Records Tumble at the 2023 Malibu Open: Poland Sets Another Overall Record
Joel Poland has a New Pending World Overall Record at the Malibu Open (image: @malibuopen2023)
By Jack Burden
If Regina Jaquess’ outstanding slalom performance on Friday left spectators in awe, the Malibu Open at LymanLand in Alabama continued to deliver record-breaking excitement on Saturday. Hanna Straltsova impressed early, becoming the third woman ever to jump over 190 feet during the finals of the Malibu Open. Her incredible feat equaled Natallia Berdnikava’s European record of 58.6 meters. Straltsova not only claimed victory in the tournament but also secured the season title of the Waterski Pro Tour. It was Joel Poland, however, who stole the spotlight.
In a thrilling display of skill, Poland, who had put in solid scores in slalom (firstname.lastname@example.org) and trick skiing (11,720), set the pace early with a jump of 69.3 meters (227 feet). This jump marked his second world overall record in as many weeks. Poland’s incredible distance held firm through six skiers and seemed poised to force a jump-off for the title. However, Freddy Krueger clinched the championship with an extraordinary 71.0 meter (233 feet) jump on his third and final attempt. It’s worth noting that Poland, arguably one of the most marketable athletes in the sport, lacks a boat sponsor, giving him the freedom to pursue records at any event without fear of losing sponsorship.
Poland, reflecting on his incredible world record-setting performance, shed light on the unique challenges of pursuing overall records. He explained, “In terms of overall records, the hardest part is finding a lake that’s good enough for jump. Trick, it doesn’t really matter, slalom you need a good site, but for jump, you’ve got to have a boat that’s good, a ramp that’s good, and a good driver. They have got all of that right here this weekend. So that makes my job a whole lot easier.” Poland’s words underline the significance of having the perfect conditions for record-breaking performances.
Looking ahead, Poland expressed his hope that there’s still more to achieve, stating, “Hopefully there’s a little more left in the tank. I’ve got one more big tournament left this year, so I’ll try to save a little bit for that.” When asked about his aspirations of breaking the world record and winning the World Championships, he affirmed, “That’s the aim, to finish strong. It’s been a good season, and if I can finish strong at the worlds, that will be the job complete.”
Two world records haven’t been broken in the same weekend since Jaquess and Adam Sedlmajer set the women’s slalom and men’s overall records, respectively, at a tournament at the Isles of Lake Hancock in April 2018. Furthermore, there have not been multiple world records broken in a professional tournament since the 2002 Malibu Open held at Bell Acqua in California, where Emma Sheers, Elena Milakova, and Freddy Krueger famously set world jump records.
In the year 2023, a total of six pending world records have been set so far. If all these records are approved, it would mark the most records set in a single year since 2012, when Natallia Berdnikava set four records and Whitney McClintock set one, in addition to Jaquess’ record.
While world records should not be the sole focus of the sport, as the hyper-focus on records has sometimes hindered its progress, they undeniably serve as a barometer of advancement in terms of technique, training, and technology. Theoretically, the rate of new records should decrease as we approach the limits of human performance. Combining the record-breaking spree of 2023 with the highest professional prize purse in 15 years paints a picture of a thriving elite water skiing scene. What’s especially exciting is that half of these records were set in professional competition and broadcast live, allowing fans to share in the excitement in real-time.
Moreover, despite initial concerns expressed by many skiers about adjusting to Malibu Boats during the broadcast, the title sponsor can proudly walk away from this event with phenomenal publicity. Actions, as demonstrated over this weekend, speak louder than words, confirming that the Malibu pull is indeed world-class.
Poland’s record was officially approved by the IWWF on December 18th, 2023 with a revised trick score of 11,680.