Ed, what was it like "Back In The Day"

Bill22Bill22 Posts: 1,765 Mega Baller
A few years ago at a state tournament I had the chance to talk with a veteran of the sport. I heard a brief story of how things were different “In the good old days.” For a skier like me who did not grow up skiing tournaments and hearing about how things have changed, I found it very interesting.

This is what I remember from that Sunday afternoon two or three years ago, (I may have forgotten or mixed up some of the facts).

There was NO opting up. All skiers had to start at Long Line/30mph (23m/49K), next -15/30, -22/30, -28/30… (18.25m/49K, 16/49, 14.25/49) and back to the dock. The next skier would do the same until all skiers had finished there 30mph runs. Then you could switch skis if needed and back to Long Line/32mph (23m/52K), next -15/32, -22/32, -28/32… and back to the dock. After everyone ran 32mph it was the same at 34mph (55K), back to LL/34mph, shorten the rope a few times and back to the dock. Switch skis again for 36mph (58K) and one more time back to Long Line! Now the rope would be shortened until the skier missed a buoy, missed a gate or fell.

@Edbrazil - is this recollection even close to the facts? Tell us what it was really like. How is the format different now than in the 60’s and early 70’s?


  • rodltg2rodltg2 Posts: 1,051 Crazy Baller
    Yikes. Tournament now days would take for ever ! Although some good shortline skiers may not be able to run 15/30 Lol!
  • HortonHorton Posts: 32,524 Administrator
    @Bill22 I think you have your facts a little bit messed up. I think there was in fact a time when everybody had to start at the minimum pass but you would not go back to the doc after every completed pass. I clearly remember that the boat didn't stop unless you were shortening the rope.

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  • lcgordonlcgordon Posts: 282 Baller
    Did the tournaments take a month to complete?
  • Bill22Bill22 Posts: 1,765 Mega Baller
    @Horton I would not be surprised if I got it all mixed up.

    Maybe it was LL/32mph, LL/34, LL/36, back to the dock. Everyone runs that and switched skis. Then -15/36mph, -22, -28....
  • GOODESkierGOODESkier Posts: 1,107 Crazy Baller
    Only guy I know qualified to ski that way is @richarddoane .......... and maybe my son someday......
    2003 Nautique 196 LE Star Gazer & ZBox - GOODE NANO OneXT 66.75" - Powershell 5 (LFF) - Tournament PB: 2 Balls @ 39.5' OFF (34.2 MPH) on 7/18/2015 at BIG DAWG BROHO!
  • lpskierlpskier Posts: 3,814 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    I recall skiing the All American tournament at Cypress Gardens in the early 70's. I was still skiing up the rope at long line (all 75 feet of it, and it may have been on the old U.S. Dimensioned course. I think at the time I was flirting with -15 in practice (maybe it was -12, I'm not sure,) Anyway, whatever the small lake was that held the tournament was too short to spin at the end, so you had to drop. (The event was pulled by twin rig Cobia outboards at the time.) As far as I can recall, that was the first time I dropped in a tournament. I may or may not have been wearing gloves. I was definitely on a wood ski.
    John Wilkins- Si non pro sanguine quem ludus ne. #iskiconnelly
  • Bill22Bill22 Posts: 1,765 Mega Baller
    @lpskier did you ever try the course with the old two pice handle? Do you remember if you skied better that first time you got to drop at each end?
  • thagerthager Posts: 5,566 Mega Baller
    I remember those days! Took forever to get tournament comfortable enough and good enough to drop @ -15. 36 LL was a really tough one to run! Right @Horton?
    Stir vigorously then leave!
  • NandoNando Posts: 601 Crazy Baller
    thager will remember the hordes of B-Men skiers. In my second tournament, I finished 14th out of 114 skiers by running my opener and I think two buoys on the second pass. Must have been at least 50 guys who wiped out around the one ball. Tournaments were a ton of fun in the dark ages, but 36 longline was a tough nut to crack.
  • harddockharddock Posts: 187 Baller
    edited December 2015
    I skied early - mid 70's Long line until [email protected] then 15 off/36, 22/36, 28/36, and so on, Later in years you could skip75 and start @15off any speed. Rating system was different 3rd, 2nd, 1st class EP, Masters. and so on! Concave bottoms were in their child hood, as were non wooden skis.

    Laying out a slalom course was a day long adventure of swimming and measuring this way and that way until tolerances were met. Nothing was piped together, Ropes with markings were stretched out from gate to ball and cross measured to next gate to measure.

    Drivers used an analog speedo and a stop watch, ( which is why observer seats are 2 up) with mid course and end times so you didn't do a start at 28 finish at 40 to come out with a 34 mph time. The mid course time kept the speed almost consistent! Pull of a strong skier took some finesse on the throttle and steering. Ski Nautique, MasterCraft and Twin rig Hydrodines,were the top 3 until Supreme and American Skier came on the scene.

    BTW my first end of season promo boat purchase was a 1978 MasterCraft with trailer for $6,800 +$60 for a cover.
  • wolfgangwolfgang Posts: 98 Baller
    Fun posts! My first and only tournament was an un-sanctioned regatta on Gull Lake in the late seventies. Wooden concave ski, long line 75 ft , public lake, first pass, no warm up, was 36 mph behind a 17 foot J Craft with a a big 175 Johnson two stroke (it would do 73 mph with a stainless prop and jack plate but I digress). My family ski boat had just been upgraded to a used 65 hp Merc so I believed I had sufficient know how. I made it to 2nd buoy (RFF) before the mother of all OTF yard sales...skipped and cartwheeled for an eternity . I didn't try the course again for a couple of years.
  • EdbrazilEdbrazil Posts: 1,396 Historical Baller

    This Saturday, Dec. 5, I'm planning on going over to USAWS for the Florida Federation Meeting,
    and doing some Rule Book research. Lots of things are different from the Old Days, especially
    the old-old days. One specific I can think of is Warren Witherell (RIP) posting a score of 116 at
    the 1960 Bay State Open. The result is in a Fall edition of the Water Skier 1960. That was when:
    --There were long endgates
    --You got 8 point/pass (gates counted for a point)
    --Men slalomed at 34mph
    --No opting up; all started at the minimum speed
    --Buoy count wasn't consecutive; you could score points on that pass after a first miss
    --After running the basic 4(?) passes, you came in, to go out later to ski against everyone
    who had run the 4 passes.
    --The towline didn't shorten after every pass; just after the up & back
    --Of course: SL course not surveyed/certified. No boat timing. Speeds off the speedometer
    or maybe the tachometer. Buoys a LOT larger than today.

    Here is how I think Warren's skiing went:

    24, 26, 28, 30 come back to the dock
    32, 34 come back to the dock
    12off, 12 off ?come back
    18off, 18 off ?come back
    24off, 24 off ?come back
    30off, 30 off ?come back

    That makes 14 passes. 14 X 8 = 112 points. Then, Warren would have gone out at
    36 off and picked up 4 points, which were not necessarily consecutive.
    Likely, the officials were busy putting extra loops in the towline, or whatever they did to
    make the shortenings. At that time, towlines may not even have had any shortening loops.

    Could have taken a long time if there were many entries, but likely that just a few survived
    the initial 4 passes. Also, there were fewer divisions. Probably: Men, Women, Boys, Girls,
    Sr. Men, Jr. Boys, Jr. Girls.

    PS: in 1964, when I went to his Sarasota ski school, Joe Cash referred to this feat as
    Warren running "all that godawful slalom".
  • HortonHorton Posts: 32,524 Administrator
    Oooo @Edbrazil I forgot about "add balls" or what ever they were called! We should bring that back. That was awesome.

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  • gregygregy Posts: 2,590 Mega Baller
    I fell, well maybe more like sank, on a particularly tight lake on a LL turn around in a tournament. It was around 85-86. I tried to argue but couldn't talk the boat judge into letting me continue.
  • Bill22Bill22 Posts: 1,765 Mega Baller
    edited December 2015
    @Edbrazil Thank You!!

    Now the Ballers will not ban me from BOS and take away my Baller card. I may have gotten the speed/line length off but I had the concept.
  • lpskierlpskier Posts: 3,814 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @Bill22 Nooe. I never used a double handle. We used to trash new handles so fast, though, that my ski partner's dad made handles out of broom sticks, dowels, etc to avoid going to the marina every week. Once he made one out of a 2" dia. branch. That one really sucked.

    I don't recall skiing well at the All American. I remember the boat wake being horrible and I don't have a trophy from the tournament, though I have them from other tournaments I skied about that time - Greater Miami Open, Lakeland Open being two I recall. I remember having several resides in a row at Miami and jumping at twilight/dark in Lakeland. I remember the tournaments since they were in Florida and I was a New Yorker. It was my first summer competing out of region. I said earlier that the boat was a Cobia. It could have been a Hydrodyne. In any event it was a twin rig with a very hard, square wake. I was used to a Ski Nautique and the wake was very different.

    @harddock Out first Nautique was purchased for $6000 in 1975, with a trailer.
    John Wilkins- Si non pro sanguine quem ludus ne. #iskiconnelly
  • pudgyskierpudgyskier Posts: 29 Baller
    @jimbrake Modoc Pond in 1981 was my first tournament. I had never skied a course before. Lots of great people giving me tips, ( Tad Scharpf). I was skiing on a wooden Connelly hook, Ran 28 LL, ran 30, at 32 hit 1 ball and crashed. I think the announcer was drunk and was giving everybody nick-names that weren't exactly P C, even in those days. One of the greatest times ever. My next tournament experience was at Haystack Res., Skied behind a wooden inboard.
    Pudgy Baller
  • thagerthager Posts: 5,566 Mega Baller
    I think it might actually be fun to have one round of a three round Tourney where everyone starts at minimum speed long line. No opting up!
    Stir vigorously then leave!
  • Bill22Bill22 Posts: 1,765 Mega Baller
    edited December 2015
    @thager can you imagine flying across country with 4 slalom skis in your bag? Think if you had 2 trick skis and some jumpers too!

    Someone should put on a tournament like this. We'll all need to buy a new Freeride or 71" Butter Knife.
  • thagerthager Posts: 5,566 Mega Baller
    We only brought and used one ski back then. More than that would be cheating!!

    Stir vigorously then leave!
  • EdbrazilEdbrazil Posts: 1,396 Historical Baller
    Following up on @thager I think it would be a real hoot for Nate to be standing on the dock, and
    telling the Boat Judge: "15, please". Boat Judge: "15 off?" Nate: "No. 15 mph."
    These days, with the scoring change, it is possible to exceed Warren's score of 116. When 41off
    is run, it is a score of 120. But, how about starting at the minimum of 15mph/25kph and going
    all the way up:
    25, 28, 31, 34, 37, 40, 43, 46, 49, 52, 55, 58 kph longline. Then: 15 off, 22, 28, 32, 35, 38,
    39, 41. Which is 20 full passes of 6 buoys each, for a score of 120.
    Maybe at some local tournament with few skiers, and a very patient boat crew.

    What I'd really like to see would be an Olde Tyme tournament, with 2 ski slalom and 2 ski tricks.
    But, forget about jumping under old style conditions (8 ft. wide ramp, no side curtains, no boat
    guide buoys, no helmet, no vest, etc.).
  • dchristmandchristman Posts: 1,374 Mega Baller
    edited December 2015
    @Edbrazil I have some great old video that you might like to see. A couple of years ago we spent some of the remaining Reading Water Skiers money to have Bert Mileski's old 8mm films converted to digital. Since it was from Bert it's mostly jumping, but there's a lot of other stuff in there from the 60's to the early 80's. Some big names of the times too since Bert traveled around doing a lot of announcing and judging.
    Is it time to ski, yet?
  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,065 Mega Baller
    Is the starting speed for Men really 15 mph? I am relatively certain I can't run 15 mph on my slalom ski. I would need something much wider or my son's jump skis. At 24mp I still think I would be sinking.
    Mark Shaffer
  • Bill22Bill22 Posts: 1,765 Mega Baller
    edited December 2015
    I was not around in the 60's to know first hand. But having the option to switch skis when you went back to the dock is one detail I clearly remember when it was explained to me.
  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,456 Mega Baller
    @pudgyskier - maybe @Mateo Vargas can ask Scott McNerney if he was the announcer at that tournament, but he would've been a pretty young teen back then so probably wasn't him (yet). Could've been Art Smreker from SF announcing although I doubt he would've been drunk, just poking a lot of fun at the skiers and could've been relatively un-PC.
    "...all of the basic fun banter"
  • Ham_WallaceHam_Wallace Posts: 533 Solid Baller
    Ed has the rope lengths correct. They went 12, 18, 24, 30, 36 off, They added 33 off in 1969. Berkeley was the first nationals incorporating 33 off. I think Ricky McCormick made a clean sweep of the boy's division that year.
    Am I a jumper that wants to be a slalom skier? Or a slalom skier that wants to be a jumper?
  • EdbrazilEdbrazil Posts: 1,396 Historical Baller
    edited December 2015
    I remember 33 off. Not like I got anywhere near it. At the time, the jump from 30 off to
    36 off was thought too big a step, going from a do-able length to an "impossible" one.

    I think it was Roland Hillier who told me about how he approached 42 off, that was a lineoff
    occasionally skiers could get to in multiple runoffs. He would forget about making the gate
    and # 1, and try for # 2 and # 5. When "add buoys" counted. 42 off was 75-42 = 33 feet,
    or about 10.06 meters.

    Then, the half-width of the course was 37.5 feet, or about 11.43 meters. So, the skier
    would come up short by some 1.37 meters. Today's 10.25 loop is 11.50-10.25, or
    short of course width by 1.25m, and people are occasionally running it. And, getting
    to 9.75m, short by 1.75m, and occasionally almost running 1/2 the course.
  • Bill22Bill22 Posts: 1,765 Mega Baller
    @Edbrazil how far back were the old gates? As skiers and skis improved did the old gate make it harder to run the course? Was the angle to one ball not correct?
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