Adaptive Water Skiing

Sep 13, 2013
Tagged with: Adaptive Water Skiing

Water skiing is one of my favorite sports—not only is it a great lifestyle (it involves sun, hanging out by the water, hanging out with cool people and travelling), but it is also an amazing workout and it offers a great challenge to push yourself to go further, faster, and bigger in the different skiing events (jump, slalom, and trick).  Most people don’t realize that there is water skiing for individuals with disabilities- whether you are a para, quad, amputee (leg, arm, or both), or blind.  Nor do they realize that there are competitions for adaptive water skiing.  I not only competed in tournaments specifically for people with disabilities in water skiing (regionals, nationals, and worlds), but I also took part in able-bodied tournaments and even skied for my college team- including collegiate nationals and all-stars against my peers without disabilities—and beat them!

Just a few weeks ago, 12 teams competed in the World Disabled water ski championships in Milan – Idroscalo, Italy.  I am happy to report that Team USA came away with the gold medal with a total of 12541.95 points for the THIRD time in a row.  The Italian team, looking to take the gold on their home turf came away with the silver medal, only 754.5 points behind the USA.  In a distant third was team Australia with 6940.92 points.  Five world records were broken!

Like most athletes, many of Team USA athletes started water skiing recreationally.  Some attended local come and try days and water ski clinics or had friends introduce them to the sport.  I was fortunate and lived near the man who developed the modern day sit ski-Royce Andes. He taught me how to ski and introduced me to the pioneers of adapted sit skiing (Bill Bowness, Steve Hornsey, Ann O’brine, Matty Oberholtz).  I was hooked and for 15 years dedicated my time to training, fundraising (to cover training, travel, and equipment costs), and competing.

Unfortunately, water skiing is expensive.  However, just like any sport, if you really want to do it recreationally or competitively, there are ways to raise money—through grants, sponsorships, and saving.  I was a poor college student when I was heavily involved in competing and I was able to afford it- sometimes barely-I admit.  But struggling financially was well worth it.  For me, water skiing opened up a whole new world since I grew up in po-dunk NorCal, where there were no activities for individuals with disabilities to participate in. Through water skiing, I was able to travel all over the US, Europe, and Australia.  I also came away with amazing friendships (and a husband).  I no longer compete, but still love to ski with friends and family.

Full 2013 World Championship results can be found here: The next world competition will be in the spring of 2015 in Australia.

What are you passionate about? What will you be world champ in?

Embed Jump finals video:


Author: Kerri Vanderbom

  • bobl07

    I just love this post because this is exactly what I will be doing tomorrow morning at Lay Lake in Wilsonville, Alabama. This is what I will am passionate about during the summer.

  • Elizabeth Vander Kamp

    Kerri, thank you for this post about water skiing – it makes me want to hit the lake!

  • Kerri

    Thanks, Elizabeth!

  • Kerri

    So envious that you got to ski! Hope you had a great time!

  • Bob Lujano

    It was a blast! I only get to go once a summer. Please let me know next time you go. I would love to see you and Derrick ski.