Gay, Zharnasek Set Pending World Records

U.S. athlete Anna Gay (Winter Garden, Fla.) and Belarus’ Aliaksei Zharnasek each set pending world tricks records on Saturday at the 2017 Sunset Cup and Masters Last Chance Qualifier at Jack Travers’ International Tournament Skiing at Sunset Lakes in Groveland, Fla. Gay set a pending women’s world tricks record of 10,880 points, while Zharnasek set a pending men’s world tricks record of 12,610 points. Both athletes hold the current women’s and men’s world tricks records, respectively. The records were set behind the Ski Nautique 200.

If approved by the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation’s Tournament Council, Gay’s score will surpass the record of 10,610 points that she set in October 2016 at the Holy Cow Cup in Polk City, Fla. Zharnasek set the current men’s record of 12,570 points in April 2011 at Trick Jam 3.1 in Winter Garden, Fla.

Gay and Zharnasek are the defending Masters tricks champions. The 58th Nautique Masters, presented by GM Marine Engine Technology, will be held next Saturday and Sunday in Pine Mountain, Ga. A live webcast will be available at

Rodgers Wins Nautique Big Dawg Stop No. 1

The first stop of the 2017 Nautique Big Dawg World Tour, presented by O’Brien, was held Saturday and Sunday at the Greater Miami Ski Club in Miami, Fla., with U.S. athlete Jeff Rodgers (Ninety Six, S.C.) winning the event. Rodgers and fellow U.S. athlete Ben Favret needed a runoff to settle the title. After both skiers tied with scores of 2 buoys at 41 feet off in the final, Rodgers scored 6 buoys at 39-1/2 feet off to Favret’s 3-1/2 buoys at 39-1/2 feet off in the subsequent runoff.

Read all of Rodgers Wins Nautique Big Dawg Stop No. 1

Smith, Jaquess Win Swiss Pro Slalom Titles

U.S. water ski athlete Nate Smith set a pending men's world slalom record of 3 buoys at 43 feet off on Sunday at the Swiss Pro Slalom in Clermont, Fla. Photography by Lynn Novakofski.U.S. water ski athletes Nate Smith (McCordsville, Ind.) and Regina Jaquess (Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.) won the men’s and women’s slalom titles, respectively, on Sunday at the 3rd annual Swiss Pro Slalom at the Swiss Ski School in Clermont, Fla. Smith set a pending world record of 3 buoys at 43 feet off in the finals to clinch the men’s title, while Jaquess, the only female to run the 39-1/2 off pass in the tournament – and she did it all three rounds – scored 1-1/2 buoys at 41 feet off in the finals to win the women’s title.

Read all of Smith, Jaquess Win Swiss Pro Slalom Titles

Junior Development Clinic Held At Ski Paradise

The Florida State Junior Development Team had a fabulous clinic for the Juniors thanks to the sponsorship of Florida Southern College Waterski Team, Correct Craft Boats, MasterCraft and Ski Paradise.  The weather was perfect and the skiing was ever better thanks to 15 excited Junior Skiers and 4 fantastic coaches including, Brooke Baldwin, Anna Gay, Allie Nicholson (FSC), and Cole McCormick (FSC).

Group picture 4-22-17

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.”