The Problem with Competition, as we know it..
This is an old piece I wrote years ago...and it still applies. So I'm posting it again. Disclaimer: Things have changed since 2006, and Water Skiing is getting better. This re-post is not meant as a gripe....just something to consider. People always ask us, “Where is the coolest place you’ve been?” or “What Pro Tournament is the most fun?” The truth is, our best moments are on public lakes and rivers with some of our closest friends, whether we’re cranking out turns or just chillin. That is what skiing is meant to be, and that is why we still do it. I’m not gonna lie, rippin through a slalom course at 60 mph is sick. The accelerations and crushing forces are hard to find anywhere else. But we can never escape our roots, on the open water. Just like the 7,000,000 other people worldwide who hit the water yearly…. So, with such a huge number of water rats in the world, what is wrong with competitive water skiing?? Here’s one take: Competitive water skiing relies heavily on rules and regulations. Obviously we need standards, to have records and ratings. However, I don't think fairness depends so heavily on such tight restrictions. The fact that we hold on to records and ratings so dearly in this sport IS the very reason we end up with such a thick rule book, and a large part of why the competitive side of the sport has not been growing. Competition is "the process by which one athlete interferes with or suppresses the activity of another athlete". The governing body in the United States, USA Water Ski, is not about competition. Its not about how you stack up to one another on "any given day", but rather how close you come to a number or “rating”. This means that tournaments have to be held on the best sites, with the best conditions if they expect people attend. That's not the spirit of water skiing. Water skiing needs to find its way back to its roots and back to competition. Skiers should have a reason to care about how they ski relative to those on the same starting dock. It should mean something. They should ski for placements, not ratings. And those placements should be their ticket to the next level. The current system is broken. In August, 2006, we hosted an Elite Pro Slalom Event in conjunction with Boardstock, a wakeboarding event. Toyota’s Last Man Standing Slalom Shootout took place on Clear Lake California, directly in front of Konocti Harbor and Resort. 20 of the top Men Slalom skiers in the world attended, and battled it out in a new format and with a new vision. In the toughest water Professional Slalom skiing has ever seen, the event was run with 2 boats, 2 drivers and 2 judges….Nothing more was needed. The skier who could survive the longest, won. Period. No ratings, no records, and no BS. It was pure slalom and true competition, just as it should be. Points were awarded for placement, and overall rankings were based off those points. The site was challenging, but it was challenging for all skiers. If we continue to stay the course and travel down the path of ratings, records and more rules, the dynamic growth of competitive water skiing may cease for good. On any given day, anything can happen…in true competition. We should harness the hope that lies in that statement, by getting back to competition based events, or we may have no chance of creating a better future for generations to follow. Either way, there will always be the open water, always one more sheet of glass to rip, somewhere in the world. If that’s good enough for you, it’ll be good enough for me. MB