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Growing the Sport - A Look at What Other Sports Are Doing


Rpc29
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Here is an interesting article I found about what one pro mountain biker is doing to help grow the sport:

 

http://www.bicycling.com/news/pro-cycling/pro-downhiller-amanda-batty-wants-pay-you-race

 

If you don't want to read the article, the summary is: a professional mountain biker is offering to pay entry fees for first time racers.

 

My question to everyone, is would this be a good use of funds for waterskiing? Or are there better ways we could come together to grow our sport? How would you spend $20,000 to grow waterskiing?

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I could probably find ways to spend $20k .....

 

However, my son just graduated from cub scouts to boy scouts last year and I found out there is a merit badge for water sports. Next summer I'm going to volunteer myself and my boat to help some boys get up on skis and earn the merit badge.

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I had a similar experience with the boys in my neighborhood. I took out the scouts and the youth this summer and all the boats said either MC or SN, however my boat was 1/2 the size of the other 4 boats. As you can imagine, they all clamored to the big G25's and other huge beautiful ocean liners, and 3 stragglers got stuck on my 197. So, the majority of the kids had NEVER been on the water, but most all of them are avid snowboarders, so they simply assumed that wakeboarding was where it's at. Fast forward one hour, and a thorough understanding for them why I like no wake---I had each of them up on skis, had each of them crossing the wake, and had two of them up on a slalom ski. (nice having a boom to assist in that effort.)

 

The other kids kept watching, and after that first hour, I had not one but TWO other boats pull up to mine because kids in the other boats wanted to switch out some kids from mine. I now have a neighborhood of 11 kids that have skied behind my boat and have a new-found love for "little wakes."

 

It is simply education. Our kids are growing up different than we did, but hell, even the modern-day-aged kids still can have great fun old school if they are simply given the chance in a non-judgmental environment.

 

Wakeboarders are awesome and are a absolutely necessary part of the sport, but it can be as simply as an invite to try out a ski, and more times than not, they get hooked.

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How did this mountain biker make the info (free entry) known to first timers? How do we spread the word to newbies who are kinda outside the loop, information wise? About ten years ago I put on a 3 round slalom, class "C" with novice included with no entry fee, just donate if you felt like it. I got just the usual people.
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In AL, we have a Nautique dealer who has chosen to sponsor entry fees to the state tournament for any new skier or skier that hasn't participated in the state tournament in the past. I think finding local sponsors for annual tournaments to fund new skiers is a fairly easy and great way to grow our sport.

 

I like it especially for anyone who hasn't skied in a tournament before. That way it is literally a free trial. After the first tournament, they can ride on the Grass Roots wave if they would like to continue for the remainder of the year. It definitely eases the financial burden on those who haven't acquired a passion for the sport yet.

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@Rpc29‌

 

My feeling is that usawaterski doesn't really care about slalom skiing.

 

I came to this conclusion after talking with Taryn Garland this spring. The two complaints that I had when I talked to her were both insurance related. One complaint was the inconsistency on how officials & events is handled. The reason I asked this was because I tried to run a club that included slalom skiing and clinics. The paperwork combined with the frustration of calling HQ to answer questions....and them not being able to give a clear answer made me give up. All the club does at this point is maintains a slalom course.

 

Secondly, we have a Slalom course on a public lake. <-How many public courses are there today for people to get into slalom skiing? Insurance to keep some balls floating is about $700 a year. Instead of just having insurance to have a slalom course it is bundled with a bunch of extra insurance that we didn't need.

 

It takes some major dedication to get a course permitted in public water and then keep it maintained. Its a shame that USAwaterski is less supportive than the park district that manages our lake.

 

So with $20K..... Make the insurance system better. Support the public courses and introductory events that are out there.

 

 

Tim Cochrane

Chippewa Lake Watersports Association.

 

 

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@behindpropellers‌ I agree 100% that public lake slalom courses are becoming more and more of a challenge. Between them being banned on some lakes and destroyed by fisherman and tubers on others they feel like an endangered species.

 

Is the solution trying to build more private lakes so more people have access? I know here in Utah there are an abundance of people looking for high quality private water to ski on.

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Having read what some people pay for access to some private lakes with tow boats it might not be cost prohibitive in some areas. I am a public lake skier with a course and we are fortunate that we have had comparatively little issues with it.

 

I have mixed emotions on growth of the sport. Our course gets pretty good use and at times it can be a challenge to get access. I am fortunate to have flexibility at work so it isn't a big issue for me but I know for people that can only ski after work it is a problem.

 

What is the long term objective of growing the sport? Maybe I am selfish but I don't want to battle 25 more course skiers for sets. We always welcome new skiers and are happy to educate people on skiing the course but around me there are limited opportunities (skiable lakes) and the cost of land is way too high to build lakes.

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@‌Chef23 Many share your opinion.

 

Maybe the better question is - what is the right "size" for our sport?

Risks of shrinking numbers:

Not enough workers to sustain competition

Not enough revenue for manufacturers to continue to support

etc.

 

Risks of growing numbers:

Demand for ski time exceeds supply

New growth does not work tournaments, but attends, bigger strain on existing officials...

etc.

 

So, are we currently the right size? hmmm...

 

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I don't know how to get more people interested in our sport. We have a 3 event private site. We're less than one hour from a metropolitan area of 3/4 million population and just over one hour from another metro area of 1/3 million. We have 8 members. Granted we're in KY, not exactly a hotbed for water skiing, but a million plus people no more than an hour and fifteen minutes away I would think there would be more people interested in tournament style skiing.
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I disagree that there is a "too big". Say that for whatever reason we see a large growth in the number of skiers. There are ways around being cramped for ski time and too crowded tournaments. Such as- on public lakes, put another course in. There are way more lakes in Kentucky with no slalom course as opposed to ones with a course. Put a course in on the lakes that dont have them. Put a cap on tournament entries, have tournaments at multiple sites in a weekend (that may not be the best idea, a lot of strain on lake owners). As the sport grows, scale the access to the sport. If you keep the same number of resources for something that is growing that will never work.
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@LeonL an hour is a long way to drive to ski 3-5 times a week. My guess is that your 8 members live within 10-15 minutes of your site. If there was an affordable private site within 15 minutes of my house I would be all over it. I can drive an hour plus for a private site at a friends house but it is too far for me to get to more than once a week.
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Alas, here in the UK, when we receive a magazine from the organization known as BWSF, it,s full of wakeboarding stuff, etc, not much about three event skiing, they choose to play to the masses, I guess they need the subscription fees.

Because of cost, we need to find a cheaper way of getting people into the sport, in the UK the best way would be to use cable tows, to get people skiing and then they can move on, behind the boats, cable is cheaper for skiers, giving them time on the water at a lower cost, also can operate on a slightly smaller lake, even 4 bouy course.

On average, how much time/sets, on the water, does somebody need, to be able to run the slalom course, what would be the cost, novice to intermediate, I must of spent thousands.

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@Horton‌ is on the right track. Maybe marketed like snow ski sites. I think it would take a decade or so to see strong growth. Over the past 15 years or so media exposure and public awareness has wained. Affordability and accessibility are keys to growing participation and shorting the learning curve.
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Many boat owners learn to slalom ski and teach their families and friends to do the same. The problem is it can stop there for many reasons such as no access to a course, or their 24 foot deck boat is too big to go through a course. The solution might be to get more people trick skiing. I know using trick skiing to get people interested in running the course or trying jump might seem a little backwards since I know normally people get into course skiing and then pick up trick skiing. However, you can trick ski behind pretty much any boat and on any all sports lake. With more concerns being raised about sport related concussions and other injuries more people with a competitive drive may turn away from wake boarding and trick skiing could be where they go.

Basically I think we could use trick skiing as our gate way drug into 3 event skiing.

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@Rpc29‌ I think this is a very cool idea. I think it would be cool to see one of the major manufactures step up and do this across the country. It would be a great way for them to grow brand loyalty from potential new customers from the start.

 

I think a great way to market it would be a local boat launches at the public lakes, marinas, dealerships, and ski shops. If every state could bring in 2 new skiers into tournament skiing a year that would be a good start.

 

More sites like Okee. around the country where public parks and skiing are combined in major metropolitan areas would have a large impact on the sport in my opinion.

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How hard is it to get water time at Okeehelee during the winter? I have only been there for Nationals and have no idea what the rules and usage are like. Can anyone with a boat drop it in the water and wait for a turn on one of the lakes? There must be some rules/costs etc particularly I would think for access to the jump.

 

It is one of the coolest sites I have seen but there is no way to replicate that in Massachusetts for example land is way too expensive within an hour or more of civilization.

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@chef23 I would say probably not hard at all. I was down in October and it was almost our own private lake at the north end where the jump is located. Very few people use the jump or trick lake. Not many use the course by the turnpike at that end, it's a little shorter setup than the others. You might have to wait to use the course on the main lake, east-west course, or turnpike course next to the main lake. It's winter down there for those guys too... they get cold if it's 75 degrees.

 

It's not a free-for-all. You do have to have a permit for your boat, and your boat has to meet certain requirements. I'm not sure if there are any special rules for using the jump, maybe a club member can answer that question.

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Places like Okee', and Berkeley are a start. Two or three spread from north to south on each coast and in the Midwest, set up and marketed like the summer version of snow ski sites. Lessons, beginner through expert, single rides, half day, full day and season passes. Financed by the combined efforts of local municipal, business, boat, ski, food, bev, swag, etc. interests.
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I'm not sure that growing it is such a good thing. Cycling is a very restrictive sport, with tons of UCI rules, restrictions, as well as the iron fist of USADA hanging over it. Do we really want to grow it to that point so that you can't take a corticosteroid without risk of a 2 year ban by USADA?
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I've been struggling with this question for some time. I actually started a club in south Alabama 5riversskiclub.com for anyone we can get skiing. I bought an abandoned 93 Nautique and practically gave it to my cousins to get them skiing again. I maintain 2 courses on public water and still struggle to find skiers. Everyone down here skis as a recreational activity but almost no one even knows about the competitive aspect, or even sees it as a sport.

There are some serious road blocks to our sport: 1. Money; $70 grand for a tournament boat and $1,300+ for a ski & that's just slalom. 2. Access; tournaments are hard to find, expensive for even grass roots, and little to no general public. The big ski companies aren't helping with the promotion and pricing.

Traditional trick skiing is totally unknown to those outside the competitive arena and jump, the most exciting of the traditional 3 events is totally cut off from the recreational skiers.

Private lakes and clubs don't help with anyone from the outside seeing a level of elitism that turns away those looking to join. Just notice the aging serious skiers professions. These guys are 6 figure earners, in most cases, so just breaking into the competitive ranks is difficult as there is little to no access for lower class earners. I grew up around a good tournament club (now defunct) and these days you just can't find them. I grew up without money and now am lucky enough to no longer have that issue, but I still remember how hard it was for me.

A real effort to get to the general publics mind, to make them think of skiing as a sport, not a 2 ski & tube activity has to be launched. Golf has struggled with the same issues and the entire industry has teamed up to work toward getting the general public involved. We need the pros doing public events with involvement from the ski and boat companies.

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