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Water Ski/Wakeboard

Water skiing and wakeboarding are two of the most spectacular and exciting sports at the Pan American Games. Both feature thrilling aerial jumps and exhilarating speeds.

Water skiing was invented in 1922 by an 18-year-old Minnesotan named Ralph Samuelson, who thought that if it was possible to ski on snow then it was possible to ski on water. The first known water skiing competition was held in 1939. Water skiing was included as a demonstration sport at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich where the women’s gold medal was won by Pat Messner of Ottawa. Water skiing debuted at the Pan American Games in 1995.

Canada's Aaron Christopher Rathy at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Rathy won silver.

Canada’s Aaron Christopher Rathy at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Rathy won silver.

Canada has enjoyed great international water skiing success, second only to the United States in number of team overall victories at the world championships with four. Canadian skiers have won individual and overall open world championship (held every two years) titles 14 times. Longtime national team member Jaret Llewellyn is a seven-time open world champion who has won eight gold and two silver medals at previous Pan Am Games.

Wakeboarding developed as a sport during the 1980s when snowboarders, surfers and skateboarders transferred their popular board sports style to towed water sports. Wakeboarding has since emerged as one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. In 2013 wakeboarding was one of eight sports shortlisted for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics Games but was ultimately not selected. Wakeboarding debuted at the Pan American Games in 1995. Among Canada’s wakeboard world champions are Rusty Malinoski (2013), Aaron Rathy (2009) and Jeremy Kovak (1993 and 1997).


Jump - Men and Women

The water ski jump event shows off the daredevils of this sport, with skiers executing a precise counter whip and hitting the ramp at speeds of approximately 110km/h (more than double the boat speed). Skiers experience up to 6 G-force off the top of a 1.8m ramp (1.5m for women) as they attempt to successfully land the longest possible distance. The risk of spectacular crashes and jumps that rival the length of a football field make this one of the most popular events to watch.

Overall - Men and Women

The overall event combines all three water ski events. Of the skiers who competed in all three events, only the top six women and top eight men advance to the finals. Placements are based on the combined score of the three individual events from the finals only. Endurance and focus will see the best skiers in the world reach the podium in this grueling event.

Slalom - Men and Women

The water ski slalom event is contested on a single ski. Skiers navigate through a course consisting of entrance and exit gates and six turn buoys, three on each side, as the boat follows a straight path down the middle of the course. Women ski at a maximum speed of 55km/h while the men ski at a top speed of 58km/h. Each buoy is 11.5m from the boat’s path. Following each successful path through the course, the rope is shortened to increase the difficulty. The skier who completes the most buoys at the shortest rope length is the winner. Skiers can go from speeds of 0 to 110km/h in a split second, making this event one of the most exciting to watch.

Tricks - Men and Women

In the water ski tricks event, skiers are required to do two 20-second passes during which they will execute as many different tricks as possible. Tricks can be done on the water surface or off the wake of the boat. Some tricks are done holding the rope with their hands, others with a foot anchored on the rope. Of the 69 recognized tricks, each with allocated point values, skiers will perform 12 to 18 on each pass depending on the degree of difficulty. The skier with the highest total points from successfully scored tricks is the winner. Multiple flips, speed and agility are key elements in this fast paced event.

Wakeboard - Men

Wakeboarders use a tow boat’s wake as a jump ramp to perform a variety of 5m to 6m high aerial tricks including flips and spins, similar to snowboard slopestyle at the Olympic Winter Games. In fact, 2014 Olympic bronze medallist Mark McMorris is a former national wakeboard champion. Wakeboarders do two consecutive passes through a 300m long course and perform as many tricks as possible. Riders are judged on the “intensity” (difficulty, including height), “execution” (style and completion) and “composition” (variety) of their tricks. Riders also have the option to perform “rail” tricks on a floating feature. The rider with the highest total points score is the winner.

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