Foundation Announces Award Of Distinction Recipients

The USA Water Ski Foundation Hall of Fame Selection Committee is pleased to announce the 2015 Water Ski Hall of Fame Award of Distinction recipients. Hal Hamilton, Frank Harrison, Dr. Michael Morgan, Chet Raley and Gary Warren have made extraordinary contributions to our sport and will be honored – along with Hall of Fame inductees Bill Bowness, Kim Laskoff, Jennifer Leachman-LaPoint and Jeff Rodgers – at the Water Ski Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on April 18 at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Fla.

Hal Hamilton

Hal Hamilton was an avid tournament skier and Cypress Gardens show skier, He also was a Correct Craft dealer and bought Robert’s Sport Goods, selling boats, water skis and sports equipment. With his strong passion for the sport, Hal was determined to find ways to promote water skiing. One of the pioneers of the early pro events, Hal founded the Iron Man Tournament in1976. The tournament proved to be a great concept that brought high spectator attendance, publicity and media attention to the sport. The Iron Man was a highlight event on the water ski calendar and ran annually until the Pro Tour started in the 1980s.

Frank Harrison

Frank devoted more than a quarter of a century of his life to the administration of the sport of water skiing. In 1972, Frank founded Wet Set Village, one of the first residential water ski communities in the country. With a passion for the sport, Frank started his administrative career as a Western Regional Councilman, moved up to executive vice president and then director for the region. Frank served as treasurer of AWSA in the late 1980s and then as chairman of the board. Frank continued his service on the International Activities Committee as both a member and as chairman for more than 25 years, during which time he was the team manager for many U.S. Elite Team victories in multiple Pan Am and World Championships as well as at the Pan American Games. Frank was the U.S. representative from the Pan Am Confederation to the IWWF Congress for many years and also a member of the IWWF Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

Dr. Michael Morgan

Dr. Michael Morgan had a sterling career on the water winning 43 U.S. national titles, setting nine U.S. records, and was a member of three U.S. World Championship Teams. He began skiing in 1972, won his first Nationals in 1975 and joined the Pro Tour in 1980.  Mike was a four-time Pro Tour champion and a three-time U.S. Open champion. In 1987, Mike retired from professional water skiing to focus on medical school and went on to become a successful doctor. Mike’s father, Dr. J.D. Morgan, was presented the Award of Distinction in 1993 for his outstanding career and service to the sport. Mike is also involved in promoting the sport; he co-founded the Soaked pro tournament and founded Girls that Fly.

Chet Raley

Chet Raley has long been one of water skiing’s most sought-after coaches. His devotion to the athletes he coaches and attention to detail in his methods drive his ability to produce the champions of tomorrow. While he is well known for his coaching abilities, Chet is also an excellent skier himself and was an innovator in early wakeboarding techniques. Chet learned to water ski at a very young age, trying multiple disciplines on the water and has competed in local, regional and national tournaments over the years. Chet’s wakeboard coaching brought him worldwide notoriety. He is credited for one of the most groundbreaking tricks in wakeboarding, the “Raley,” which carries his name. This evolved while Chet coached Hall of Fame wakeboarder Darin Shapiro. The Raley is one of the core skills on both cable and boat teaching a rider how to use the tension of the rope and the speed one generates to control oneself in the air. A Raley is the basis of most technical maneuvers. Chet operates the Palm Beach Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla.

Gary Warren

Gary Warren became a professional show skier at age 16 doing doubles and barefoot exhibitions throughout the Western states.  He performed show acts and barefoot exhibitions at the 1963 Nationals and 1961 Water Ski World Championships in Long Beach.  This led to Gary being hired as a show ski performer at Cypress Gardens in 1963. It was at Cypress Gardens that Gary further perfected his skills in all events, including barefooting, show skiing, jumping and kite flying. Following his service in the army in Vietnam, Gary was hired to do the ski shows at Marine World in California. During Gary’s 13 years at Marine World, he also became one of the pioneers in using the Delta Wing Kite.

Foundation To Induct Four To Hall Of Fame

Trailblazers and record setters Bill Bowness, Kim Laskoff, Jennifer Leachman-LaPoint and Jeff Rodgers will comprise the 33rd Water Ski Hall of Fame induction class, the USA Water Ski Foundation announced today. The four icons will be enshrined among the greatest legends of the sport at the 2015 Water Ski Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on April 18 at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Fla.Each year, the USA Water Ski Foundation’s Hall of Fame Selection Committee assembles a ballot of deserving nominees across four categories – competitive water skiers, water skiing pioneers, water skiing officials and show skiing. The Hall of Fame class of 2015, the largest since 1983, will showcase four of the most illustrious careers in water skiing.

Bill Bowness

Nine-time world champion and six-time world record-holder Bill Bowness personifies outstanding sport performance, inspiration and a generous and indomitable spirit. As a nine-time member of the U.S. Disabled Water Ski Team, Bill’s contributions to the sport on and off the water have been extraordinary. In addition to his world titles and world records, he won seven U.S. national overall titles, and was manager of the gold medal-winning U.S. Disabled Water Ski Team in 2009. Bill has made a career of knocking down barriers for disabled skiers. He was the first sit skier to ski short line at maximum speed and the first to ski the full able-bodied course. Off the water, Bill’s contributions to the sport include 27 years as president of the IWWF Pan Am Confederation Disabled Skiers Council, on-going, 26 years as representative of the IWWF Athletes Advisory Council, and 11 years as a board director of USA Water Ski as well as serving as a senior-rated judge. Bill continues to coach, officiate and inspire disabled skiers at his Unlimited Skiing water ski school. His demonstrated commitment to excellence as an athlete and as a leader will certainly continue to contribute significantly to the sport well into the future. He was honored with the USA Water Ski Foundation’s Award of Distinction in 2003, and he will go down in the history books as the first disabled water ski athlete to enter the Water Ski Hall of Fame – paving the way for many who will come after him.

Kim Laskoff

Two-time women’s world slalom champion Kim Laskoff amassed a collection of firsts in her rise to the top of the water ski world rankings. Her ascent was rapid. Kim learned to ski at the age of 10, entered her first tournament a year later, and set the girls’ national slalom record of 2-1/2 buoys at 35 feet off just two years thereafter. Kim was the first female to run the 35-off pass in a record tournament. She was the first and only girls’ division skier to qualify for the International Pro Tour and the youngest competitor on the Tour. Kim won the slalom title at the inaugural Junior Worlds in Milan Italy, where her performance contributed to the U.S. Team winning the gold. She held the national girls’ slalom record from 1982 to 1998. Kim also was the first skier to compete in both the Junior and Open divisions at the Australian Moomba Masters and the first to win both titles. She also was the youngest skier to ever win the Moomba Masters’ slalom title in 1986. Kim was a member of the Rollins College water ski team that won the Collegiate Nationals in 1989. She set the national collegiate slalom record in 1986 and held it continuously for seven years. In 1987, Kim won the world slalom title and successfully defended her title in 1989. She was honored with the USA Water Ski Foundation’s Award of Distinction in 2002.

Jennifer Leachman-LaPoint

Three-time world record-holder Jennifer Leachman-LaPoint has enjoyed 30 years as a professional water skier and icon of the sport. She won her first U.S. national water ski titles in slalom, jumping and overall in 1981 at the age of 15. In 1985, Jennifer tied the women’s world slalom record of 4 buoys at 38 feet off. Accepting a full water ski scholarship to the University of Central Florida, Jennifer won two national collegiate slalom titles. In 1987, Jennifer combined her water ski talents and business education, opening the Jennifer Leachman Training Center and eventually O’Town Water Sports, a school and retail store in Orlando, Fla.  Jennifer held or shared the world record in 1985, 1987 and once again in 1996. The highlight of her career was the Michelob Light Professional World Tour Champion Title in 1991 after winning over half the events held that year. She won more than 30 pro events and had more than 60 podium finishes in her long career. Of all her accolades, probably what might be considered her most important accomplishment resulted from her efforts to found the Women of Water Skiing in 1992. This grassroots organization was dedicated to teaching women and children to ski through free clinics all across the United States. Through WOW, as it was called, thousands of women learned to ski, drive and trailer boats. WOW Sports produced more than 50 TV shows exclusively showcasing women’s water skiing.

Jeff Rodgers

Two-time world record-holder and 2003 world champion Jeff Rodgers garnered some groundbreaking water ski success that drew attention from around the world in his inspiring and storied 30-plus year water ski career. The South Carolina native began tournament skiing at age 17, winning his first Nationals in the boys’ division in 1984. Jeff went on to win multiple national and pro tour titles, set 16 national records, two world records, and won a world championship title. He was rarely off the podium in major events around the world. His career defining moment came in August 1997 as he did something that no other skier had ever accomplished before, running a full pass at 41 feet off to set the world record of 1 buoy at 43 off. These performances took the standard to a whole new level and solidified Jeff’s place as one of the greatest skiers of all time. Jeff also was the first person in the world to run a full pass at 41 off at 34 mph. In 2003, Jeff tied his own world record and went on to win the gold medal in men’s slalom at the Water Ski World Championships in Clermont, Fla. Jeff won the bronze and silver medals, respectively, in men’s slalom at the 2005 and 2007 Water Ski World Championships. In 2012 he capped an amazing career by setting a Masters Men division record of 1-1/4 buoys at 43 feet off.

Okeeheelee To Host 2015 Water Ski Nationals

USA Water Ski and the American Water Ski Association are pleased to announce that the 2015 Water Ski National Championships will be held at Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach, Fla. Hosted by the Ski Club of The Palm Beaches, the 73rd Nationals is tentatively scheduled to take place Aug. 11-15.

“The Ski Club of the Palm Beaches is proud to announce that we will be hosting our 14th Water Ski National Championships at Okeeheelee Park, August 11 through 15,” said John Shealy, president of the Ski Club of the Palm Beaches.  “The club, Palm Beach Parks and Recreation and the Palm Beach Sports Commission welcome everyone back for this wonderful event.”

The Ski Club of The Palm Beaches has hosted 13 Water Ski National Championships, five Southern Regional Water Ski Championships, two Florida State Water Ski Championships and the 1989 Water Ski World Championships – in addition to a handful of professional cash-prize tournaments and hundreds of other amateur water ski tournaments – over the past 30 years. It most recently hosted the 2012 and 2013 Water Ski National Championships. For more information on the Ski Club of The Palm Beaches, visit www.okeeski.com.

More than 600 of the nation’s top water ski athletes from across the United States will compete for national titles in slalom, tricks, jumping and overall in respective age divisions and two Open divisions. Advancement to the Water Ski National Championships – the world’s largest three-event water ski tournament – is primarily earned through placement on the national rankings list. Athletes also can qualify for the Nationals by placing in the top-five at Regionals or by placing in the top-five at the previous year’s Nationals.

The first national championships was held in 1939 at Jones Beach in Long Island, N.Y. Except for three years during World War II (1942-1944), the Nationals has been held every year since 1939. The American Water Ski Association is one of nine sport discipline organizations affiliated with USA Water ski.

2015 Team Trials Set For June 27-28

The American Water Ski Association’s International Activities Committee is pleased to announce the 2015 U.S. Elite Water Ski Team Trials will be held June 27-28 at Shortline Lakes and the Cory Pickos Water Ski & Wakeboard School in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.

The two-round, world-record capability tournament will be used to select the six-member U.S. Elite Water Ski Team, which will compete in the 34th Water Ski World Championships, Sept. 7-13, in Milan, Italy.

The qualifications and procedures for the U.S. Elite Water Ski Team will be posted at a later date.