Most of us associate water skiing with summertime fun – warm sunshine, beaches and picnics – so it may come as a surprise that water skiing was born in Minnesota in 1922 when Ralph Samuelson used two boards and a clothesline to ski across Lake Pepin. Samuelson has been credited by the American Water Ski Association as the first water ski racer, and the first to jump a ramp and slalom ski, as well as the first to hold a water ski show, too.
Like Samuelson, avid enthusiasts will water ski nearly any time, any where there is an opportunity, even when winter temperatures and chilly water are a deterrent for most people. Fortunately, no matter what city and state you call home, there’s probably a local lake or other body of water where you can get in some ski time, perhaps even practice your gainers and other tricks.
Of course, skiing at the same location all the time can become routine. Add a little excitement to your water time this year by planning a water skiing vacation. Whether you are a novice or expert, you can have some added fun by water skiing at one of these five great locations:
Top U.S. water skiing destinations
1) San Diego, Calif. – With a climate that provides ideal conditions year-round and an average of 264 days of sunshine each year, San Diego is a water skier’s dream. It’s also the home of Mission Bay Park, the largest manmade aquatic park in the U.S. Located just 10 minutes from downtown, Mission Bay offers hardcore skiers the opportunity to take an early morning jaunt around the bay, and still make it to the office on time. In addition, there’s a variety of water ski classes for everyone from the novice to the experienced. For a little more excitement and a change of pace, skiers can cruise around the freight and military ships in San Diego Bay. A variety of local lakes are perfect for those that prefer freshwater water skiing. Plan your trip to San Diego the weekend of Oct. 9,, 2009, and you’ll be able to watch the 5th U.S. Open Water Ski Racing National Championships, too.
2) Austin, Texas – As the Live Music Capital of America, Austin’s earned a reputation as a vibrant city that exemplifies a young, active outdoor lifestyle. For water skiers, the long summers and short winters provide almost year-round opportunity to hit the water. In addition to Lake Austin and Lake Travis, Austin offers several world-class facilities built specifically for water skiers:
– Austin Aquaplex – The Aquaplex is known for “easy” water with a medium-to-high viscosity – great for slalom and jump-ski enthusiasts.
– Guadalupe Ski Plex – Built to accommodate competitive water skiing, Guadalupe is home to three lakes, two slalom courses and a ski jump, as well plenty of boat docks and storage areas.
– Utopia River Ranch – For professional lessons, trek to Utopia River Ranch, a private water ski training facility located near Staples, just outside of Austin.
3) West Palm Beach, Fla. – South Florida, from Key West and Miami to West Palm and Orlando, is a hub of activity for water sports lovers of all kinds. With few days under 70 degrees, South Florida’s Palm Beach County offers ski enthusiasts nearly year-round opportunity, as well as two major water ski attractions and several exciting competitions.
– Okeeheelee Park – The site of choice for beginners and professionals, the facility is a nationally recognized competitive water ski park with five courses that can accommodate everything from traditional to barefoot and kneeboard skiing. If you love to bask in the moonlight, you can take advantage of night skiing on a lit course, too. At under $100, annual permits are more than affordable, too.
– Palm Beach Training Center – Ask Chet Raley, one of the world’s top ski coaches and a national champion, for world-class water ski instruction at Palm Beach Training Center, a private facility located in Boca Raton. Raley offers video coaching for under $100, as well as more expensive clinics for professional skiers.
In addition, South Florida hosts the following water skiing events:
– 3rd IWSF Pan Am Region Wakeboard Championships (Miami)
– Board Up Miami (Miami)
– 4th Big Dawg Slalom Series Championship (West Palm Beach)
– 67th GOODE Water Ski National Championships (West Palm Beach)
4) Pine Mountain, Ga. – Located just outside of Atlanta in Pine Mountain, lays Robin Lake Beach, home of the world’s longest manmade white sand beach. Ranked among Fine Living’s top 10 most unique beaches in the world in 2007, Robin Lake Beach is part of Callaway Gardens resort. Callaway Gardens also hosts the Masters Water Ski and Wakeboard Tournament®, which awards more than $100,000 in winnings each Memorial Day weekend. A great destination for the entire family, the stunning vacation resort offers something for everyone, from water skiing to golf, relaxing spa visits and more.
5) Seattle, Wash. – Although you may not think of the rainy Emerald City as a water skiing hub, it’s the testing ground of choice for popular water ski manufacturers like Herb O’Brien, Pat Connelly, Jeff Jobe and Denny Kidder. With picturesque Mount Ranier as a backdrop, Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish provide the perfect glass.
Of course, these aren’t the only great places to water ski. Lake Havasu City, Ariz., Charlotte, N.C., Sacramento, Calif., Grand Rapids, Mich., and Madison, Wis. are other destinations beloved by ski enthusiasts.
No matter where in the U.S. you are located, there’s a great place to water ski near you. However before you take your boat on a trip or hit the water, be sure it’s protected. Nationwide offers affordable boat insurance, as well as personal watercraft insurance in case you own any other water sport toys, like jet skis. For more information, visit nationwide.com.