Joel Poland slaloming at the Masters LCQ

Poland Makes History, First Man to Qualify in Three Events for the Masters in 24 Years


Poland makes history, first man to qualify in three events for the Masters in 24 years

Joel Poland slaloming at the Masters LCQ

Image: @robhazelwoodcreative

By Jack Burden

The Masters Qualifying Series kicked off this weekend with slalom and tricks at Lake Ledbetter in Winter Garden on Thursday and Friday, followed by Jump at Sunset Lakes in Groveland on Saturday. The world’s top water skiers competed fiercely to secure their spot in the 2024 Masters. Among them, Joel Poland stood out, qualifying in all three events, a feat not achieved since 2000, when overall was last contested.

While the format has faced criticism, there’s no denying the remarkable results it can produce by pitting the world’s best athletes against each other in a multi-round, single-best-score format. The qualifications to clinch a Masters Invitation this weekend were exceptionally high. On the men’s side, it took 4@10.25m (41’ off), over 12,000 points, and 66.1 meters (217 feet). Achieving any one of these would be impressive, but attaining all in the same weekend is unprecedented.

The level of skiing was phenomenal throughout the event. Highlights included 15-year-old Damien Eade running 10.75m (39.5’ off) to secure his ticket to the Junior Masters, and 18-year-old Charlie Ross setting an under-21 world record of 5@10.25m (41’ off) for his first professional Masters qualification.

The weekend saw four skiers surpass 12,000 points, tying the record set at the Swiss Pro Tricks. Poland and Gonzalez equaled their personal bests, Martin Labra delivered the highest scoring toe run in living memory (5,680), and 16-year-old Jake Abelson achieved an astounding pending world record of 12,970, oh so close to the new frontier of 13k.

Poland had arguably the best tournament of his life on the slalom ski. While he didn’t reach the stratospheric heights of running 10.25m again, his scores of 3.5 and 4 at 10.25m were among his best ever, before he was thrown into a seven-way run-off after the log jam at 4. Facing challenging conditions and a strong tail breeze, Poland was the only one to successfully run the 10.75m (39.5’ off) opener in the runoff, making his way into his first Masters slalom event.

Poland’s first-round scores, 3.5@10.25m, 12,160 points, and 67.4 meters (221 feet), would have set a new overall world record if not for the fact that the event was spread across two different sites. He eked out another foot in the second round of the jump, finishing with the top jump score of the tournament.

This level of competitiveness across all three events is unprecedented, at least on the men’s side. You would have to go back at least 40 years to find another man capable of winning professional events across all disciplines, fittingly to Poland’s compatriot Mike Hazelwood, who dominated both the Moomba and US Masters through the late ’70s and early ’80s.

While several women have previously qualified in all three events since the overall event was sidelined, Joel Poland’s achievement marks the first time any man has accomplished this feat. With potentially three overall world records in the last 12 months and an undefeated streak on the WWS Overall Tour, Poland appears unstoppable. Having clinched professional titles in trick, jump, and overall events, the question now looms: will slalom be next for him?

Qualified Men

Slalom (5/8)Tricks* (4/8)Jump (4/8)
Freddie WinterPatricio FontRyan Dodd
Nate SmithMartin LabraJoel Poland
Charlie RossJoel PolandTobias Giorgis
Joel PolandLouis Duplan-FribourgLouis Duplan-Fribourg
Will Asher

* Jake Abelson qualified also, but has opted to ski in Junior Masters instead.

Qualified Women

Slalom (5/8)Tricks (5/8)Jump (4/8)
Jaimee BullErika LangHanna Straltsova
Regina JaquessAnna Gay HunterSasha Danisheuskaya
Whitney McClintock RiniNeilly RossRegina Jaquess
Allie NicholsonNatalia CuglievanBrittany Greenwood-Wharton
Neilly RossPaige Rini
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Travis Anderson
13 days ago

It’s really strange not seeing Freddy Krueger on the jump list. I look forward to seeing him punch his ticket in the next Qualifier.