) for the first time to secure himself a runner up finish in the overall.

A quadruple threat, Poland is capable of winning events in slalom, tricks, jump, or overall as a member of the three most exclusive clubs in the sport; the 10.25m (41’ off), 70 meter (230’), and 12,000 point clubs. He stands as only the second man this century to secure podium finishes across all three disciplines at professional events. If Poland is able to maintain his current trajectory we expect him to finish his career much higher on this list.

Adam Sedlmajer Slalom Skiing

Image: @tiaremirandaphotography

7. Adam Sedlmajer

The first of a new generation of overall skiers, Sedlmajer’s foundation for success rested upon his slalom skills. Demonstrating remarkable versatility, he held the distinction, until last year, of being the sole male skier in the 21st century to secure podium placements across all three disciplines in professional tournaments. During his peak years, Sedlmajer dominated the World Championships, clinching two world overall titles and two runner-up finishes, showcasing his prowess at the only elite competition for overall skiers.

It’s one of the greatest tragedies of our sport that a skier of Sedlmajer’s calibre was given so few opportunities to showcase his talents. One poignant example is when he was left out of the invite list for the 2016 U.S. Masters, despite being the reigning world overall champion and the world’s number one ranked overall skier. Unfazed, he proceeded to claim victory in the U.S. Open slalom event later that year.

In 2017, Sedlmajer broke Jaret Llewellyn’s longstanding world overall record, a record that had remained unbroken since 2002. What adds to the remarkable nature of this accomplishment is the fact that he achieved this under the rules established almost two decades earlier, rules that significantly undervalued slalom in comparison to today’s standards.

Chuck Stearns jumps at the 1961 World Championships in Long Beach, California

Chuck Stearns jumps at the 1961 World Championships in Long Beach, California (image: HSLB)

6. Chuck Stearns

Water skiing’s first ever superstar, Stearns was a household name across America during the 1960s. From 1957 to 1967, he clinched an astonishing 11 World Championships medals across all four disciplines, still one of only a handful of skiers to earn medals in slalom, tricks, jump and overall to this day. At the 1959 World Championships in Milan, he claimed the men’s overall title.

The first man to dominate at the U.S. Masters, Stearns secured overall victory four times from 1960 to 1965. Additionally, he was among the first Americans to receive an invitation to the Moomba Masters, the world’s only professional competition at the time. Stearns won the overall event on his debut visit in 1963 and followed up with an incredible showing in 1966, where he emerged victorious in the slalom, jump, and overall categories.

A truly versatile athlete, Stearns is the only skier in history to simultaneously hold top positions in both tournament skiing and ski racing. He boasts a remarkable record in the latter sport, being a 10-time winner of the Grand National Catalina Ski Race and setting the drag racing speed record at over 120 miles per hour. In an era when most competitive water skiers retired young, Stearns’ strict fitness regimen allowed him to remain at the pinnacle of the sport for over two decades.

Mike Suyderhoud takes a crash at the Cal Cup in Berkeley, CA

Suyderhoud takes a spill at the Cal Cup in Berkeley, CA (image: Gary Warren)

5. Mike Suyderhoud

The son of a rags-to-riches Dutch immigrant, who had served in the underground resistance during the Nazi occupation, Mike inherited his father’s tenacity and channeled it into water skiing as a young man. At 17 years old, he won his first of five World Championships, and by 18, he had set his first of three world jump records.

Suyderhoud helped the U.S. Team secure five World Championships team titles from 1967 to 1977, accumulating a total of 11 individual medals. His achievements included consecutive overall victories in 1967 and 1969, a runner-up finish (bolstered by golds in slalom and jump) in 1971, and a bronze in 1975. Domestically, he became a U.S. Masters overall champion, finally clinching the title in 1973 after six consecutive years of either second or third-place finishes. Furthermore, he claimed five consecutive overall titles at the U.S. Nationals from 1968 to 1972. Suyderhoud also achieved back-to-back victories in slalom, jump, and overall at the Moomba Masters during his visits to Melbourne. His remarkable career featured triumphs in every major tournament of his era.

World Overall Champion Mike Hazelwood

Image: Yvon le Gall

4. Mike Hazelwood

Following his triumph in the men’s overall at the 1977 World Championships, Hazelwood was a constant presence on the podium for the next six years, securing back-to-back runner-up finishes in 1981 and 1983. While jump skiing undoubtedly stood as his strongest event, Hazelwood’s versatility was exceptional, earning him membership in the exclusive club of skiers to secure World Championship medals in all four events, totaling an impressive count of 10 medals.

Within Europe, Hazelwood claimed an incredible eight consecutive European Championships titles in overall from 1976 to 1983. Furthermore, he is one of only four men to win European Championships in all four events. A fierce competitor in all conditions, Hazelwood’s tenacity shone through as he secured four consecutive overall titles at the U.S. Masters from 1978 to 1981 and an impressive five consecutive Moomba titles from 1977 to 1981. His victory list extended to every major overall tournament across the globe, solidifying his legacy as a true champion of water skiing.

Sammy Duvall water ski jumping

Duvall held No. 1 world ranking in either jump or overall for eleven consecutive seasons from 1983 to 1993.

3. Sammy Duvall

Duvall’s first major victory in overall came as a 19-year-old at the inaugural World Games in 1981, where he won gold in jump and overall. Notably, Duvall remains the sole skier with a perfect undefeated record in overall at the World Championships. He secured four consecutive overall titles from 1981 to 1987, before retiring from amateur competition following the 1987 World Championships. Duvall’s contributions were not limited to individual achievements; he played a pivotal role in the United States’ dominance in the teams competition throughout the 1980s, successfully repelling strong challenges from Australia during that decade.

Among his numerous accolades, Duvall stands as one of only two men to attain three U.S. Masters titles in a single year, with four of his impressive tally of 13 U.S. Masters titles coming in the overall event. His prowess extended to the Moomba Masters, where he secured four overall titles, including three consecutive victories from 1984 to 1986. As a U.S. Open overall champion as well, Sammy’s exceptional talents were on full display in an era predating official world records. For six consecutive years, from 1983 to 1988, he reigned as the number one ranked overall skier in the world. His scores in his final season as the world’s best, including 4@11.25m (38′ off), 8,600 points, and 61.7m (202′), would have undoubtedly set the mark had official records existed at that time.

Canadian Jaret Llewellyn still walking on water at age 45

Canadian Jaret Llewellyn still walking on water at age 45 (image: Bernard Weil)

2. Jaret Llewellyn

A late bloomer in the jump event, Llewellyn’s initial success came in tricks when he won the inaugural Junior World Championships in 1986. It would take him until age 20 in 1990 to jump 50 meters (164 feet), but within two years he was jumping over 200 feet and broke his first world jump record at the U.S. Masters in 1992.

No man can match Llewellyn’s 16 World Championships medals, with majority of these coming in the overall event where he finished on the podium nine times between 1991 and 2015. His breakout performance as a 21-year-old at the 1991 World Championships was particularly memorable, as he and his older brother Kreg picked up the overall bronze and silver respectively, leading Canada to teams victory. Across his career he was up against a peak performing Patrice Martin, then Jimmy Siemers, and finally Adam Sedlmajer, and was unlucky to only finish on top of the World Championship podium twice in 2001 and 2007. He broke the world record twice, with his final record of 5@11.25m (38’ off), 10,730, and 71.7 meters (235’) standing for an incredible 14 years, 7 months, making it the longest standing world record of all time.

On the professional circuit he was a five-time U.S. Masters overall champion. In 1996, he ended the Neville family’s stranglehold on overall at the Moomba Masters and would go on to dominate the event through the late nineties. He was also a two-time U.S. Open overall champion. Unfortunately for Llewellyn, the industry turned away from overall right at the peak of his career and the event was eliminated from legacy events such as the U.S. Masters, Moomba, and U.S. Open in the early 2000s. Fittingly, he has spearheaded the WWS Overall Tour in recent years, heralding a resurgence for the discipline.

Le Petit Prince of Water Skiing

Martin is one of the finest achievements in French sport (image: Graine de Sport)

1. Patrice Martin

Known as “Le Petit Prince,” this French prodigy burst onto the water skiing scene as a teenager, securing his first World Championships victory in tricks at just 15 years old in 1979. Initially specializing in trick skiing, he gradually mastered all three disciplines throughout the 1980s and, by the decade’s end, had risen to the pinnacle of the sport.

His extraordinary collection of 10 World Championships gold medals is only exceeded by Liz Allan on the women’s side. Immovable from the top of the podium, his winning streak of six consecutive World Championships in overall from 1989 to 1999 is the longest in our sport across any discipline. The most decorated skier in the history of the World Games, Martin clinched six golds, one silver, and one bronze from 1981 to 2001. Finally claiming gold in overall at the twilight of his career when it was reintroduced after a 20-year absence at the 2001 event. Within Europe he was virtually unstoppable, winning a total of 30 European Championship golds across slalom, trick, and overall, including nine overall titles spanning from 1984 to 2001, matching Hazelwood’s record.

On the professional circuit, he proved his mettle as a Moomba Masters champion, securing the overall title five times at the U.S. Masters and reigning supreme in the U.S. Open during the 1990s, with six consecutive titles from 1992 to 1997. Even though his two strongest events, tricks and overall, were not part of the pro tour, Martin remained a regular contender, even clinching a tour stop victory in slalom in 1996, edging out formidable opponents like Andy Mapple and Wade Cox. His reign as the number one ranked overall skier in the world spanned nine consecutive seasons, from 1991 to 1999. When the IWWF began recording world overall records in the mid-1990s, Martin was the first holder and broke the record three times throughout his illustrious career. His final record, set in 2001, of 4@10.75m (39.5’ off), 11,550 points, and 62.5 meters (205’), remains a highly competitive score in the sport to this day.

Honorable Mentions:

Dorien Llewellyn

Sport can be cruel, and it’s not hard to imagine a world in which Llewellyn emerges victorious at a few additional tournaments, avoids injury, retains the world record, and ends up ahead of Poland on this list. After breaking the overall world record a month earlier, he finished 2nd in overall, winning the tricks, at the 2021 World Championships. Llewellyn’s other major victories include the 2019 and 2023 Pan American Games, the 2018 Latrobe City Invitational, and multiple stops on the WWS Overall Tour.

Felipe Miranda

The Chilean won the world overall title at his home site in 2013 and backed it up with a second title in challenging conditions at the 2017 Paris World Championships. ‘Pipe’ is also a Pan American Games overall champion and won the 2017 Latrobe City Invitational.

Javier Julio

The Argentinian secured five medals in men’s overall between 2001 and 2013, including a gold medal in 2009, and finished his career with three years as the number one ranked overall skier from 2009 to 2011 and gold at the 2011 Pan American Games.

Bruce Neville

Although primarily known as a jumper, he clinched an impressive five consecutive Moomba Masters overall titles from 1991 to 1995, matching Hazelwood’s record.

Carl Roberge

A three-time overall champion at all three major professional tournaments of his era, Roberge had great success at the Moomba Masters, U.S. Masters, and U.S. Open. While never claiming the highest honors, he finished on four consecutive overall podiums at the World Championships from 1983 to 1989, including finishing second to Patrice Martin by a margin of only 6 overall points in 1989.

Mick Neville

Despite finishing on the podium at the World Championships eight times between 1981 and 1987, Mick could never quite claim the gold. He lost two of the tightest ever overall battles to Sammy Duvall in 1985 and 1987, with the margin less than 25 overall points each time. He did manage overall victories at both the U.S. and Moomba Masters.

Ricky McCormick

Featured on the podium in at least one discipline at every World Championships from 1967 to 1975, including medals in all four disciplines and runner-up finishes in overall in 1973 and 1975. McCormick won three Moomba Masters overall titles. Additionally, four of his 13 U.S. Masters titles came in overall, and he joins Sammy Duvall as the only other man to win three titles in a single year.

George Athans and Alfredo Mendoza

Both of these men deserve recognition as two-time world overall champions.

2024 Tournament Water Ski Season

Five Burning Questions for the 2024 Water Ski Season

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Five burning questions for the 2024 water ski season

2024 Tournament 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 (55) and Ryan Dodd (43) 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?

Joel Poland flipping on his Radar Graviton

IWWF Approves Four New Flips, But Their Tournament Presence Looks Unlikely

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IWWF approves four new flips, but their tournament presence looks unlikely

Joel Poland flipping on his Radar Graviton

Joel Poland is the most talented person we’ve ever seen ride a waterski, he’s also the weirdest. (image: Radar Skis)

By Jack Burden


The IWWF Water Ski Council has given the green light to four new flips for the upcoming season, potentially infusing the sport with a sense of novelty and innovation. However, despite this approval, one of the creators of these flips is expressing skepticism, stating, “you will never see them in a tournament” at current point values.

1. BFLSLB (“Super Half Twist”)

  • Backflip with a ski-line-back
  • Submitted by Clarens Lavau
  • Approved at 850 points

2. BFLSLO (“Supermobe Front-to-Front” or “UFO”)

  • Backflip with a ski-line-360
  • Submitted by Joel Poland
  • Approved at 900 points

3. RFFLF (“Reverse Half Jack”)

  • Frontflip from the back-to-the-front (regular and reverse)
  • Submitted by Axel Garcia
  • Approved at 850 points

4. FFLSL5F (“Super Front Five” or “Matrix”)

  • Frontflip with a ski-line-540 from the back-to-the-front
  • Submitted by Joel Poland
  • Approved at 950 points

Joel Poland, the architect behind two of these flips, revealed his reservations about the process for assigning point values to new tricks. Both the ‘UFO’ and ‘Matrix’ were successfully executed in 2022, with Poland debating whether it was worthwhile to submit them for approval. In correspondence with the IWWF, he shared, “[I] didn’t feel like it was worth sending them in as the point values would make them another trick on the list we would never see in competition.” Poland remained hopeful, stating, “But I have hope that we can come together and create a point value that makes them worthwhile.”

Upon learning the IWWF-assigned point values, Poland expressed understandable frustration. Regarding the ‘Matrix,’ a frontflip with a 540-degree spin over the rope, he voiced disbelief that it was valued only 150 points more than a regular frontflip. In his words, “The point values for high difficulty flips, in my opinion, are crippling trick and limiting the athletes.”

Poland’s frustration resonates with many top trick skiers and fans, who are in agreement that there is a pressing need for change in the point values assigned to high-end flips.

The most perplexing aspect of this issue is that no one seems opposed to a revision of the trick points in principle. IWWF Water Ski Council Chairman Candido Moz has expressed vocal support in the past for rationalizing trick values. As recently as October, he urged the newly formed Trick Working Group to bring forth proposals for better recognizing “the true difficulty levels” across tricks.

As Freddie Winter highlighted in an insightful Waterski Journal article on the subject, the issue is how to get a consensus on specific changes when each skier, or coach, has a vested interest in elevating the value of tricks they excel at while suppressing the value of those they do not. In the past “the skiers could never agree on point values, so [the] IWWF never received a proposal,” shared Moz.

Instigating change, especially in the face of entrenched interests, is difficult. It may require a new generation to step forward and advocate for reforms. Poland, for his part, remains steadfast. “[I] intend to be very vocal about [point values] in the coming months.”

The moments that defined the 2023 water ski season – and the stories behind them.

Year in Review: We Countdown the Most Memorable Moments of 2023

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Year in review: We countdown the most memorable moments of the 2023 water ski season

The moments that defined the 2023 water ski season – and the stories behind them.

The moments that defined the 2023 water ski season – and the stories behind them.

By Jack Burden


As we bid farewell to 2023, it’s time to revisit the unforgettable moments from this year’s water ski season. From seemingly impossible comebacks to record-breaking feats, each competition created its own narrative filled with anticipation, intensity, and sheer excitement.

Throughout 2023, skiers showcased their talents across three World Championships—Under-17, Under-21, and Open—two professional tours, the Waterski Pro Tour and WWS Overall Tour, and legacy events like the Moomba and U.S. Masters. The year witnessed record-breaking prize purses, and the quality of streaming for water ski enthusiasts continued to soar. Join us as we count down our selection of the top 10 unforgettable moments from the 2023 season.

After 27 wins in a row, I got to spray a competitor above me in the face with champagne.

Image: @natesmith43

10. Water Skiing’s 27 Club

Nate Smith flew to Europe this summer on an incredible run of form. After winning the Fungliss ProAm in France, his unbeaten streak in professional competitions tallied an impressive 27, one of the longest winning streaks in water ski history.

Following the qualifying rounds of the Botaski ProAm in Spain, where he finished with an equal top score of 1 @ 9.75m (43’ off), Smith seemed on track for another victory. He made easy work of his first head-to-head bracket, advancing to the semifinals. However, up against the young and relatively unknown Italian Brando Caruso, Smith faltered at 10.25 meters (41’ off), coming up half a buoy short of Caruso.

Facing defeat graciously, Smith shared, “After 27 wins in a row, I got to spray a competitor above me in the face with champagne. Congrats [Brando Caruso] for knocking me out… and Freddie [Winter] for ultimately taking first.”

Kaiafas Battle 2023 Skier of the Day!

Image: @waterskibroadcasting_

9. Nicholson Finds Another Gear

One of the hardest workers on the professional circuit, Allie Nicholson had been threatening to post a big score for some time. As the only skier to attend all 12 Waterski Pro Tour slalom events in 2023, her breakthrough came during the European leg at the Kaiafas Battle ProAm. In a qualifying round, the American became only the 12th woman ever to run 10.75m (39.5’ off). Announcer Matteo Luzzeri remarked, “We were waiting for the next lady to run 39, and here we have her; she just hammered it, super confident. She decided now, today’s my day.” Nicholson was elated with the performance, stating, “I almost didn’t ski; I wasn’t feeling good before I skied, and I’m so glad I did. I’m on cloud nine right now.”

Nicholson’s success continued with a victory at the San Gervasio ProAm the following weekend and multiple more successful attempts at 10.75m, including at the Calgary Cup the following month.

Erika Lang at the 63rd Masters

Image: @erikalang36

8. Lang Master’s the 11,000 Point Mark

Erika Lang had one of the closest things our sport has seen to a perfect season. In May, she broke her own world record during the Master’s LCQ. Throughout the season, she won three out of four professional events, broke the World Championships record on the way to her second world title, and closed out the season with a Pan American Games gold.

This incredible season was marked by Lang’s consistency, surpassing 11,000 with increasing regularity. The standout moment for Lang was at the U.S. Masters, where she achieved the second-ever score over 11,000 in a professional tournament by a woman. Her winning score, in the challenging conditions of Robin Lake, would have been enough to secure her a podium place in the men’s event.

Cole McCormick rocks some shades during the 2023 IWWF world waterski championships

Image: @johnnyhayward_photo

7. World’s Returns to “Sunset” Lakes

During the final series of the men’s slalom elimination round at the World Championships, the sun dipped lower on the horizon, presenting competitors with a challenging glare. Joel Howley became the first skier to wear sunglasses during his run, with the boat driver handing them to him for each pass into the glare. Others attempted to mitigate the increasingly difficult glare with eye black. In a candid interview, Freddie Winter commented on the conditions, emphasizing that “we’re all trying to survive as opposed to perform.” Further stating “it’s dangerous, it’s scary, and it minimizes our performance.”

Despite the challenging conditions, most of the top skiers successfully advanced to the finals. Notably, two-time former champion Will Asher suffered an early exit at 10.25m (41’ off). The day concluded with an electrifying eight-way runoff for the final two spots, with young Vincenzo Marino attempting a 10.75m (39.5’ off) pass in what might be the coldest start ever after not skiing for three days. In the end, Cole McCormick and Corey Vaughan secured their tickets to the finals.

rick action at the 2023 IWWF world waterski championships

Image: @johnnyhayward_photo

6. Font Pushes the Envelope

Before Patricio Font broke the world trick record in 2022, it had been the longest-standing record in three-event waterskiing, remaining unbroken since 2011. Proving that it was far from a one-off performance, Font extended his world record to 12,690 at the Master’s LCQ in May, before pulling out the record run in his victories at the Botaski ProAm, setting a professional tournament record, and in the preliminary round of the World Championships, setting a World Championships record.

This top seed position proved critical, as Louis Duplan-Fribourg, after executing a superb hand pass, seemed poised to achieve another big score. However, an equipment malfunction caused his toe strap to release before his final toe trick, preventing a score that could have totaled 12,580 points. Patricio Font, realizing the opportunity presented by Louis’ misfortune, opted for a less challenging run, omitting his Ski-Line-Seven, and cruised to victory with another huge score of 12,470 points.

With a stated goal of breaking 13,000 points, Font is at the forefront of a new wave of trick skiers redefining the boundaries of the sport. Although his potential record of 12,770 was ultimately downgraded upon IWWF review, we expect more big scores from him in the future.

Some moments from the dock during the final day of the King of Darkness.

Image: @waterskibroadcasting_

5. Clutch Performances from the Nightmare

Although still a regular at the top of the podium, Freddy Krueger showed signs of slowing down throughout the season. At the MasterCraft Pro, his second professional win of the season, he very nearly missed the final after failing to qualify on his first two jumps. The 48-year-old veteran then delivered the biggest jump of the tournament on his third and final attempt with 70.7 meters (232 feet).

The following weekend at the Malibu Open, Joel Poland set the pace early with a jump of 69.3 meters (227 feet), which held firm through six skiers and seemed poised to force a jump-off for the title. However, Krueger clinched the championship with an extraordinary 71.0-meter (233 feet) jump on his third and final attempt.

Finally, at the World Championships, Krueger was in serious danger of missing the final, not to mention jeopardizing U.S.A.’s chances in the teams competition, after managing only 56.4 meters (185 feet) from his first two jumps. Yet again, his wealth of experience came to the fore, enabling him to qualify on his third attempt, ultimately going on to finish runner-up in the final and help Team U.S.A. to a world title.

Frenchmen Louis Duplan-Fribourg ready to jump

Image: @johnnyhayward_photo

4. Duplan-Fribourg Takes Flight

In a picturesque setting in the south of France, the WWS Overall Tour opened its 2023 season with an extraordinary performance by Louis Duplan-Fribourg. The Frenchman soared to new heights, setting a national jump record at 68.1 meters (223 feet), igniting the local crowd and taking the lead in the overall competition. Announcer Glen Williams acknowledged Duplan-Fribourg’s achievement, stating, “We’ve talked for a long time about Joel Poland and Dorien Llewellyn, and now there are three names in that category.” Duplan-Fribourg’s performance positioned him among the world’s top overall skiers.

“I was a little stressed after Louis’ big jump; when someone goes out and jumps that far, it’s intimidating,” said Poland in his post-jump interview. In the tightest overall battle of the year, Poland managed to win the event by the razor-thin margin of less than 3 overall points—equivalent to a quarter buoy or a side slide.

As the WWS Overall Tour unfolded, the French contender’s newfound jump form combined with his world-class tricking kept him ahead of the rest of the pack, finishing close second to Poland in all four tour stops. The final stop in Florida saw him extending the French national jump record, and shortly after, he clinched his first professional jump placement at the MasterCraft Pro.

His trick performance at the World Championships broke both the French national and World Championships records in the preliminary round. This impressive foundation paved the way for his breakthrough world title, cementing his status not just as a trick skier but as a rising star among the world’s top overall skiers.

Hanna Wins Jump at 2023 Malibu Open

Image: @malibuopen2023

3. Sweet Home Malib-Ama

The Malibu Open, with over two decades of history, returned to LymanLand in Alabama for the second consecutive year, delivering nearly nonstop record-breaking excitement. First, Regina Jaquess solidified her status as one of the greatest women’s slalomers of all time by setting a new world slalom record of 5 at 10.25 meters (41‘ off) in the preliminary round. Then, Hanna Straltsova became only the third woman ever to jump over 190 feet during the finals, not only claiming victory in the tournament but also securing the season title of the Waterski Pro Tour. Finally, Joel Poland broke his second world overall record in as many weeks, achieving scores of 2@10.25m in slalom, 11,680 in tricks, and 69.3 meters (227 feet) in jump. The latter score very nearly won him the jump event too.

In an interview following her record-breaking performance, Jaquess shared her elation and gratitude, saying, “Oh my gosh, I don’t even know what to say, I’m shaking. I think getting out of two this morning unlocked a little bit of mental pressure because it was my best score. I haven’t gotten a three since my ACL [surgery], so thank you, Andrews Sports [Medicine], for getting me back together. This is unbelievable, and to do it at the Malibu Open behind Malibu Boats… I got mental; I should have run it… it felt so amazing.”

2023 U17 IWWF World Waterski Championships

Image: @nicolasnelson_

2. New Year’s Double Run-Off

For number two, we go all the way back to the very start of the year, to the Under 17 World Championships in Santiago, Chile. This tournament was filled with promising young talents and exhilarating moments on the water. However, the peak of tension unfolded during the boys’ slalom final. Skiing early in the lineup, positioned 3rd and 5th off the dock, respectively, Australian Lucas Cornale and Mexican Nicolas Nelson set an early pace with 3 @ 10.75m (39.5’ off), falling just half a buoy short of the World Championships record. This combined lead persisted through all 12 competitors, necessitating a runoff to determine the winner.

Starting at 11.25 meters (38′ off), Nelson skillfully navigated the pass, narrowly missing four ball at 10.75 to match his initial score. As Cornale entered the course for his chance to challenge, announcer Tony Lightfoot noted, “Nicolas Nelson [is] still in the course.” Cornale fell early around buoy two but promptly signaled for a reride by raising his ski in the air. Meanwhile, Nelson, having initially stayed within the buoy line, was slowly making his way to the shore, perhaps overwhelmed by the occasion. After a split decision from the judges, Cornale’s request for a reride was denied. Nevertheless, the Australian team lodged a formal protest citing unsafe skiing conditions, which was ultimately upheld.

Seizing this opportunity, Cornale successfully completed the 11.25-meter pass, matching Nelson’s runoff score of 3 @ 10.75m. Once again, the young men found themselves in a runoff, this time with Cornale starting first. Unfortunately, the Australian fell early at 11.25m, leaving the door open for Nelson, who ultimately claimed the world title by navigating around three buoys. This dramatic double runoff set the stage for an intense start to the year.

Getting knocked down happens, getting back up is a choice.

Image: @fotografacamilabernal

1. Poland’s New Haircut

It should come as little surprise that our top pick for the number one moment of 2023 involves the hottest commodity in world water skiing right now – Joel Poland. Many moments came to mind for the extraordinarily talented Brit: his first 70-meter (230-foot) jump at the California Pro Am, and his back-to-back world records set live on webcast to close out the professional season—any of these could have easily made this list. However, it was his World Championships effort, ironically one of the only events he didn’t win, that stood out the most.

Poland, who only needed 10,000 points to make the trick final, stood up in his opening toe pass “like clockwork,” as remarked by announcer Glen Williams. Williams added, “I don’t think he has a B run; [he] pretty much just goes for it no matter what.” Fifteen seconds later, Poland, along with his overall aspirations, were in deep water after he fell during his signature Super-Mobe-Five, ruling himself out of the final and overall contention—or so it seemed.

The following day, the down-and-out Joel Poland, who had shaved his head overnight, skied with the determination of a man with nothing to lose. Poland took a bold approach, attacking the 10.25m (41’ off) pass rather than taking the safer route of securing his spot in the final with an S-turn mid-pass. The Brit produced the defining performance of the World Championships, becoming the newest member of the 41-off club. Suddenly, he was back in the overall title race.

Poland described his emotions, saying, “I’m not gonna lie. I lost sleep over that trick run, I’ll probably lose a little more too. But, the job was not done and giving up is not an option. After a small talk with myself and a new f*cking haircut, I felt like I had nothing to lose… that’s a dangerous feeling. Now the rest is history.”

Poland would ultimately come up short of the 70.6-meter (232-foot) jump he needed to secure the world overall title, finishing in second to the well-deserving Louis Duplan-Fribourg. However, his comeback will be remembered as one of the greatest World Championships performances of all time.

Honorable Mentions

  • Jacinta Carroll’s continued dominance on the Yarra
  • Three skiers running 10.25m (41′ off) in a single round at the Kaiafas ProAm
  • Three skiers jumping over 70m (230′) in a single round at the California ProAm
  • The incredibly tight battle for Waterski Pro Tour season title in women’s slalom
  • Nate Smith’s close call with the jump ramp at the Traver’s Grand Prix
  • Dorien Llewellyn’s and Lauren Morgan’s injury comebacks for World Championships medals