words: Trent Finlayson || photo: Aaron Katen
Cinderella stories are few and far between in professional water skiing, particularly when it comes to the U.S. Masters. For the underdog to prevail, he or she must first get an invitation by running a specific score (3 at 41 off for men’s slalom) and then win the Last Chance Qualifier held the weekend before the Masters.
“I had run 41 off a few times the week prior to the LCQ,” Jon Travers recalls, “so I knew I had a shot at qualifying.” It couldn’t have hurt that the LCQ took place at his home site: his parents’ Groveland, Florida, Sunset Lakes. Travers won the LCQ, besting the international field of hopefuls by running 4 buoys at 41 off. With his family in tow, he headed to Robin Lake in search of his first U.S. Masters title.
“I knew that if I did my job and stayed focused, I would have as good a shot as anyone at winning,” he says. Topping Moomba Masters champion Aaron Larkin and three-time defending champ Will Asher in the final round, Travers took the victory with a celebratory fist in the air. “My family is my biggest support; there’s no way I could ski at this level without them,” he explains.
As ski school proprietors, the Travers clan works together to grow their business and the sport, as well as to nurture Jon’s skiing. At the ensuing victory party, a reflective Travers asked his father, Jack, “Did you think I could do it, Dad?’ With a smile, Jack replied, “No, I knew you could do it.”