For the next year, if any skiers want to call themselves the best in the world, they'll have to go through Zane Schwenk to make it official. Actually, they would have to go through, over, around and under Schwenk after the wakeboarding and show-skiing star put on a virtual one-man water-sports circus at the first annual World's Greatest Skier competition presented by MasterCraft Boats.
“I didn't really train for this, just kind of did the things I know how to do best,” said the low-key Schwenk, a veteran performer at Cypress Gardens, which hosted the event.
What the 24-year-old Schwenk does best is, quite simply, anything that can be done while holding a handle behind a boat. He needed every bit of that versatility to top a star-studded field in eight events (slalom, tricks, jump, hydrofoil, wakeboarding, freestyle jump, barefooting and a 10-minute wild-card event). Skiers invited to compete included world hydrofoil champion Tony Klarich of Canyon Lake, California; Cypress Gardens show skier and freestyle jump champion Jeff Schmick of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin; hot dog specialist Geno Yauchler of Lakeland, Florida; Sea World show director and current MVP Matt Dance of Australia; three-event stalwart Curtis Rabe of Orlando; and Schwenk (results below).
Schwenk stayed in the middle of the pack through the first day of competition, content to watch Klarich clear the 35-off pass in slalom and Rabe post a 149-foot jump while taking the lead after four events. But Schwenk, who finished no lower than fourth in any event (slalom), absolutely dominated on day two. He easily won the barefoot and wakeboard battles, then left no doubt about who the man is with his finale in the wild card.
Each skier was allowed 10 minutes to do anything he wanted as long as he was in tow behind a boat. Klarich packed more in his 10 minutes than most skiers do all summer. But “Insane” Zane, despite the fact that he had already clinched the title, still opted to hurl his body across the water and into moves unfathomable to his peers and the spectators, pulling off an array of inverts on his single freestyle jump ski and then making a transition into an Air Raley off the X-Star wake as well as off the jump ramp equipped with only a pair of shoe skis. He had to do something extra special to overshadow a “Temper Tantrum” double back flip attempt by Dance, Schmick's hang gliding exhibition, a triple front flip “long dive” bailout off the ramp by Yauchler, and a Curtis “Corky” Rabe clown act.
This was a unique event that featured arguably the most dynamic water-skiing display ever. Co-tournament director Rob May looks forward to hosting the event next year.
“We didn't anticipate much for a first-time event, but this 'test run' had fantastic spectator appeal and set the stage for a bigger and better second annual event.”
Someone will have to go bigger and better than ever to take the title away from Zane Schwenk. Until that happens, Schwenk can say he is the world's greatest skier (results on next page).
Winners From Each Event:
Slalom- Tony Klarich
Jumping- Curtis Rabe
Tricks- Zane Schwenk
Freestyle- Jeff Schmick
Hydrofoil- Geno Yauchler
Barefoot- Zane Schwenk
Wakeboard- Zane Schwenk
Wildcard- Zane Schwenk