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.
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.
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.
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.