Water skiing was invented in the United States in 1922 and became a competitive sport in 1939 with the first national championship at Jones Beach in Long Island, N.Y. Since then it has steadily grown in popularity and evolved beyond a recreational activity. The sport was demonstrated at the Olympic Games in 1972 but has yet to be recognized as an official Olympic sport. It has been part of the Pan American Games since 1995. The sport also includes wakeboard, which was created in the late 1980s as a combination of surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding and waterskiing.
Contested by both men and women at the Pan Am Games, water skiing consists of three separate events (jump, slalom and tricks) as well as an overall event. Only men compete in a wakeboard event.
In jump, the ramp surface is covered with wax or fibreglass and must be kept wet so that the skis will slide easily. The ramp is 6.80m long and 4.3m wide. Its height falls between 1.50 and 1.80 metres. The goal is to land the longest jump possible, coming at speeds of 120 km/h.
Slalom water skiing is performed on a mono-ski. The course consists of six turn buoys placed diagonally, with an entry gate, an exit gate, and a straight-line boat lane. The total course length is 259 metres and its width is 23 metres. Skiers score a point each time they pass a turn buoy and clear the wake of the boat.
In tricks competition, athletes are required to do two 20-second passes, during which they must execute the largest possible number of different tricks. Tricks are divided into two categories: those done on the water surface and those done on the wake. There are 69 recognized tricks and during each pass, a skier will perform 12 to 18.
In wakeboard, athletes use a boat’s wake to perform a variety of tricks. This event is about personal expression, innovation and creativity. Riders are judged in three categories – execution, intensity and composition.