Waterskiing is a fun hobby for people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy. The exhilarating feeling of grabbing onto a tow rope and zooming across a body of water is one unmatched. Many regard waterskiing merely as a fun pastime during a summer trip or vacation. However, waterskiing is also a competitive sport that people from all around the world partake in. You might not know about some of the most legendary figures to ever grab a tow rope, but it is safe to say that modern waterskiing would not be the same had these people not made their contributions to the sport.
Commonly considered to be the person that invented waterskiing, Samuelson first created the modern technique that involved leaning back slightly and tilting the skis upwards. After he discovered he could jump wakes, he began touring around the state of Minnesota performing in weekend water carnivals. In the summer of 1925, he skied behind a World War I Curtis Flying Boat going 80 miles per hour, the first instance of speed skiing. Today, Samuelson’s original set of water skis hang in the American Water Ski Educational Foundation (AWSEF) Museum located in Winter Haven, Florida.
No discussion of famous water skiers would be complete without a mention of Dick Pope, also known as “Mr. Waterskiing.” Pope founded Cypress Gardens in Florida, a theme park and botanical garden that became known as the premier destination for waterskiing. More than 50 waterskiing world records were broken at Cypress Gardens. Throughout his life, Pope promoted the sport using films, magazine articles, and newsreels that were published across the world. Thanks to the efforts of Dick Pope in the middle of the 20th century, waterskiing received international attention for the first time.
Dick Pope’s son continued his legacy as a pioneer in the sport of waterskiing by winning four straight national overall titles starting in 1947. In that same year, Pope became the first waterskier to ski on his bare feet while holding a tow rope, an accomplishment that received worldwide media attention and marked a new chapter in waterskiing technique. Later in his life Pope, as his father before him, became one of the most prominent waterskiing advisors, managing the U.S Water Ski Team during their competition in Beirut and providing waterskiing tips to notable figures such as the Shah of Iran.
Introduced into the AWSEF Water Ski Hall of Fame in 2006, LaPoint began waterskiing at the age of 7, and his career took off shortly after that. He would go on to become a five-time U.S. Open waterskiing champion. LaPoint also set the Men’s world slalom record on five separate occasions throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Over the decade that spanned from 1977 to 1987, LaPoint won five world slalom titles.
These are just a few of the most notable figures in the history of waterskiing. Check out more information by visiting the official AWSEF American Water Ski Educational Foundation web site, where you can find in depth profiles of these and other famous water skiers. Learn as much as you can so that the next time you grab a tow rope and hit the water you will have a better appreciation of the extraordinary men and women that shaped the sport of waterskiing into what it is today.
Alice Jones specializes in covering the latest trends in summer activities including waterskiing.
Photo Credits: Wikipedia