Camille Duvall reflects on water skiing’s golden age
Hall of Famer Camille Duvall, a.k.a., the Golden Goddess of Water Skiing (image: eBay)
In a recent episode of WaterSkier Magazine’s Podcast – Hit It!, the legendary Camille Duvall, hailed as one of the greatest water skiers of all time, took listeners on a journey through the golden age of water skiing. Her anecdotes and insights provided a unique perspective on the sport’s evolution, from its pinnacle in the late ’80s to the challenges it has faced in subsequent decades.
Duvall began by reminiscing about the extraordinary period from the early ’80s to the early ’90s, heralded as the golden age of water skiing. She described it as a time when the sport flourished, enjoying popularity across diverse demographics, thanks to sponsors like Coors Light and the emerging platform of ESPN playing pivotal roles. In her own words, “ESPN was in its youth; they didn’t have the big four [football, baseball, basketball, and hockey], so we had the luxury, privilege, and honor to be on national television every Monday night during the summer.”
Duvall expressed her pride in being part of a sport that had such a vast reach, allowing it to thrive and capture the imagination of the public, stating, “It was fabulous; we would go to the tournaments, we would ski, we’d do all the interviews; they’d have the television truck at the ski site. They would cut the one-hour show overnight and then they’d beam it straight up to ESPN.”
However, Duvall acknowledged the challenges the sport faced when it lost television exposure in the ’90s and 2000s, leading to a decline in sponsor support. Despite this setback, she commended the sport’s resilience in adapting to the times, particularly in embracing streaming platforms. In her words, “I’m really glad that we’ve embraced that; they’re doing a fantastic job with all of [the streaming].”
The discussion then delved into Duvall’s pivotal role in the breakaway Professional Association of Water Skiers (PAWS) Tour in 1990. Safety emerged as a paramount concern for Duvall, particularly given the challenges of skiing on large natural lakes. The PAWS organization aimed to address safety issues and collaborate with sponsors for the benefit of skiers. However, resistance from the existing tour, managed by WATERSKI Magazine, led to the establishment of a separate PAWS tour sponsored by Budget Rent a Car.
Reflecting on the reasons behind the PAWS Tour, Duvall emphasized, “The real impetus for it was safety for the skiers. Unlike today where they’re skiing on a lot of man-made lakes, we were skiing on huge natural lakes, so the wind would roll up, and the back of the jump is lifting out of the water, and they’re like ‘let’s go jumping, we have 15,000 people sitting on the shore’… at a certain point, yeah the show must go on, but you can’t risk hurting someone.”
Despite the initial success of the PAWS Tour, internal conflicts and a desire to unite the sport ultimately led to its discontinuation after just one season.
In closing, Duvall reiterated her deep-seated passion for water skiing, stating, “[I water ski because] I love it, I love the physical pleasure of it, I love being outside, I love being in the summertime, there’s nothing better than being in the boat with all of your friends and going out and water skiing. That’s why I water ski.”