USA Water Ski & Wake... Live Webcast - Annua...

Live Webcast - Annual Awards Gala, Saturday, Jan. 29

By USA Water Ski & Wake Sports | Jan. 28, 2022, 8:40 a.m. (ET)

100th Anniversary Awards Gala Logo

USA Water Ski & Wake Sports and its nine sport discipline organizations will honor the 2021 award recipients at USA Water Ski & Wake Sports’ Annual Awards Gala, presented by Visit Central Florida, on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, Fla. The gala will celebrate respective award winners from 2021 and kick off USA Water Ski & Wake Sports’ year-long celebration of water skiing’s centennial in 2022. The gala will be available for viewing via a live webcast starting at 7:30 p.m. (EST).

Be sure to also check our online raffle offering items from Airhead, Bart's, Connelly, D3, Hobie, Malibu, MasterCraft, Radar, SeaDek and Visit Central Florida. Raffle tickets are $5 each.

Brea Imse (Wheeling, Ill.) was selected USA Water Ski & Wake Sports’ 2021 Female Athlete of the Year; Nate Smith (McCordsville, Ind.) was selected USA Water Ski & Wake Sports’ 2021 Male Athlete of the Year; and the Rock Aqua Jays Water Ski Show Team (Janesville, Wis.) earned USA Water Ski & Wake Sports’ 2021 Team of the Year honors. Jerry Jackson (Evans, Ga.) was selected as the recipient of the 2021 Award of Merit – the organization’s highest award for a volunteer.

Imse began the season by winning the Flaunt it swivel pairs competition with partner Caroline Grubbs. She went on to win the National Show Ski Association’s Central Regional individual swivel title, and the swivel pairs competition with partner Paige Peshina. Imse also was selected the female MVP of the Central Regionals. She capped off her tournament season by winning the national swivel title at the 46th Indmar Marine Engines Division 1 Show Ski National Championships, presented by Visit Central Florida. As a versatile skier for the Wonder Lake Water Ski Show Team, she was selected the Willa Cook Award winner, which is presented to the top female performer at the Nationals. Finally, she participated in the Chain of Records event last fall in Winter Haven, Fla., where she was part of several pending NSSA records and Guinness World Records, including an NSSA approved solo swivel record for most 720s – 20 total – in one minute. Imse is a three-time member of the USA Water Ski Show Team and will compete in the 2022 IWWF World Water Ski Show Tournament next fall in Winter Haven, Fla.

In the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, Smith dominated the men’s slalom scene, winning titles at the Moomba Masters, GOODE Water Ski National Championships, Malibu Open and MasterCraft Pro. When the 2021 season got underway, he picked up right where he left off, winning titles at the Swiss Pro Slalom, GOODE Water Ski National Championships, U.S. Open of Water Skiing, Malibu Open, MasterCraft Pro, Pan American Water Ski Championships, and Miami Pro Slalom. Yet his crowning achievement came in October when he won his third career world slalom title at the 2021 IWWF World Water Ski Championships in helping the U.S. Elite Water Ski Team to the overall bronze medal.

The Rock Aqua Jays hosted and competed in the 2021 Mercury Marine Show Ski Open last June. It was the club’s first tournament since 2019 and it won the team title after earning high-scoring awards for Ballet and Swivel, and box scores for Dock & Equipment Personnel, Pick-Up Boat Crew, Towboat and Sound Crew. In August, the club hosted and won the national team title at the 46th Indmar Marine Engines Division 1 Show Ski National Championships, presented by Visit Central Florida. It was the club’s unprecedented 21st national title in the history of the event. In early September, the team hosted a Guinness World Record attempt for most barefoot pyramids. The skiers were from the Rock Aqua Jays, Little Crow, Aquanuts and the Must-Skis. A new Guinness World Record was officially set with eight barefoot pyramids successfully completing the task.

Jackson, 63, has been the American Water Ski Association’s Technical Committee chair for 10 years and he is a member of the IWWF Pan American Homologation Committee. In 2021 he helped promote the Splasheye Jump and Trick Programs throughout the United States and provided in-person and virtual training across all regions. He introduced and provided training for the SurePath program adopted by the IWWF. He maintained and verified all AWSA National records. He also coordinated reviews of all national trick records with a trick judge review panel. He was the chief technical controller at the Nautique Masters, Under 17 Worlds, Under 21 Worlds, Malibu Open and MasterCraft Pro. He set up more than 15 sites during 2021 as a volunteer, including installation and repair of slalom and jump courses.

Additional 2021 awards from USA Water Ski & Wake Sports and its respective sport discipline organizations are as follows:

  • USA Water Ski & Wake Sports: Michelle Meike (Burlington, Wis.), Volunteer of the Year (National Show Ski Association); Lori Krueger (Martindale, Texas), Coach of the Year (American Water Ski Association); Shawano Ski Sharks (Shawano, Wis.), Club of the Year (National Show Ski Association); and Jason Davison (Long Beach, Calif.), Junior Athlete of the Year (National Water Ski Racing Association).
  • American Barefoot Club: Ashleigh Stebbeings (Winter Haven, Fla.), Volunteer of the Year; Ben Groen (Winter Haven, Fla.), Coach of the Year; Noah Kinnaman (Lake St. Louis, Mo.), Rising Superstar; Lauren Ehlers (Austin, Texas), Female Athlete of the Year; and Brody Meskers (Chetek, Wis.), Male Athlete of the Year.
  • American Kneeboard Association: John C. Haile (Orlando, Fla.), Ambassador of the Year.
  • American Water Ski Association: Jerry Jackson (Evans, Ga.), Volunteer of the Year; Jake Abelson (Holderness, N.H.), Junior Athlete of the Year; Anna Gay (Winter Garden, Fla.), Tricks Skier of the Year; Freddy Krueger (Winter Garden, Fla.), Jump Skier of the Year; Brooke Baldwin (Winter Garden, Fla.), Overall Skier of the Year; Regina Jaquess (Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.), Female Athlete of the Year; Nate Smith (McCordsville, Ind.), Slalom Skier of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year; and U.S. U21 Water Ski Team, Team of the Year.
  • National Collegiate Water Ski Association: Anna Prior (Louisville, Colo.), Female Outstanding Leader; Reilly Reifsteck (Ames, Iowa), Male Outstanding Leader; Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz.), Team of the Year; Brooke Baldwin (Winter Garden, Fla.), Female Athlete of the Year; and Quinn Haines (Avon, Conn.), Male Athlete of the Year.
  • National Show Ski Association: Kurtis McMillan (Mooresville, N.C.), Official of the Year; Michelle Meike (Burlington, Wis.), Volunteer of the Year; Event Organizers – Eric Gran (Shawano, Wis.), Geno Yauchler (Winter Haven, Fla.) and Kylie Wallace (De Pere, Wis.) – of the 2021 Chain of Records, That’s Incredible Award; Brea Imse (Wheeling, Ill.), Female Athlete of the Year; Mitch Tanner (Delhi, Iowa), Male Athlete of the Year; Rock Aqua Jays Water Ski Show Team (Janesville, Wis.), Club of the Year; and Shawano Ski Sharks (Shawano, Wis.), President’s Award.
  • National Water Ski Racing Association: Tracey Langley (Lake Havasu City, Ariz..), Most Improved Female Athlete; Craig “Bub” Ferguson (San Pedro, Calif.), Most Improved Male Athlete; and Cameron King (Torrance, Calif.) and Matthew Klee (Harbor City, Calif.), Athletes of the Year.
  • United States Hydrofoil Association: MJ Buckley (Robbinsdale, Minn.), Female Athlete of the Year, Geno Yauchler (Winter Haven, Fla.), Male Athlete of the Year and co-Volunteer of the Year; Eric Gran (Shawano, Wis.), co-Volunteer of the Year; and Chain of Records Hydrofoil Team, Team of the Year.
  • USA Wakeboard: Janifer Ellis (Auburndale, Fla.), Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • USA Adaptive Water Ski & Wake Sports: Elisha Nelson (Woodland, Calif.), Female Athlete of the Year; and Craig Timm (Center City, Minn.), Male Athlete of the Year.

The 2021 award winners were selected either by the USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Awards Committee or by the respective sport discipline organization.