Rob Hazelwood wins Lake 38 ProAm

Hazelwood Rises to the Top in the Most Competitive Slalom Field in Over a Decade


Hazelwood rises to the top in the most competitive slalom field in over a decade

Rob Hazelwood wins Lake 38 ProAm

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By Jack Burden

The Lake 38 Pro-Am finished in spectacular fashion. Regina Jaquess delivered a dominant performance, running 10.75m (39.5’ off) in all three rounds to secure her third professional victory of 2024. The men’s final elevated the excitement levels even further. Cole McCormick, fresh off his historic Masters victory, Freddie Winter, eager to reclaim the top spot after missing the finals at his last two events, and Robert Hazelwood, motivated to prove himself after being snubbed from the Masters, found themselves locked in a three-way runoff for the title. Ultimately, it was Hazelwood who emerged victorious, clinching his first professional victory and surpassing McCormick as the youngest to win a men’s slalom event since 2019.

“A win on the Pro Tour is something I’ve dreamed about since day zero and for that to become a reality is truly crazy to me,” shared an elated Hazelwood who now sits atop the Waterski Pro Tour leaderboard. “Anyone who spends 10 [minutes] around me knows that waterskiing is more than a sport to me… it’s pretty much all I think about from morning till night.”

Over the first four professional slalom events, we have seen four different winners on the men’s side, including two young up-and-comers clinching their first professional titles. This level of competitiveness in slalom hasn’t been seen in over a decade; the last time a season started with four different winners was in 2011, when Aaron Larkin, Jonathan Travers, Thomas Degasperi, and Will Asher shared the first four events. In the final event of that year, a relatively unknown 20-year-old from Indiana clinched his first professional title, kicking off over a decade of dominance.

Since that season, Nate Smith has maintained a winning percentage just shy of 75%. Smith, along with Winter, Asher, and Degasperi, have won an incredible 116 out of 130 events since 2012, leaving a whole generation of supremely talented slalom skiers relegated to the periphery. In fact, up until the Lake 38 Pro-Am this weekend, no skier outside the ‘big four’ had ever won a Waterski Pro Tour men’s slalom title.

Part of the transition we are seeing in 2024 could be attributed to the old guard slowing down. Both Asher and Degasperi are in their early 40s, while Smith and Winter are now in their mid-30s, an age where many professional athletes begin to contemplate retirement.

However, the level of skiing and the depth of the field is as high as ever. The cut for finals at both Swiss and Lake 38 required a score of 3@10.25m (41’ off) with a solid backup. There are more skiers than ever capable of running 10.75m.

Rather than capitalizing on a waning field, the more plausible explanation is that young skiers like Hazelwood and McCormick have reached a point in their careers where they have both the skills and experience to go toe-to-toe with seasoned campaigners such as Winter and Smith. Hazelwood, just 24 years old, has competed in 29 out of 38 slalom events since the Waterski Pro Tour began in 2021, finishing in the top eight 21 times. That’s a lot of experience competing in professional finals.

Also promising are the 18-year-old pair of Lucas Cornale and Charlie Ross, who have both recorded scores deep into 10.25m and are starting to seriously challenge for podium positions (Cornale picked up his first professional podium at Moomba earlier this year).

Of course, the smart money is on the old guard to strike back. With 11 professional slalom events left throughout 2024’s jam-packed calendar, we should rightly expect to see the ‘big four’ back on top of the podium. But this level of competitiveness, where no skier, no matter their pedigree, is guaranteed a spot in the final, and anyone in the field is capable of winning, adds a layer of intrigue and excitement to the sport that is sure to keep fans hooked over the upcoming months.

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Flo Hazelwood
8 days ago

Great write up and very interesting statistics 👏