Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach, Florida, is the Visa card of slalom skiing. If you go there, you better bring your butter turns and calluses as hard as quarters, because the ski club takes passes through the slalom course 18 hours a day, but they don't take kindly to anyone toting a wakeboard.
“The sheriff's deputies know the place well,” says Nancy Hamilton, mother of world wakeboard champion Tara Hamilton, who trains at Okeeheelee when she isn't being questioned by authorities. “They know most calls from Okeeheelee Park are slalom skiers tattling on wakeboarders for being over capacity or for whatever it takes to get them off the water.”
There's a reason the slalom heavies are as territorial as border collies: The site might just be the best water-skiing playground in America, and that, if anything, is an understatement.
“Half of Europe is over here during winter,” says ski club member Thelma Salmas, reluctant to draw any more outside attention to the park. She's one of at least 10 national champions who train here year-round. But all the amateur champs are mere extras on a scene that sometimes includes world-ranked front-liners Wade Cox and Steve Cockeram and one of the most respected slalom coaches on earth, Chet Raley.
Yet most ski club members react to the all-star cast as if it were the Navy testing subs in the slalom course.
“Anywhere else in the world, people would take the day off work to watch these guys ski,” says one longtime Okeeheelee user, “but here they're just in the way.”
Categories: Site to Ski