Slalom skiing at the US Masters

Quiz: Men’s Slalom Winners at the U.S. Masters this Century

Quizzes

Quiz: Men’s slalom winners at the U.S. Masters this century

2024 will be the 64th edition of the Masters Waterski & Wakeboard Tournament (image: Water Ski Company)

By RTB


3 minute play

In this quiz, you need to name every male skiers to have won the U.S. Masters slalom title since 2000.

The list has just eight skiers, all of whom have won the title at least once. While the quiz might seem easy, there’s a catch – you have to guess them in chronological order. We’ve given you the skiers’ country as a hint. Good luck!

Freddie Winter is making his comeback at the Masters

A Year After Being Snubbed, Winter is Back at the Masters

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A year after being snubbed, Freddie Winter is back at the Masters

Freddie Winter is making his comeback at the Masters

Image: Spencer Shultz

By Jack Burden


A year after being unwelcome at Callaway Gardens, British slalom skier Freddie Winter is making his comeback at the Masters Water Ski & Wakeboard Tournament, stating, “My aim is to win.”

A two-time Masters champion, clinching consecutive titles in 2019 and 2021, Winter was not invited to Robin Lake last year due to alleged unsportsmanlike behavior at the 2022 Masters.

However, the reigning world champion is thrilled to be back for the 2024 edition.

“I won the last two times I was given a fair shake at competing, I’m excited to go try and win a third one.” Winter expressed in an episode of the Distance From Center podcast.

“I’ve had a number of people say to me, you really shouldn’t go, you should show them what you think of that tournament, and I’ve said nope, I’m definitely going to go, my aim is to win,” Winter added.

Over the past year, Winter has arguably been in the best form of his career. Following a runner-up finish on the Waterski Pro Tour, he concluded the season with consecutive wins, including his second World Championships title, followed by his first Moomba Masters title earlier this year.

“It would really fun to in the space of 6-8 months to have won the Worlds, Moomba, and the Masters. To hold them all at the same time would be an absolute dream,” Winter remarked.

Explaining his exclusion from the 2023 Masters by Nautique, the tournament organizer, Winter stated he was deemed ineligible to compete “after a situation at [the previous] edition when I reacted emotionally to a ‘video’ judging decision.”

Reflecting on his absence from last year’s tournament, Winter admitted, “it hurt me not to be there.” He confessed, “I went out the night before and got absolutely black out drunk… during the Master’s final I was out surfing… I was not interested whatsoever in that tournament.”

Regarding suggestions to boycott the Masters, Winter found it intriguing. “it’s interesting that people would even suggest that… I’ve heard it from a great number of people,” he shared. Evidently, the thought never crossed his mind. “I’m built for competing, I’m enjoying it almost more and more,” Winter affirmed.

Ultimately, Winter says it best: “The best protest would be to win it, wouldn’t it?”

Neilly Ross Tricking in the Womens Trick Final at the 2023 Masters

Quiz: Women’s Trick Winners at the U.S. Masters this Century

Quizzes

Quiz: Women’s trick winners at the U.S. Masters this century

Neilly Ross Tricking in the Womens Trick Final at the 2023 Masters

Image: Vince Stadlbaur

By RTB


3 minute play

In this quiz, you need to name every female skiers to have won the U.S. Masters trick title since 2000.

The list has just 12 skiers, all of whom have won the title at least once. While the quiz might seem easy, there’s a catch – you have to guess them in chronological order. We’ve given you the skiers’ country as a hint. Good luck!

Masters Water Ski and Wakeboard Tournament

Masters 2024: Here’s Everyone in the Final Field at Callaway Gardens

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Masters 2024: Here’s everyone in the final field at Callaway Gardens

Masters Water Ski and Wakeboard Tournament

Image: masterswaterski.com

By Jack Burden


The 2024 Masters Water Ski and Wakeboard Tournament is finally here! Official invitations were finalized this weekend at the second Masters Qualifying event held at Sunset Lakes in Groveland, Florida.

The qualified skiers include defending Masters champions from 2023, current world champions, and winners of three other Nautique-sponsored tournaments from the past 12 months. Most of the field was selected based on performances in two qualifying events held in Central Florida over the past two weekends.

A total of 40 athletes qualified to ski in the open ranks, including a number of young first-time competitors such as Charlie Ross, Luca Rauchenwald, Florian Parth, Aaliyah Yoong Hannifah, and Lili Steiner. Other notable qualifiers include Joel Poland, who will be the first man to compete in three events since overall was last contested 24 years ago, and Brittany Greenwood Wharton and Lauren Morgan, both making comebacks from injury to contest the women’s jump title.

Here are all those who have qualified, with the qualifying criteria listed below.

Masters Athletes

Men’s Slalom

  • Frederick Winter (World Champion, Botaski ProAm, & Moomba Masters)
  • Nate Smith (Defending Masters Champion & CA ProAm)
  • Charlie Ross (Qualifier #1)
  • Joel Poland (Qualifier #1)
  • William Asher (Qualifier #1)
  • Cole McCormick (Qualifier #2)
  • Stephen Neveu (Qualifier #2)
  • Adam Sedlmajer (Qualifier #2)

Women’s Slalom

  • Regina Jaquess (Defending Masters Champion, CA ProAm, & Moomba Masters)
  • Jaimee Bull (World Champion & Botaski ProAm)
  • Whitney McClinctock Rini (Qualifier #1)
  • Allie Nicholson (Qualifier #1)
  • Neilly Ross (Qualifier #1)
  • Venessa Leopold Vieke (Qualifier #2)
  • Paige Rini (Qualifier #2)
  • Luisa Jaramillo (Qualifier #2)

Men’s Trick*

  • Patricio Font (Defending Masters Champion, World Champion, Botaski ProAm, & Moomba Masters)
  • Martin Labra (Qualifier #1)
  • Joel Poland (Qualifier #1)
  • Louis Duplan-Fribourg (Qualifier #1)
  • Matias Gonzalez (Qualifier #2)
  • Adam Pickos (Qualifier #2)
  • Dorien Llewellyn (Qualifier #2)
  • Pablo Font (Qualifier #2)

* Jake Abelson achieved the highest score at the first qualifier, but has opted to ski in the Junior Masters instead.

Women’s Trick

  • Erika Lang (Defending Masters Champion, World Champion, & Moomba Masters)
  • Anna Gay Hunter (Botaski ProAm)
  • Neilly Ross (Qualifier #1)
  • Natalia Cuglievan (Qualifier #1)
  • Paige Rini (Qualifier #1)
  • Kennedy Hansen (Qualifier #2)
  • Hanna Straltsova (Qualifier #2)
  • Aliaksandra Danisheuskaya (Qualifier #2)

Men’s Jump

  • Ryan Dodd (Defending Masters Champion, World Champion, CA ProAm, & Moomba Masters)
  • Joel Poland (Qualifier #1)
  • Tobias Giorgis (Qualifier #1)
  • Louis Duplan-Fribourg (Qualifier #1)
  • Freddy Krueger (Qualifier #2)
  • Taylor Garcia (Qualifier #2)
  • Luca Rauchenwald (Qualifier #2)
  • Florian Parth (Qualifier #2)

Women’s Jump*

  • Hanna Straltsova (Defending Masters Champion, World Champion, & CA ProAm)
  • Aliaksandra Danisheuskaya (Qualifier #1)
  • Regina Jaquess (Qualifier #1)
  • Brittany Greenwood Wharton (Qualifier #1)
  • Lauren Morgan (Qualifier #2)
  • Valentina Gonzalez (Qualifier #2)
  • Lili Steiner (Qualifier #2)
  • Aaliyah Yoong Hannifah (Qualifier #2)

* Jacinta Carroll Weeks also qualified for winning the 2024 Moomba Masters, but has retired from professional competition.

Junior Masters Athletes

Boy’s Slalom

  • Tim Wild (Botaski ProAm)
  • Damien Eade (Qualifier #1)
  • Jaeden Eade (Qualifier #1)
  • Bautista Ahumada (Qualifier #2)
  • Andrea Pigozzi (Qualifier #2)
  • Tristan Duplan-Fribourg (Overall – Defending Jr. Masters Champion)
  • Jake Abelson (Overall – Qualifier #1)
  • George Malinovski (Overall – Qualifier #2)

Girl’s Slalom

  • Trinidad Espinal (Defending Jr. Masters Champion)
  • Christiana De Osma (Botaski ProAm & Jr. Moomba Masters)
  • Daniela Kretschmer (Qualifier #1)
  • Solie Stenger (Qualifier #2)
  • Megan Pelkey (Overall – Defending Jr. Masters Champion)
  • Kristy Appleton (Overall – Qualifier #1)
  • Leona Berner (Overall – Qualifier #2)
  • Alexia Abelson (Qualifier #2)

Boy’s Trick*

  • Jake Abelson (Defending Jr. Masters Champion & Botaski ProAm)
  • Tristan Duplan-Fribourg (Overall – Defending Jr. Masters Champion)
  • Bautista Ahumada (Qualifier #1)
  • Tim Wild (Qualifier #1)
  • Francisco Giorgis (Qualifier #2)
  • Adrian Elias (Qualifier #2)
  • George Malinovski (Overall – Qualifier #2)
  • BG Bickley (Qualifier #2)

* Matias Gonzalez and Martin Labra both qualified, but have opted to ski in the senior Masters instead.

Girl’s Trick

  • Hannah Stopnicki (Defending Jr. Masters Champion)
  • Alexia Abelson (Botaski ProAm & Jr. Moomba Masters)
  • Megan Pelkey (Overall – Defending Jr. Masters Champion)
  • Marie Lou Duverger (Qualifier #1)
  • Kristy Appleton (Overall – Qualifier #1)
  • Christiana De Osma (Qualifier #2)
  • Ella Gay (Qualifier #2)
  • Leona Berner (Overall – Qualifier #2)

Boy’s Jump

  • Tristan Duplan-Fribourg (Defending Jr. Masters Champion)
  • Tim Wild (Botaski ProAm)
  • Chase Sparks (Qualifier #1)
  • Jake Abelson (Overall – Qualifier #1)
  • George Malinovski (Overall – Qualifier #2)
  • Jo Nakamura (Qualifier #2)
  • Siarhei Danisheuski (Qualifier #2)
  • Francisco Giorgis (Qualifier #2)

Girl’s Jump

  • Kristy Appleton (Defending Jr. Masters Champion & Jr. Moomba Masters)
  • Leona Berner (Botaski ProAm)
  • Camryn Waters (Qualifier #1)
  • Kate Pinsonneault (Qualifier #1)
  • Megan Pelkey (Overall – Defending Jr. Masters Champion)
  • Marie Lou Duverger (Qualifier #2)
  • Cameron Davis (Qualifier #2)
  • Alexia Abelson (Qualifier #2)
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)
The 58th Nautique Masters

Quiz: Most Consecutive Men’s U.S. Masters Titles

Quizzes

Quiz: Most consecutive men’s U.S. Masters titles

The 58th Nautique Masters

Image: The 58th Nautique Masters (Wakeboarding Magazine)

By RTB


4 minute play

In this quiz, you have to name the male skiers with the most consecutive U.S. Masters titles of all time.

The list contains fifteen skiers, all of whom have won at least three consecutive titles. We have mentioned the event and years of their consecutive titles.

Joel Poland slaloming at the Masters LCQ

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

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

Joel Poland slaloming at the Masters LCQ

Image: @robhazelwoodcreative

By Jack Burden


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qualified Men

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

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

Qualified Women

Slalom (5/8)Tricks (5/8)Jump (4/8)
Jaimee BullErika LangHanna Straltsova
Regina JaquessAnna Gay HunterSasha Danisheuskaya
Whitney McClintock RiniNeilly RossRegina Jaquess
Allie NicholsonNatalia CuglievanBrittany Greenwood-Wharton
Neilly RossPaige Rini
Chris "the Tower" Parrish

Chris Parrish Describes His “Mixed Emotions” on the Masters Qualification Process

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Chris Parrish describes his “Mixed Emotions” on the Masters qualification process

Chris "the Tower" Parrish

The Tower, Chris Parrish — a life of gratitude and water skiing (image: @hoskis)

By Jack Burden


Chris “the Tower” Parrish, one of the greatest slalom skiers of all time, recently joined The Water Skier magazine’s Hit It! Podcast for a wide-ranging conversation on his illustrious career and current ambitions. At 45 years old, Parrish is still going strong, posting multiple scores into 10.25m (41’ off) throughout the 2023 season. He still harbors ambitions to compete among the best at professional and elite events; however, one event we will not see Parrish at is the US Masters.

“Well, the bummer part is the last couple of years I’ve missed just to do the LCQs. I think I’ve missed it by a quarter of a buoy, so I can’t even go to those dang things to try to qualify,” shared Parrish when asked if one of his goals was still to punch his ticket into the Masters.

Parrish has held the course record on Robin Lake since 2005 when he set the seemingly insurmountable score of 4 @ 10.25m (41’ off). Since then, generations of supremely talented skiers have taken to the famed waters at Callaway Gardens, but none have yet to best his mark.

“To be honest with you, I kind of have mixed emotions about this type of qualifying,” said Parrish, reflecting on the majority of spots, sometimes seven out of eight, being determined by a series of amateur qualifying events held in Central Florida in the lead-up to the tournament.

The current criteria were introduced at the height of the pandemic when the lack of both professional and world ranking events in 2020 necessitated a new approach for the 2021 Masters. The puzzle is that three years later, with a thriving worldwide professional circuit, the qualification criteria have remained unchanged.

“I feel like when you travel the world and you got either your elite ranking, say you finished in the top eight, you got your world ranking, or you were the previous Masters winner or previous Moomba Masters winner, I feel like you really earned your way into the Masters,” shared Parrish.

Rather than rewarding season-long consistency and performance at professional events, the current criteria put a huge amount of pressure on two tournaments with perfect conditions, a far cry from the notoriously challenging Robin Lake.

“I just don’t know. I just kind of have mixed emotions about these different qualifying events, and I’ve talked to a lot of the athletes that have to go qualify for it, and I know it’s very, very stressful.”

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.