Over the past two years, the number of clubs affiliated with USA Water Ski has increased significantly, with more than 100 clubs joining its ranks since 2004. So why the sudden spike in group activity? “The sport, for the uninitiated, can seem intimidating and difficult to get into,” says Greg Gatzka, Sunrise Waterski Club coordinator.
“Water-ski clubs serve as the bridge that gets you to the other side.” And plenty of people are crossing over. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, water skiing is among the fastest-growing sports of the year, with a near 27 percent increase in participation. So in honor of all those clubs extending the bridge, we present to you WaterSki's first-ever Best of Clubs Awards:
Best Boat Sharers
Mid Valley Ski Club
Whether you don't have a boat to call your own or you're all too familiar with the perils of boat ownership, the Mid Valley Ski Club has you covered. At their scheduled practices, one member brings a boat and everyone skis behind it. “All you do is pay per pass,” says club member Kay Nelson. “This is great for people who don't own a boat and is also convenient [for people who do] because you don't have to bring out your own boat that night and worry about cleaning it at the end of the day.”
Best New-Talent Scouts
The Patriotic Ski Club
“There are many of us who find that teaching comes naturally,” says Patriotic Ski Club's only remaining original member, Freddie Snell. “It blows my mind to think of how many people the club has introduced to the sport.” Snell says that between learn-to-ski clinics and just shaking hands with new people at the lake, he estimates that the club has taught thousands of people how to ski. “Being Tennesseans and friendly, we'll talk to just about anybody,” he says. “And if you seem like you want to ski, we'll invite you to join. It is that simple.”
Best Event Pioneers
Metroplex Ski Club
Fort Worth, Texas
At the Metroplex Ski Club, it's all about trying new things. “The show skiers put on a learn-to-jump clinic,” says club president Mike Spence.” It allows the hard-core slalom skiers an opportunity to be exposed to other types of skiing. We also run a weekly ski league to introduce skiers to the fun of tournament skiing.” Spence says that all the members like to foster a learning-friendly environment. “This way everyone gets to know everyone better,” he says. metroplexskiclub.com
Sunrise Waterski Club
Lots of clubs have set up skiers with PB-setting drivers, trustworthy mechanics, expert fin tweakers and even life-long friends, but how many have facilitated marriages? “My wife reminded me recently that my involvement in the [Sunrise] water-ski club was how I met her,” says Gatzka, “and now she is my number-one boat driver.” If that's not a match made in ski heaven, we don't know what is. Gatzka says impromptu weekend gatherings (like potlucks and other non-ski-related activities) help nurture the close bonds among members.
Best Tournament Hosts
Ski Club of the Palm Beaches
With nine National Championships on its resume, the Ski Club of the Palm Beaches, has hosting tournaments down to a science. “We strive to have officials within our club,” says club president Charlotte Melchers. “It helps us be self-sufficient so we don't have to rely on outside help.” Melchers says the club, which boasts about 50 tournament officials and the latest scoring, timing and judging technology, is so self-reliant they could host a National Champion- ship — with four lakes and a practice lake — using only club resources and members.