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History of Water Skiing

Medha Godbole
The history of water skiing goes back almost 8 decades. It was in 1922 that the sport was first designed in something closely resembling its modern form. Read on to know more about the history of this fun sport...
Water skiing is a kind of extreme sport, where the participant is pulled behind a motor boat on a water body. The skis help the person stand up straight while holding on to a tow rope. Further, water skiing has always been a part of recreational boating. Interested in knowing when it all started? Hang on, because we are going to travel back in time and check out exactly that!


It was on June 28, 1922, that Ralph Samuelson, hailing from Minnesota, put forth a path-breaking idea. He was just 18, and was of the view that if skiing was possible on snow, then why not do it on water?
To prove his point, Samuelson and his brother did an experiment on Lake Pepin in Lake City in Minnesota. Samuelson's brother towed him. Considering all this, Samuelson can safely be called the father of water skiing.

The Tools

Needless to say, in 1920s and 1930s, the equipment was not very sophisticated. The initial experiments were done by Samuelson using staves of a barrel and lengths of wood. These were held together using leather strips, and this ensemble formed the precursor to modern-day skis. Further, a window sash was used as a ski rope.
It was after quite a few days of experimenting that the inventors realized that leaning backwards and having ski tip up, help in balance and the overall experience. Supposedly, Samuelson never patented what he invented. He was credited for the invention of the sport by the American Water Ski Association in 1966.
Back to Samuelson, he made the first water ski jump with the help of a greased 4X16 feet ramp on July 8, 1925. In the same year, Fred Waller got the first patent for water skis called Dolphin Akwa Skees. Cut to 1970s, the skis started being made from fiberglass. Now, they are made of composite material, including carbon fiber.

Trick Ski and Modern Times

Jack Anderson was the one who came up with the first trick ski, in 1940. That was a shorter, finless water ski. But before that, in 1939, the National Waterskiing Championship was organized at Jones Beach, Long Island, New York. From then on, there was no looking back for the sport.
The popularity of water skiing increased, and it spread like wildfire in Europe and North America. It got the status of an Olympic sport at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich. After that, there was a string of tournaments and championships of water skiing.
To start off, the first National Show Ski Tournament was held in 1974, and the first National Intercollegiate Water Ski Championship was held in 1979. A decade later, competitions for people with special abilities were also being held.
The game has now reached such levels that there are around 650 water skiing clubs and approximately 11 million active participants in this game in just the USA. Now, show water skiing is also a major aspect of water skiing.