History of the Lakeland Water Ski Club
By Jeff Clark
The Lakeland Water Ski Club was formed in 1949 in Lakeland, Fla., by Bill
Clifford, Glen Kirkpatrick and Matt Obinger. The three intercollegiate and national
water ski competitors had recently graduated from Florida Southern College
when they formed the club on Lake Hollingsworth. Clifford later became the first
executive director of the American Water Ski Association when it was formed in
Since its inception, the Lakeland Water Ski Club has been supportive of
every facet of water skiing, and many of its members have served on the national
committees and board of directors for the American Water Ski Association, National
Show Ski Association, American Kneeboard Association, National Collegiate Water
Ski Association, American Barefoot Club, Water Skiers with Disabilities Association,
American Water Ski Educational Foundation and USA Water Ski.
The club has sponsored tournaments continuously since its inception,
including the Lakeland Open, which celebrated its 65th year in 2013 and is the
longest continuously running tournament in the world; and the 1955 AWSA
National Water Ski Tournament, in which Clifford served as the chief judge and
Fred Wiley was the chief boat driver. Wiley drove every skier in the competition
using a Century Coronado as the towboat. The highlight of the tournament was in
the men’s jumping competition, where Butch Rosenberg did the first-ever double
wake cut in the jumping event and set a new national record of 125 feet in the
The club hosted many prestigious tournaments including the 1958, 1966,
1968, 1974 and 1975 AWSA Southern Regional Water Ski Championships. The
club has been a pace-setter and innovator in many fields. The first 3 round
record capability trick tournament was established in 1974 and was the premier
event during the first week-end in May for more than 10 years. The who’s who of
water skiing would travel from around the world to participate in the tournament.
This was during the period when trick skiing evolved from 5,180 points to more
than 9,000 points. More than 80 World and National trick records were set at this
The club also has hosted many national and regional barefoot, kneeboard
and show ski tournaments over the years, and even hosted some circle ski
racing events during the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1970 the club sponsored the
first circle ski race sanctioned by the American Water Ski Association, and
Clifford served as the chief judge.
The club also has been a leader in water ski shows, performing during the
winter for Lakeland residents and out of town visitors. The club has received
many awards in show ski tournaments, and it continues to compete on a regional
level. Many skiers have learned their routines in the club’s shows and have gone
on to perform around the world. Dave Bayhan, Glen and Jean Oaks, Pat Nathey
Jay Merkel, Harold Sales and Chip Chipman are just a few. Joe Bridges invented
the ladder and disk act in Lakeland, and the club’s skiers in 1985 invented the
double-triple formation - once featured on the cover of The Water Skier magazine
- that is still used today by clubs around the world in respective shows.
Copyright © The Lakeland Water Ski Club. All rights reserved.
920 Lake Hollingsworth Dr, Lakeland, Florida 33803, United States | +1.8633322754 | firstname.lastname@example.org
We have been show skiing for the Lakeland community since 1949 on beautiful
We are the oldest, continuously operating water ski club in the United States.