Water Sports

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USA Water Ski & Wake Sports

31 May, 2018

By: Bob Crowley

USA Water Ski & Wake Sports is the national governing body of organized water skiing in the United States. The organization is a member of the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (world governing body), the Pan American Sports Organization and the United States Olympic Committee.

Sports Destination Management: Is participation in the sport remaining steady, growing or dropping off?
Bob Crowley: We have nine sport discipline organizations beneath our umbrella. That includes American Water Ski Association (three-event water skiing), USA Wakeboard, National Water Ski Racing Association, National Show Ski Association, American Barefoot Club, National Collegiate Water Ski Association, American Kneeboard Association, Water Skiers with Disabilities Association and US Hydrofoil Association. We have seen participation ebb and flow with all of our sport disciplines. Traditional three-event water skiing is holding its own and show ski has shown modest growth over the past five to 10 years. Overall, participation in towed water sports is holding steady. However, it is not growing. We can only judge by our membership numbers.
This is definitely a family sport. At our events, there are family generations all competing and our “Life on the Water” mantra embodies the family atmosphere.

SDM: Are there any locations, geographically, or age groups at which it is growing or at which you are seeing a lot of interest in water ski?
Crowley: Water skiing is very strong in the southern tier of the country where there is access most of the year. That includes Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and other states in the southern tier. Water skiing also has some strength in many pockets around the country. Show skiing is very strong in the upper Midwest, including Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. Ski racing is strong on the west coast, particularly in California. The cool part about water skiing is that people of all ages participate and compete. We have tournaments that offer competition in all age groups.

SDM: What are some membership numbers for the organization and how do you feel they reflect the population of the sport in general?Crowley: There are millions of water ski and wakeboard participants in the United States. Our membership is currently around 15,000 active members. We are in process of transitioning our organization from USA Water Ski (a competitively driven membership) to USA Water Ski & Wake Sports in an effort to attract more recreational skiers to our membership. We have the competitive water ski market and are increasing our focus to attract more developmental skiers.

SDM: How many championship events does the organization put on?
Crowley: Each sport discipline stages a national tournament annually. We sanction over 500 regional and national events annually in all parts of the United States.

SDM: What kind of participation do those get?
Crowley: The Water Ski National Championships attracts 600-plus athletes who all attend with their families. That event lasts five days. The Show Ski Nationals attracts 14 teams who each have an entourage of skiers and support staff of over 100 individuals. That is a three-day event. The Water Ski Nationals will be held this August in Maize, Kansas, which is very close to Wichita. The Show Ski Nationals will be held in Janesville, Wisconsin, in August as well.

SDM: How does the organization select sites for various championship events? What factors do you take into consideration? Does the presence of an active club in the sport help a destination?
Crowley: The most important factor is having an active club in the area. This is where the tournament knowledge and passion reside. An active club will know the site and will understand both the water conditions and the environmental and water rights access local issues. The club supplies the volunteers needed to stage a successful event and understands the nuances of staging a successful water ski tournament. SDM

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