History

There’s no record of who first adapted water ski equipment to facilitate skiing with a physical disability. Undoubtedly, it was someone who loved the sun, water and adventure and refused to be stopped by a physical challenge!

 

In the early years, a barefoot training boom was used by skiers with amputation or visual impairment. Technical development of assistive aids was a priority. An early success was Tony Edge’s “Triple Bar”. This innovative design reduced the teaching time for people with physical disabilities to learn how to stand up.   The “Edge Triple Bar” has been used all over the world. Another successful development was the “Delger Sling” named after the designer Ray Delger for assisting single handed skiers. The sling was refined for tournament use by Mark Addicott.  Interestingly enough, in the early days most skiing was done by people with visual impairment or amputation.  This has radically changed over the years, with seated skiers being in the majority today. 

 

The first Sitz Ski was made by Frank Jespers in his furniture factory in Belgium in the mid-1960’s.  The Sitz Ski was a huge (8’ long and 24” wide) flat bottomed ski with a turned-up nose with the skier sitting directly on the board and a steel tube frame keeping the skier from sliding forward. Sit skiing spread slowly through western Europe.  One notable expansion was to the Beitostølen Healthsports Center in Norway.  In 1976, as a bi-centennial gift to the United States, there was a cultural exchange between the two countries including the area of adaptive sports. Eventually, representatives from the Courage Center brought a Sitz Ski back to Minnesota. (This was the first sit down water ski in the United States.)

 

Royce Andes of Biggs, CA is considered “The Godfather” of adaptive skiing in the USA.  Royce was injured while barefooting in 1982 which left him a C4 quadriplegic. His injury didn’t diminish his love of water skiing, his drive or determination.  While in rehab, Royce was shown a brochure from the Courage Center which included a small picture of a skier using the old Sitz Ski.  He commented about how obsolete the ski was and using a mouth held stick pen, Royce developed the Kan Ski in 1983 which took adaptive water skiing to a whole new level.

 

Developing the sit ski wasn’t the end of Royce’s efforts. He went out into the world (Chico State) to find prospective skiers. One of his first “finds” was Bill Bowness who became a multi time world record holder, world champion, coach, manager, judge and has been inducted in both the USA WSWS and IWWF Halls of Fame. Obviously, he taught more than adaptive water skiing. There is a long list of Royce’s successful “finds”. He remained an inspiration, advocate and coach of new skiers until his passing in May of 2018.

 

In 1999 Chris Mairs, a tech executive from England with visual impairment, founded the a-technic charity, initially to create technology for water skiers with visual impairment. Their first product was an Audio Slalom Signal Generator (ASSG), a system that created audio buoys.  Chris called it the Bat Blaster - "bat" as in blind, and "blaster" because it's "very noisy".  Chris competed for the British Disabled Water Skiing Team from 1986 to 2003, setting several world records and captaining the team in three world championships. Prior to the use of the audio slalom athletes with visual impairment competed in wake slalom, counting how many wake crossings the athlete completed within 20 seconds, with each crossing valued at three points.

World Championship History

1986

The first International Invitational Disabled Water Ski Tournament was held in Skarnes, Norway.  

Absent a USA governing organization, the USA was unofficially represented by Chet Kuskowski, Bill Bowness and Chris Everson.

1987

The first World Trophy, a non-record event, took place outside London in England with officials from

the European, African, Middle Eastern (EAME) Region and one from the Pan Am Region. There were 40   participants from 7 countries.  Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA & Australia.

The first Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Milford, Michigan. A committee was formed that morphed into Water Skiers with Disabilities Association, the former name of USA Adaptive Water Ski & Wake Sports.

1989

1991

World Trophy

The third and final World Trophy, took place in Michigan, in the USA  with 65 participants from 12 countries. Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA & Australia.

National Championships

3rd Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Bridgewater, Michigan

1992

The 4th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Lansing, Michigan.

1994

6th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Barstow, Florida.

1996

The 8th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Birmingham, Alabama.

1998

The 10th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Birmingham, Alabama.

2000

The 12th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Birmingham, Alabama.

2002

The 14th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Altamonte Springs, FL.

2004

The 16th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

2006

The 18th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Polk City, Florida.

2008

The 20th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in DuQuoin, Illinois

2010

The 21st Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Danville, Indiana.

2012

The 22nd Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Elk Grove, California.

2014

The 23rd Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Talking Rock, Georgia.

2016

The 24th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Harmony, North Carolina.

2018

The 26th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Paducah, Kentucky.

IWSF/IWWF* COMMISSION/COUNCIL - In Norway, the original commission of three persons was formed to develop rules and standards. Bill Bowness was the representative for AWSA (3 event able-bodied water skiing organization in the USA) on the Advisory Council to the IWWF.

1986

The second World Trophy, a national record capability event, took place outside Perth, Australia with

officials from the Asia-Australasian Region and one each from the Pan Am and EAME Regions.  There   were 55 participants from 9 countries.  Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA & Australia.

1989

2nd Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Lansing, Michigan.

1990

The IWSF Executive Board approved Council status for the disabled in July, due to an increase in

participating countries, established rules, etc.  The Disabled Council is now on equal footing with the other Sports Disciplines.

1992

World Championships

The First-ever World Championships, a world record capability event, were held in Roquebrune,

France with at least three officials from each Confederation as per the new rules.  There were a record 84 participants from 15 countries. The USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Australia.

National Championships

5th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Brighton, Michigan

1993

World Championships

The second World Championships was held in Mulwala, Australia with 56 athletes from 12 countries. Nineteen world records were set. The USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Australia.

National Championships

The 7th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Elk Grove, California

1995

World Championships

The third World Championships was held in Florida in the USA with 66 athletes from a record 16 countries. Sixteen world records were set and one equaled. Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA and Australia.

National Championships

The 9th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Birmingham, Alabama.

1997

World Championships

The fourth World Championships were held outside London, with 75 athletes from 15 countries. Eleven world records were set.  The USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Australia.

National Championships

The 11th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Birmingham, Alabama.

1999

World Championships

The fifth World Championships were held in Florida in the USA with 66 athletes from a record 16 countries. Sixteen world records were set and one equaled. Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA and Australia.

National Championships

The 13th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

2001

World Championships

The sixth World Championships, took place in Florida, USA. There were 68 athletes from 15 countries. Eight world records were set and one tied. USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Italy.

National Championships

15th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Altamonte Springs, Florida

2003

World Championships

The seventh World Championships was held in Schoten, Belgium, in September with 60 athletes from 17 countries. There were 10 world records, and the team title was won by Great Britain, ahead of the USA and Australia.

National Championships

The 17th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Polk City, Florida.

2005

World Championships

The eighth World Championships took place in Townsville, Australia, in May with 52 athletes from 15 countries. Eight world records were set; and Great Britain won the team title again, ahead of Australia, and the USA.

National Championships

19th Disabled Water Ski National Championships were held in Danville, Indiana

2007

The ninth World Championships was held in Vichy, France, with 47 competitors from a record 18 countries. There were four world records set, one of them (a jump) having stood for 20 years. The United States broke its 4-4 team-title tie with Great Britain in garnering the prestigious team title, ahead of Italy and France, both on the podium for the first time ever.

2009

The 10th World Championships was held in West Chester, Ohio, with 38 competitors from 13 countries. The United States won its second consecutive team title; and Italy and France repeated their podium finishes of two years earlier in France. There were four world records set and one tied by four different skiers from three confederations. For the first time, medals were awarded in only three categories: seated, standing and vision impaired.

2011

The 11th World Championships was held in Milan, Italy, with 45 skiers from 12 countries. The United States won its third team title in a row with Italy second for the third time straight and Australia third, back on the team podium for the first time since 2007.  The United States is the first country to ever win three consecutive team titles. There were five world records set by three different skiers from two confederations. 

2013

The 12th World Championships was held in Elk Grove, Calif., with 49 skiers from 11 countries. The United States won its fourth consecutive world team title with Australia second, one spot up from 2013 and Italy third for its fourth consecutive podium placement. The United States is the first country to ever win four consecutive team titles. There were three world records set by Great Britain's Claire Ellis, and eight of the 11 countries in attendance won medals.

2015

The 13th World Championships was held in Myuna Bay, Australia with 44 skiers from 10 countries. There were two jump records set and seven of the 10 countries in attendance won medals.  After placing third in Italy in 2013 and second in the United States in 2015, Australia won its first ever team title.

2017

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