Let’s go take up some space on that masters start list

Slalom Invites Finalized: Are the Best Skiers Truly Represented at the Masters?

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Slalom invites finalized: Are the best skiers truly represented at the Masters?

Let’s go take up some space on that masters start list

Image: @pato.font

By Jack Burden


What makes the best skier in the world? Is it talent, skill, and record-setting scores? Or is it the ability to perform under pressure, to excel regardless of the lake or conditions, and to beat the rest of the field when it counts?

If you were fortunate enough to be on the banks of Sunset Lakes yesterday, you were treated to an exhilarating day of slalom as many of the world’s best skiers vied for qualification into the 2024 Masters Waterski and Wakeboard Tournament.

By the end of the day, the Canadian duo of Stephen Neveu and Cole McCormick had punched their tickets. However, an eight-way tie for the last spot forced another intense runoff. It was the European contingent of Sacha Descuns and Adam Sedlmajer that led the pack, each securing 3@10.25m (41’ off). In a second runoff, former world overall champion Sedlmajer emerged victorious to clinch the final spot.

The Masters has long billed itself as the world’s “most prestigious watersports tournament,” where “only the world’s most elite athletes compete.” However, this image is hard to reconcile with a men’s slalom field selected based on a single score at one of two amateur tournaments held this month.

In men’s slalom, only four of the top 10 finishers on the 2023 Waterski Pro Tour standings qualified for the 2024 Masters. The rest of the field, while undoubtedly talented, placed 11th, 13th, 14th, and 19th last year. Collectively, they have finished on two professional slalom podiums in the last 12 months, both courtesy of Joel Poland, and have placed in the top eight at less than half of the events they’ve entered.

Meanwhile, four men who placed in the top seven on the Waterski Pro Tour last year were not invited to the Masters. Between them, they have 11 professional slalom podiums in the last 12 months, including one victory, and have finished in the top eight at over 75% of the events they’ve entered.

In the current competitive landscape, we see logjams at 3@10.25m almost every weekend. The skier who makes it past three on any given weekend is a lottery, but over a long enough period, the cream rises to the top.

That’s why a season-long measure of consistency and performance is the most accurate way to determine the best athlete in water skiing. The Waterski Pro Tour offers this, with 12 professional slalom events in 2023. Who could argue that their year-end standings aren’t a fair reflection of the current elite?

This isn’t to take away from those who did qualify through the two ‘LCQ’ events; they had to beat the best in the world to earn their spots and at times battled challenging conditions to do so. However, it’s tough to say the current qualification criteria is truly “an acknowledgment of achievement for reaching the pinnacle in a given watersports discipline,” claims from the Masters website notwithstanding.

Qualified Men

SlalomQualification
Freddie Winter1st at Worlds, Moomba, & Botas ProAm
Nate Smith1st at Masters & CA ProAm
Charlie Ross5@10.25 (LCQ #1)
Joel Poland4@10.25 (LCQ #1) – Runoff
Will Asher4@10.25 (LCQ #1) – Runoff
Cole McCormick4@10.25 (LCQ #2)
Stephen Neveu4@10.25 (LCQ #2)
Adam Sedlmajer3@10.25 (LCQ #2) – Runoff

Qualified Women

SlalomTricks
Jaimee Bull1st at Worlds & Botas ProAm
Regina Jaquess1st at Masters, Moomba, & CA ProAm
Whitney McClintock Rini1@10.25 (LCQ #1)
Allie Nicholson4.5@10.75 (LCQ #1)
Neilly Ross2@10.75 (LCQ #1) – Runoff
Venessa Vieke3@10.75 (LCQ #2)
Paige Rini2@10.75 (LCQ #2)
Luisa Jaramillio2@10.75 (LCQ #2)
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

Articles

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.

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

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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.

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

Articles

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

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

Rankings

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

Ranking the best female trickers of all time.

By RTB

Top 10 Rankings


Within the dynamic realm of trick skiing, a select group of female athletes have etched their names into the annals of the sport’s history. With a blend of unmatched performances on grand stages, record-shattering feats, and an unwavering commitment to their craft, these remarkable skiers have woven an unforgettable narrative. This article embarks on a journey through the rankings of trick skiing’s finest, illuminating their accomplishments and profound impact on the sport. Each woman’s extraordinary voyage and unparalleled achievements have solidified their positions as revered icons in the realm of trick 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 trick 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!

Natalia Berdinakava performing a ski line trick

Image: Tiare Miranda

10. Natallia Berdnikava

Legend has it that a young Natallia was waiting in line to swim laps as part of her competitive swim training when she accidentally wandered into the shorter queue for cable trick skiing. After successfully getting up on her first attempt, the coach noticed her potential and pulled her into the Belarusian water ski program, setting her on a trajectory that would significantly alter the course of her life.

Although jump and overall were arguably her strongest events, Natalia picked up four World Championships trick medals between 2007 and 2017, including a runner-up finish in 2007 and being crowned world champion in 2011. She won the 2017 World Games, two U.S. Masters trick titles, and four Moomba Masters trick titles, including three consecutive victories from 2010 to 2012. She was the first woman to score 9,000 points in trick skiing, breaking the world record three times and coming agonizingly close to 10,000 with a personal best of 9,990 points.

Clementine Lucine is the IWSF 2007 Female Athlete of the Year (image: IWSF)

9. Clementine Lucine

In 2011, the Frenchwoman made history by becoming the first woman to trick 10,000 points. This achievement was the culmination of a long and fruitful career. As a junior, she clinched trick and overall titles at the 1998 U17 World Championships. She continued her success, winning a total of eight medals at the Open World Championships between 2003 and 2013.

Clem broke the world record four times throughout her career. She picked up three World Championships medals in trick skiing, with her greatest success coming in 2007 when she won both the tricks and overall disciplines. She also won a U.S. Masters in 2006, a Moomba Masters in 2009, and the World Games in 2013. Clem had the benefit of her professional peak coinciding with the IWWF World Cup era, winning six world cup stops between 2005 and 2013, with a winning percentage of just over 33%.

Ana Maria Carrasco

Image: anamariacarrasco.com

8. Ana Maria Carrasco

The youngest of the legendary Carrasco sisters from Venezuela, Ana Maria featured on eight World Championship podiums between 1979 and 1989, including clinching the world trick title in 1981 and the world overall title in 1983. In total, she picked up four World Championships medals in the trick event. Competing at the inaugural World Games in 1981, she won took gold in tricks and overall. Ana Maria was also a four-time U.S. Masters champion, including three trick titles. She broke the world trick record five times through the 1980s, becoming the first woman to score 8,000 points in 1984. Ahead of her time in the trick event, her top score of 8,350 would only be exceeded by a handful of women over the next two decades.

Image: @juanborrelli

7. Maria Victoria Carrasco

It’s easy to forget that during the 1970s, Venezuela was one of the most dominant forces in world water skiing, only narrowly losing to the United States in the team competition in 1977, with the world record holders Maria Victoria and Carlos Suarez winning both trick titles.

Maria Victoria made history by winning three consecutive World Championships from 1973 to 1977, becoming the first woman to achieve this feat in any discipline. Her prowess extended to the U.S. Masters, where she clinched victory three times. Throughout the 1970s, she broke the world record on four occasions, maintaining her hold on the record for nearly the entire decade. A pioneer of the sport, she significantly elevated the standard of women’s tricking from 4,000 points to her final record of 5,880 points in 1979.

A 20-year Career of Consistent Trick Runs (image: USA-WWF)

6. Britt Larsen-Kovak

It feels almost cruel to separate the identical twins, especially when they were inducted into the IWWF Hall of Fame as a joint entry in 2009. Although not quite ascending to the same extraordinary heights as her sister, Britt showcased remarkable prowess in trick skiing, forming one half of the most dominant trick skiing duo in the sport’s history. The twins frequently performed nearly identical trick runs, with victory often hinging on their precision and speed of execution.

Britt featured on every World Championships podium from 1989 to 1999, earning two coveted gold medals in 1993 and 1997. Her achievements also included triumphs in three out of four stops on the short-lived 1987 U.S. Grand Prix of Water Skiing, along with four U.S. Open championships. During the mid-1990s, Britt had an exceptional run of form, edging ahead of her sister to secure a three-year consecutive streak of U.S. Masters victories from 1993 to 1995 and a 1994 Moomba Masters win.

Natalia Rumjantseva

Natalia Rumjantseva at the 1981 World Championships (image: Youtube)

5. Natalia Rumjantseva

Being a Soviet Union skier during the height of the Cold War, Natalia faced restricted opportunities to compete on the global stage, mostly limited to the World Championships. Despite these limitations, her intense rivalry with Ana Maria Carrasco throughout the 1980s significantly propelled the advancement of women’s trick skiing. From 1979 to 1993, Natalia secured three World Championships trick titles and achieved runner-up positions on three additional occasions. Notably, she broke the world record five times between 1979 and 1984, distinguishing herself as the first woman to surpass both the 6,000 and 7,000-point marks.

Had she been afforded the chance to participate in events like the U.S. and Moomba Masters, there is little doubt that Natalia could have secured an even higher position on this list.

Anna Gay

Image: UA News Center

4. Anna Gay

With a water ski pedigree that proudly boasts two U.S. National Champion trick skiers as parents, Anna was always destined for greatness. She ascended to the summit of the elite ranks in 2015, securing victories at the U.S. Open and the World Championships. This accomplishment was followed by an undefeated season in 2016, where she claimed triumphs at the Moomba Masters, U.S. Masters, and successfully defended her U.S. Open title. As the pinnacle of her achievements that year, she broke the world record, a feat she would replicate once more and uphold for two years.

Anna’s accolades also include consecutive U17 World Championships in 2014 and 2016, along with successive U21 World Championships in 2017 and 2019, culminating in an overall victory at the latter competition. In aggregate, she is a three-time open world champion, a two-time U.S. Masters and Moomba Masters champion, and stands among a select group of three women who have achieved trick scores surpassing 11,000 points.

Still in her early 20s, Anna has the potential to ascend even higher on this list if she continues her current trajectory.

Mandy Nightingale competing at an IWWF World Cup Stop in Changshu, China

Mandy Nightingale competing at an IWWF World Cup Stop in Changshu, China (image: IWSF)

3. Mandy Nightingale

The most dominant female tricker during the golden era of professional trick skiing. Her first major victory came at the 1994 U17 World Championships. However, it was in the 2000s that she ascended to the pinnacle of the elite ranks.

She clinched consecutive World Championships in 2003 and 2005, maintaining a presence on every World Championship podium from 2003 to 2007. Mandy was also a four-time U.S. Open champion and triumphed at the U.S. Masters in 2003 and 2005. In 2006, she broke Tawn Larsen’s seemingly unbeatable world trick record, which had endured for seven years, making it the longest-standing women’s trick record. Perhaps most remarkably, during the period when women’s tricking boasted the largest cash prizes, Mandy emerged victorious in over 50% of IWWF World Cup stops between 2005 and 2009, finishing on the podium in all but two World Cup stops she competed in.

Erika Lang

Image: Camaro

2. Erika Lang

A top-level competitive gymnast during her teenage years, the Arizona native exhibited her remarkable talent from an early age. Erika had a golden run in 2013, clinching victory in both the trick and overall disciplines at the U17 World Championships, and despite her diminutive frame, she narrowly missed securing the slalom title, finishing second in a runoff. Within the same year, she won the Moomba Masters, an IWWF World Cup stop in Mandurah, and the Open World Championships. Adding the icing on the cake, she finished the season by breaking her first world record—becoming only the second woman to reach 10,000 points.

Erika has since elevated women’s skiing to new heights, revolutionizing the sport. Her flipping ability rivals that of the leading male skiers and has transferred into success on the professional wakeboard circuit. She has broken the world record a total of seven times, holding the record for eight of the past ten years. Over the last decade, she has extended the record from a little over 10,000 points to her current mark of 11,360 points.

Thriving in a field of fierce competition, Erika boasts a winning rate just shy of 50% in professional tournaments since her breakout season in 2013. Her accomplishments include five Moomba Masters titles, four U.S. Masters championships, and a U.S. Open victory. On the global stage, she has also earned the title of U21 world champion, Pan American Games champion, and her achievements encompass podium finishes at the Open World Championships in 2017, 2021, and 2023, finally clinching a second world title at the latter event. Erika’s groundbreaking performances have undeniably redefined the landscape of women’s trick skiing.

Tawn Larsen Hahn trick skiing

Image: WATERSKI Magazine

1. Tawn Larsen-Hahn

In the realm of water skiing, many remarkable siblings have left their mark over the years. Families like the LaPoints, Duvalls, Roberges, Llewellyns, McClintocks, and Carrascos have taken turns dominating the sport. However, few siblings can rival the sustained supremacy held by the Larsen twins in women’s trick skiing during the late 1980s and 1990s. Over their two-decade-long career, it was Tawn Larsen who ultimately emerged as the preeminent trick skier in the world. Talented from a young age, she clinched her first Open Women’s title at the U.S. Nationals in 1985, followed by victory at the inaugural U17 World Championships in 1986.

The twins exerted an iron grip on the World Championships, with one of them triumphing in every event from 1989 to 1999. Tawn missed the podium only once during this ten-year period, winning four gold medals in 1989, 1991, 1995, and 1999, along with a runner-up finish to Britt in 1997. At the U.S. Masters, the sisters experienced defeat just once from 1989 to 2000, with Tawn securing victory seven times—more Masters’ trick titles than any other woman. Additionally, she claimed eight U.S. Open titles, won multiple stops on the Budweiser Water Ski Tour, and dominated on the Women of Waterskiing Tour in the late 1990s.

Among her remarkable feats, Tawn’s tenure as the world record holder stands out. She held the record for an astonishing 18 years, which remains the longest streak in the sport’s history. She broke the record four times between 1988 and 1999, solidifying her status as a trailblazer in women’s trick skiing.

Honorable Mentions:

Neilly Ross

Unbeaten throughout 2017, she secured titles at the Moomba Masters, U.S. Masters, and the U17 and Open World Championships. She holds the distinction of being a two-time U.S. and Moomba Masters champion, and is one of only three women to achieve over 11,000 points in trick skiing.

A victim of the most competitive field in the sport’s history, Neilly only narrowly misses the top 10. However, at just 22 years old, we anticipate her ascending the ranks as her career advances.

Whitney McClintock Rini

In 2009, she clinched victories in slalom, tricks, and overall at both the U21 and Open World Championships. Additionally, Whitney secured three consecutive U.S. Masters trick titles from 2009 to 2011.

Karen Bowkett Neville

Best known for her achievements in the overall event, trick skiing stood out as Karen’s strongest discipline. She earned a runner-up position in the tricks category at the 1985 World Championships and dominated the Moomba Masters throughout the 1980s, accumulating numerous trick titles.

Marina Doria & Dany Duflot-Privat

These Europeans are both two-time world champions, dominating the sport in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Greatest Trick Skiers of All Time

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

Rankings

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

Ranking the best male trickers of all time.

By RTB

Top 10 Rankings


In the world of trick skiing, certain athletes have left an unforgettable mark on the sport’s history. From dominating performances in prestigious tournaments to breaking records and achieving unparalleled feats, these trickers have showcased their exceptional talent and dedication. In this article, we delve into the rankings of the greatest trick skiers of all time, celebrating their achievements and contributions to the sport. Each skier’s remarkable journey and extraordinary accomplishments have solidified their status as legends in the world 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 best male trickers in the history of water skiing. So sit back, enjoy, and maybe even debate a little over our choices—after all, that’s the fun of it!

Mick Neville of Australia

Image: AWWF

10. Mick Neville

During the 1980s, the Moomba Masters was the most significant professional tournament for trick and overall skiers, as the U.S. Masters remained amateur until 1985, and the Coors Light Water Ski Tour focused solely on slalom and jump events. Amidst this competitive landscape, one skier stood out as the dominant force in the trick event on the Yarra River – Mick Neville. His prowess in trick skiing was further highlighted by his podium appearances at every World Championships from 1981 to 1987, including a runner-up finish to Patrice Martin in England during the 1987 event.

A strong competitor in overall as well, Neville has the unfortunate distinction of winning the most World Championships medals (eight) without ever taking home a gold.

Tori Baggiano trick skiing

Image: USA-WWF

9. Tory Baggiano

The Colorado native was the only man to rival the dominance of Patrice Martin and Cory Pickos during the late 1980s and early 1990s. His exceptional skills allowed him to end Pickos’ six-year streak as national champion, winning the U.S. Nationals in 1986 and the U.S. Open in 1988. In 1990, he made history by becoming the first man to break the 11,000-point mark in trick skiing. Notable victories include the 1993 World Championships, 1990 Pan American Championships, and three U.S. Masters titles. Despite significant progress in the sport over the past 30 years, Baggiano remains one of the greatest toe trickers of all time.

Carlos Suarez trick skiing

Image: USA-WWF

8. Carlos Suárez

In the 1970s, Venezuela produced some of the greatest water skiers in the world, and Suárez was chief among them. As a four-time world record holder, he was the first to achieve the impressive feats of tricking over 6,000 and 7,000 points. His skill and consistency earned him back-to-back world titles in 1975 and 1977, along with a runner-up position in 1979. Additionally, Suárez secured two U.S. Masters titles in 1976 and 1979, cementing his status as a prominent figure in trick skiing during that era.

Siemers named to Hall of Fame Class of 2023 (Image: USA-WWF)

7. Jimmy Siemers

Known primarily for his overall skiing, the exceptional talent hailing from Texas was equally formidable in the trick event. As a junior, Siemers was an Under-17 and Under-21 World trick, jump and overall champion. He clinched the tricks title along with the overall title at the 2003 World Championships in Florida, showcasing his versatility and excellence in both disciplines.

Throughout his career, he was always a contender on the professional circuit, winning tricks four times at the U.S. Masters, in 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2011, and twice at the Moomba Masters, in 2011 and 2018. Additionally, he secured victories at four IWWF World Cup stops held in Doha, Qatar (twice), Putrajaya, Malaysia, and Mandurah, Australia. Finally, in 2008, he dethroned Nicholas Le Forestier and ascended to the number one spot on the elite rankings, a testament to his exceptional talent.

Pato Font celebrates after his winning trick run at the 2023 World Championships

Pato Font celebrates after his winning trick run at the 2023 World Championships (Image: Johnny Hayward)

6. Patricio Font

Hailing from Mexico, the young prodigy, Pato Font, has taken the water skiing world by storm, leaving a trail of broken records on his path to the top. Font’s talent has been evident from an early age, securing back-to-back Under-17 World Championships in 2016 and 2018, followed by repeat victories in the Under-21 World Championships in 2021 and 2023. His incredible journey continued as he claimed the World Championships title in both 2019 and 2023, with a runner-up finish in between in 2021, further cementing his status as one of the sport’s biggest rising stars.

Font has dominated the professional circuit in recent years, securing four consecutive U.S. Masters titles from 2019 to 2023, back-to-back Moomba Masters titles in 2020 and 2022, and victory at the 2021 U.S. Open. To top it all off, Font etched his name in history by breaking Aliaksei Zharnasek’s long-standing world record in 2022, and remarkably, he has since exceeded it twice.

Just twenty-one years of age, Font is on track to become one of the greatest trickers of all time.

Image: Water Skier Magazine

5. Ricky McCormick

McCormick’s incredible talent in waterskiing was evident from a young age when, at only 14 years old, he wowed audiences with his jumps and tricks as the opening act on The Ed Sullivan Show. He shared the stage that night with none other than the Rolling Stones.

McCormick held the world trick record and was a consistent presence on every World Championships podium from 1967 to 1973, ultimately claiming the gold medal in 1971. Additionally, he was a seven-time U.S. Masters trick champion, over a twelve year span from 1966 to 1977. He competed at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where he secured the sport’s only Olympic gold in the trick skiing category, further solidifying his status as one of the sport’s legends.

Perhaps McCormick’s greatest legacy in trick skiing is his claim to being the first to land a flip on skis. Valued at only 350 points when first approved, his flip didn’t make it into his regular trick run. However, he would often throw it for the crowd on his way back to the dock.

Aliaksei "Ace" Zharnasek flipping

Image: trickskiboss.com

4. Aliaksei Zharnasek

The muscular Belarusian, known simply as “Ace” for his remarkable talent in trick skiing. Zharnasek held the title of the number one ranked elite tricker for seven seasons, including four consecutive years from 2011 to 2014. His world trick record of 12,570 stood for eleven and a half years, making it the longest-standing trick record in the history of the sport. His contributions were pivotal in Belarus’ unexpected victory at the 2011 World Championships, and he maintained an unyielding presence on every World Championships podium from 2005 to 2013. Notably, he secured three consecutive world titles in 2009, 2011, and 2013.

With an impressive resume boasting over 20 professional victories, Zharnasek maintained a winning record of greater than 50% in the 2010s. His accomplishments include being a four-time U.S. Masters champion, five-time Moomba Masters champion, along with five U.S. Open champion titles. He secured three IWWF World Cup stop victories in 2009, 2010, and 2012. Ace’s prowess on the water and his remarkable achievements place him amongst the top trickers of all time.

The European champion Patrice Martin performs a Trick on September 3, 1979 on the Castel Gandolfo lake.

The European champion Patrice Martin performs a Trick in 1979 on the Castel Gandolfo lake (image: Le Monde)

3. Patrice Martin

The Frenchman burst onto the world stage as a trick phenom while still a teenager and eventually concluded his career as one of the greatest overall skiers of all time. He was the second man to trick 10,000 points, achieving the feat a mere two months behind Cory Pickos. Throughout his illustrious career, Martin broke the world trick record seven times between 1978 and 1996, helping extend the record from 7,000 to 11,000 points.

Martin’s achievements in trick skiing include an impressive haul of seven World Championships trick medals, which includes four world titles secured in 1979, 1985, 1987, and 1991. At the World Games, Martin was unbeaten through the first four editions from 1981 to 1993, earning himself a spot among the top 10 all-time medal winners across all sports. Moreover, he boasts 16 European trick titles, with victories spanning from 1978 to 2001. His dominance extended to the professional circuit, where he clinched numerous victories, such as three U.S. Masters titles in 1978, 1988, and 1989, and three U.S. Open titles in 1991, 1993, and 1995. Martin’s remarkable talent and achievements have firmly cemented his status as one of the sport’s legends.

Nicholas LeForestier Trick Skiing

Image: IWSF

2. Nicholas Le Forestier

The first man to trick 12,000 points, this Frenchman left his mark on the sport by breaking the world record five times and holding it for an impressive eleven and a half years during the early 2000s. He showcased his exceptional talent on the world stage, securing top-two finishes in seven out of nine World Championships from 1995 to 2011. He won the World Championships in 2001, and had back-to-back wins again in 2005 and 2007. Le Forestier’s peak performance coincided with the heyday of professional trick skiing in the early 2000s, during which he asserted his dominance at IWWF World Cup events, clinching gold at an impressive nine out of eleven events between 2004 and 2007.

Throughout his career, he maintained the distinction of being the number one ranked elite tricker from 2002 to 2007. At the U.S. Masters, he secured an incredible nine titles, including an unbeaten streak of five consecutive wins from 2001 to 2005. Additionally, Le Forestier was a frequent champion at the Moomba Masters, with three consecutive victories from 2001 to 2003, adding to his long list of professional victories.

Cory Pickos Trick Skiing

Tricks skier Cory Pickos among Hall of Fame Class of 2012 (Image: The Ledger)

1. Cory Pickos

Competing in an era where professional trick tournaments were scarce, Pickos may not have as many professional titles as Le Forestier, but he undoubtedly stands as the greatest tricker our sport has ever seen. A true trailblazer in world trick skiing, his career spanned a remarkable four different decades. Pickos achieved the historic feat of being the first man to break the 10,000-point mark in trick skiing. Moreover, he set an astounding 24 world records between 1977 and 2000. At the young age of 13, he set his first record at 6,860 points, and by the twilight of his career, he had raised the bar to an impressive 11,920 points. Remarkably, Pickos held the world trick record for 17.5 years during this 23-year period.

His accolades in competitions further solidify his standing in the sport. Pickos secured back-to-back World Championships in 1981 and 1983, setting the tone for his consistent podium appearances over the next two decades, where he earned another four medals. Domestically, he boasted an impressive ten U.S. national champion titles, including six U.S Open titles. He won eight U.S. Masters titles and maintained an undefeated record in the short-lived 1987 U.S. Grand Prix of Water Skiing, winning all four events. Moreover, he showcased his dominance on the Coors Light Water Ski Tour during the 1980s, triumphing at the few stops that included the trick event—such as Vallejo, CA in 1987 and 1989, and Wichita, KS in 1989.

Honorable Mentions:

Joshua Briant

Remarkable as a junior, Briant won the Under-17 World Championships in 2012, back-to-back Under-21 World Championships in 2013 and 2015, the 2014 Moomba Masters, featured on the podium at the World Championships in 2015 and 2017, and took gold at the 2017 World Games. He suffered serious injuries after a jump crash in 2017, and although he has since posted scores back over 11,000 points, he appears to have effectively retired from top-level competition.

Russel Gay

Among the first 10 men to trick 10,000 points, he picked up medals at three consecutive World Championships from 1999 to 2003, matched Pickos’ 10 U.S. national titles, was the 1996 U.S. Open champion, and won an IWWF World Cup stop in Changshu, China in 2004.

Kreg and Jaret Llewellyn

The brothers from Canada were among the first to trick over 10,000 points and between them picked up a World Championships gold, a U.S. Masters title, and multiple U.S. Open and Moomba Masters victories.

Aymeric Benet and Adam Pickos

Both are two-time world champions, but narrowly miss the top 10 based on a lack of professional victories.

top 10 female jumpers

The 10 Greatest Women’s Jumpers of All Time, Ranked

Rankings

The 10 Greatest Women’s Jumpers of All Time, Ranked

top 10 female jumpers

Ranking the best female jumpers of all time.

By RTB

Top 10 Rankings


In the thrilling realm of water ski jumping, a group of remarkable women have etched their names in the sport’s history. With every jump, these athletes defied gravity and pushed the boundaries of human potential. As we embark on this journey through the annals of women’s jumping, we invite you to witness the trailblazers who have elevated the sport to new heights. From historic victories to ground breaking records, their stories paint a portrait of passion, perseverance, and sheer excellence.

‘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 jumpers 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!

Sue Lipplegoes

Image: AWWF

10. Sue Lipplegoes

Sue represented Australia in six World Championships, featuring on every jump podium from 1979 to 1985, and securing runner-up positions in three of those World Championships. She was dominant on the Yarra, winning multiple Moomba Masters titles during the 1980s. Although it was a difficult trip for Australians to justify while still an amateur event, she traveled to and won the 1984 U.S. Masters. A true pioneer, she marked history in 1981 as the first woman to surpass the 40 meter mark, extending and maintaining the world record for five years throughout the 1980s.

June Fladborg of Denmark

June Fladborg kæmper for EM-guld (image: Claus Beyer)

9. June Fladborg

Hailing originally from Denmark, June, like many Europeans, relocated to Florida to facilitate year-round training. She embarked on an incredible journey of success in the latter half of the 2000s, securing victory in just shy of 50% of all professional tournaments she competed in between 2005 and 2010. Throughout this period, she attained the coveted number one elite jumper position three times, achieved runner-up positions at the World Championships on two occasions, clinched four U.S. Masters titles (including an impressive streak of three consecutive wins from 2008 to 2010), and secured back-to-back Moomba Masters titles in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, capping off an extraordinary career, she broke Elena Milakova’s long-standing world record.

Since her retirement from professional water skiing, June, alongside her husband Tom Asher, is dedicated to carrying forward the legacy of her coach, mentor, and former partner, Ray Stokes, through their involvement with Stokes Skis.

Image: Natallia Berdnikava

8. Natallia Berdnikava

An exceptional overall skier, Natallia held a pivotal role in securing victory for the Belarus team at the 2011 World Championships, where she won individual gold in the tricks, jump, and overall disciplines. Her collection of World Championships medals tallies to an impressive 10, including podium finishes in jump at the 2007, 2013, and 2017 events. Natallia also secured World Games titles in tricks and jump in 2017.

On the professional circuit, Natallia was incredibly consistent, securing top-three placements in 75% of all jump events she participated in from 2005 to 2019. Her notable victories include the Moomba Masters, U.S. Open, and three U.S. Masters jump titles, triumphing in 2007, 2011, and 2012. Natallia broke the world jump record three times between 2011 and 2012 and becoming the first woman to achieve a 190-foot jump.

Angeliki Andriopoulou jumps 54.9m to keep her title of World Champion

Angeliki Andriopoulou jumps 54.9m to keep her title of World Champion. (image: IWSF)

7. Angeliki Andriopoulou

A consistent presence on the World Championships podium throughout the 2000s, the Greek champion earned a remarkable tally of seven medals between 2001 and 2009. This collection included three notable runner-up finishes in the overall category and one in trick skiing. However, it is her triumphant streak of three consecutive world jump titles from 2005 to 2009 that stands as her paramount achievement.

Within the professional circuit, Angeliki maintained an exceptional track record. She secured a podium placement in a staggering 85% of all tournaments she entered, and a winning rate exceeding 40%. Adept in all conditions, she ended Emma Sheers’ era of dominance on the Yarra River by clinching the Moomba Masters title in 2007. Other notable professional victories include the 2007 U.S. Open, back-to-back wins at the Malibu Open in 2006 and 2007, and four victories in IWWF World Cup stops spanning from 2005 to 2008.

Sherri Slone

Image: USA-WWF

6. Sherri Slone

Raised in Kansas, Sherri began her skiing in a local sand pit before becoming one of the first in a long list of elite jumpers to blossom under the coaching of Jay Bennett in Louisiana. Sherri’s entrance on the professional circuit was instantly felt when she became the first individual to defeat Deena Brush Mapple on the pro tour in almost three years. She went on to win four consecutive stops that year on the 1990 Michelob Dry Waterski Tour, eventually earning her the coveted title of tour champion. Her success continued into the following year, 1991, where she defended her title with five out of seven wins on the pro tour, in addition to clinching victories at the U.S. Open and the World Championships. Unfortunately, women’s jump was dropped from the pro tour in 1992, right at the peak of her career. Undeterred, Sherri managed to accumulate over 20 professional titles throughout the 1990s. In 1995 she had another notable season, winning the U.S. Masters, a third U.S. Open title, claiming a bronze at the World Championships, and equaling Deena Brush Mapple’s world record.

Off the water, she played a pivotal role alongside Jennifer Leachman in the formation of the Women of Waterskiing (WOW) tour that gave a platform to female athletes in the late nineties after they were excluded from the pro tour.

Elena Thomsen-Milakova

Elena Thomsen-Milakova. (image: Swiss Waterski & Wake)

5. Elena Milakova

Growing up on the outskirts of Moscow during the waning years of the Soviet Union, Elena honed her skills by practicing in a swimming pool during the winter months. Her initial international triumph materialized at the 1997 World Championships in Colombia, where she secured victories in both jump and overall categories. In the jump event, she followed up with another victory at the 2001 World Championships, and even in the later phase of her career, achieved a runner-up position in 2007 while competing for Switzerland under her married name, Elena Thomsen.

On the professional circuit, she clinched a Moomba Masters championship and was a three-time U.S. Masters champion. She broke the world jump record on three occasions, becoming the first woman to jump over 55 meters and 180 feet. Her final record of 56.6 meters remained unbroken for over eight years.

During the short-lived era of women’s Ski Fly, Elena excelled. Her world Ski Fly record, established at 69.4 meters during the 2002 U.S. Masters, holds to this day, making it the longest-standing record in world water skiing.

Elizabeth Allan Reid

Elizabeth Allan Reid. (image: Gary & Carol Warren)

4. Liz Allan

Demonstrating extraordinary talent from an early age, Liz made her entrance onto the water skiing stage in 1965, becoming only the second woman to achieve a 100-foot jump while just 14 years old. Even more astonishingly, the same year, she traveled to Surfer’s Paradise in Australia for the World Championships and emerged victorious in the jump and overall events. This remarkable feat set the tone for her future accomplishments.

Liz would go on to win a total of four World Championship jump titles, only missing the podium once between 1965 and 1975. Her dominance was equally impressive on home soil, where she secured six U.S. National jump titles and seven U.S. Masters jump championships, including five consecutive victories as a teenager from 1966 to 1970. In addition, Liz broke the world jump record on five occasions throughout her illustrious career.

Emma Sheers Waterski Jumping

Image: Sunshine Coast Daily

3. Emma Sheers

Emma and her younger brother Curtis came up under the tutelage of Ray Stokes, whose innovations in jump ski design and technique played a pivotal role in revolutionizing the sport during the 1990s. Displaying talent from an early age, Emma accomplished the remarkable feat of clinching back-to-back U17 World Championships in 1990 and 1992, a record that remains unbroken among girl’s jumpers to this day. Particularly dominant on her home turf, Emma’s prowess was highlighted by a streak of five consecutive Moomba Masters jump titles throughout the 1990s. Her domination continued with another impressive run of six consecutive titles in the early 2000s, suffering only a single defeat on the Yarra between 1994 and 2005.

After securing the runner-up position at the 1995 World Championships, Emma claimed gold in the jump event at the 1997 World Games and both the 1999 and 2003 World Championships. On the professional circuit, she won the season championship of the Café de Columbia World Cup in every year that women’s skiing was included from 1997 to 1999 and followed up with victory on the 2000 U.S. Pro Water Ski and Wakeboard Tour. Emma was also a six-time jump champion at both the U.S. Masters and U.S. Open, losing only once between 1996 and 2003 at the latter event.

Despite narrowly missing the distinction of becoming the first woman to jump 50 meters, Emma broke the world jump record three times during her career. Notably, she also co-held the women’s Ski Fly record with compatriot Toni Neville for two years, achieving a distance of 66.6 meters.

Deena Brush from Sacramento California

Image: Trading Card Database

2. Deena Brush Mapple

Known as the “queen of water skiing,” this California native was a perennial contender across the slalom, jump, and overall disciplines throughout her illustrious 25-year career. Her notable achievements include a ‘grand slam’ in 1987, securing overall victories at the World Championships, U.S. Nationals, and U.S. Masters. Additionally, she holds the distinction of being the only woman to simultaneously hold the world slalom and jump records. However, it was in the jump event where her talents truly shone.

Deena clinched the world jump champion title an impressive four times, only missing the podium once between her first medal in 1979 and her last victory in 1989. Her dominance extended to the U.S. Masters, where she claimed the jump title on nine occasions, including an extraordinary streak of seven consecutive victories from 1986 to 1993. In addition, her visits to Melbourne resulted in multiple Moomba Masters jump titles.

On the pro tour, her prowess was unmatched throughout the late 1980s. Deena secured the season champion title for three consecutive years, from 1987 to 1989, on the Coors Light Water Ski Tour. Her exceptional streak included a run of 22 consecutive tour stop victories spanning from 1987 to 1990, and she simultaneously accomplished an unbeaten season on the 1987 U.S. Grand Prix of Water Skiing. Moreover, she broke the world jump record five times over her career, significantly advancing women’s jumping distances from 39.3 meters in 1979 to 47.5 meters by her final record in 1988.

Jacinta Carroll at the Moomba Masters

The calm before the storm (image: @jacintacarroll)

1. Jacinta Carroll

Another of Ray Stoke’s protégés, the Australian known as “Rabbit” has redefined the boundaries of achievement in women’s jumping. While still a teenager, she secured victories in the Moomba Masters, LA Nite Jam, and the U21 World Championships all in 2011. At her final U21 World Championships she clinched both the jump and overall titles.

Since losing to Jutta Lammi at the 2013 Moomba Masters, Jacinta has won every single professional event she has competed in. Nobody, not even the great Andy Mapple, has ever achieved this level of sustained dominance in the sport. Her unparalleled streak includes nine consecutive Moomba Masters titles and seven consecutive U.S. Masters titles, with the latter streak only ending after a forced absence in 2021 due to Covid-related travel restrictions. After finishing as the runner-up at the 2011 World Championships, Jacinta went on to secure five consecutive world titles between 2013 and 2021. She has held the world record since 2015, breaking it five times, and in 2021, became the first woman to jump 200 feet.

After she was controversially dropped by Nautique, her major sponsor, for setting the world record behind the ‘wrong boat,’ it appears Jacinta has effectively retired from the professional circuit. She has made only brief cameos over the last two years to continue her winning streak at the Moomba Masters. Only recently turning 30, she will be a substantial loss to our sport. However, having won everything there is to win, we can’t blame her for moving on to the next chapter of her life.

Honorable Mentions:

Hanna Straltsova

The Belarusian is one of only three women to jump over 190 feet and finished runner up to Carroll at both the 2019 and 2021 World Championships. She has dominated women’s jump in the Australian’s absence, clinching two U.S. Masters titles and finishing on top of the Waterski Pro Tour leaderboard every year from 2021 to 2023.

Toni Neville

Featured on the World Championships jump podium three times, including a runner-up position in 1999, she was also a U.S. Masters and U.S. Open champion. In an extraordinary streak of form, she broke the world record four times in 2000, achieving this feat twice in a single weekend.

Brenda Nichols Baldwin

Remembered as the first woman to jump 50 meters, she accomplished this feat in only her second tournament after women were allowed to raise the ramp to five and a half feet in 1997. Brenda was also a world jump champion in 1995 and U.S. Masters jump champion in 1997.

Cindy Todd

A two-time world jump champion, clinching gold in 1979 and 1983, along with a runner-up finish in 1977. She also triumphed at the 1982 U.S. Masters. She held the world jump record for a single day in 1982.

Willa Worthington, Nancie Rideout, and Renate Hansluwka

Assigning rankings to skiers from the 1950s and 1960s is a complex task, yet all three of these exceptional women merit acknowledgment as two-time world jump champions.

Updated: in the original article Sherri Slone’s home state was incorrectly listed as Arkansas.