In Memoriam: Willa Cook, 1928-2017

Willa Cook, a three-time world overall water ski champion, one of the greatest female show skiers of all time, and a member of the inaugural class (1982) of the USA Water Ski Foundation Water Ski Hall of Fame, passed away on Saturday. She was 89 years old. Information on services will be published in this space as soon as it becomes available. The following is republished from her Water Ski Hall of Fame biography.

When she came East from her home in Lake Oswego, Ore., in 1946 to enter her first National Water Ski Championships at Holland, Mich., the organized sport was just emerging into true national status. She won the slalom, tricks and overall titles to launch a tournament career that was equaled only by her years as water skiing’s most talented show skier.

Willa began water skiing in 1942 at the insistence of her father Wally who was operating a marina in Lake Oswego.  She was 14 at the time, and her interest in athletics was confined to her training to become an AAU diver.

However, she was spending some time on the water riding an aquaplane, and when her father insisted she try a pair of water skis, she was hooked.  Her first time around the lake convinced her that this was  “the greatest of all sports.”

Three years later, Don Ibsen, one of water skiing’s pioneers, brought a traveling ski show to Lake Oswego, and when he saw Willa’ s natural ability, he invited her to perform a hula act with his troupe and convinced her that she should aim for the national championships.

Ibsen proved to be a good judge of talent.  Until her retirement from active competition in 1955, Willa won the overall crown in eight of the nine Nationals she entered.  She picked up 18 national event titles and never lost in tricks at the Nationals.  She scored a rare “clean sweep” of all three events in the 1949 and 1951 Championships.

She represented the U.S. at four world tournaments – – in 1949 at Juan Les Pins, France; 1950 at Cypress Gardens; 1953 at Toronto, Canada, and 1955 at Beirut, Lebanon. She won the overall title three times and scored five world event victories in the process.

Willa describes as her “proudest moment” in the sport her carrying the American flag in the victory parade of nations at Beirut as the band played “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Willa’s show career began in earnest in 1947, when she organized the lake Oswego Water Ski Club and encouraged the members to form a traveling ski show that played at festivals.  A ballet routine she developed became the most popular act in the show.

Word of her talent spread, and in 1948 Dick Pope invited her to join the Cypress Gardens Show to perform as prima ballerina and teach his aquamaids.  She continued as the show’s star attraction for 10 years, all the while designing costumes, choreographing routines, directing films, performing in numerous motion picture and TV Productions, and teaching water skiing to many young hopefuls who later became champion tournament skiers as well as show stars. She was the first to employ a musical background for show skiing.

Among her many other show innovations were the back swan, the backward jump (which they said at the time couldn’t be done), the toe 360 and the swivel swan.  Willa used the swivel swan in her winning tricks routine at the 1950 world tournament, but it was later outlawed as a “gadget not readily available to all.” However, her swivel ski became the standard for water ski shows ever since.

Innovations in tricks came naturally for Willa.  “My theory is if you can feel it, ski it,” she once commented, adding “I do a lot of analyzing and dry-run skiing in my mind and then I transpose it to the practice session.” That’s the way she taught her skiing pupils, and it serves as a successful formula for trick skiers to this day.

As it has done for so many others, water skiing opened a whole new world for Willa. “I was just a country girl,” she says. “I knew pigs and chickens and horses, and I knew water, but little did I dream where water skiing would take me.”

Marriott Courtyard Is Host Hotel For Florida State Championships

The 2017 Florida State Championships & Cory Pickos Pro will take place July 7-9 in Santa Rosa Beach, Fl. Entries are being processed through the Online Registration system in the Events and Registration tab on the USA-WS website.

The Official hotel of the Florida State Water Ski Championships will be the Marriott Courtyard in Miramar Beach, Florida. The hotel is situated 3 miles from the ski site and conveniently located in walking distance to restaurants, shops, movie theaters, Publix and Starbucks.

They are offering at least a 20% discount on rooms if the link on is used.  The room rate for a king or double queen is 215.00.  You will not be able to beat the convenience of its location or price compared to other chain hotels located in Destin or Panama City.

Please keep in mind it is peak season in our area of some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and ski lakes.

We look forward to your arrival!

Clarification Regarding AWSA Rule 10.06C


With the changes that occurred in changing the ZBS rule, the Rules Committee discovered that when the rule was amended the following portion of rule 10.06C should have been kept in place. There may still be skiers who want to ski above their age division maximum speed and accept the lower speed as their score. It will not put them on the IWWF ranking list this way nor use the new ZBS matrix, but it will allow some skiers maybe for health reasons to use this option.

The scoring program has already been upgraded and to have two types of scoring for the few that want this option is not a procedure that will be offered.  So to score this option the skier will be started at the age division maximum speed and the times will need to be verified manually.

10.06C: A skier may elect to start at a speed higher than his division maximum speed, up to his respective Open Division maximum speed, and may not return to his division maximum speed on subsequent passes. Any passes skied at that higher speed shall receive credit for buoys as though they were being run at his division maximum speed.

Introducing Nautique Swervin’ Weekends

Nautique is proud to announce a brand-new series of events for 2017 dubbed Nautique Swervin’ Weekends presented by HO Skis, USA Water Ski and the American Water Ski Association (AWSA). Designed to expose people to water skiing in a fun and laid-back environment, the nine-stop event series kicks off in April and will be pulled by the record-setting Ski Nautique 200. Completely free of charge for all participants that sign up, these USA Water Ski sanctioned events are aimed to bring everyone together to further the growth of water skiing around the country.