Veteran Shawn Thomas (center) - with side skiers Nathan Simons (left) and Rick Fenton (right) - participated in the May 14 clinic.
USA Water Ski & Wake Sports held the first of 10 water ski clinics across the nation for veterans with disabilities on Saturday, May 14 at Lake Seminole in Pinellas County, Florida. The clinic was hosted in collaboration with Ann’s Angels Adaptive Waterski Foundation and the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa and funded through an Adaptive Sports Grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The clinic provided veterans and service members with various disabilities a fun and safe day out on the water.
The event began at 10 a.m. and continued late into the afternoon so every veteran in attendance was able to ski as many times as they desired. The skiers had various physical hindrances, and most participated in sit skiing, a type of adaptive water skiing that includes a “cage” for the skier to sit in while they ride. USA Water Ski & Wake Sports worked with Connelly, Radar, Masterline, Liquid Access, and Custom Show Boards to provide a wide variety of custom equipment.
Ann’s Angels Adaptive Waterski Foundation, an organization with years of experience in adaptive skiing, provided several volunteers to side-ski with the veterans to stabilize them if needed. These volunteers were essential to the clinic to ensure the safety of the skiers. The boat driver and rope operators were also part of the Ann’s Angels team.
Ronald Moeller, an 86-year-old Air Force veteran, was first to the event and first out on the water. When asked if he had water skied before, he joked: “Once, about six years ago, but I wasn’t good at it then.” However, with a little help from side skiers, his laps on the water were seamless. “Exactly what I thought the first time,” Moeller commented. “It’s perfect.” That statement reflected the general attitude of all participants in attendance about being out on the water. Every veteran chose to ski multiple laps on the lake.
Betsy Gilman, who will be the host of the Aug. 8 event at Big Pine Lake in Perham, Minn., was in attendance on Saturday. While making sure the veterans had a good day on the water, she was also side skiing for the first time in preparation for her event. Though Gilman has experience barefoot skiing, she said she thought her time side-skiing was “the best day [she] had ever had on the water.” She is excited to bring one of these clinics to the upper Midwest.
All the skiers were enthusiastic about the prospect of future water ski events. Additional clinic locations and dates are as follows: Martindale, Texas, May 23-24; Lakeland, Fla., June 4; Locust Grove, Va., June 18; Pohick Bay, Va., July 8; Oroville, Calif., July 16; Harmony, N.C., July 30; Sandy Run, S.C., Aug. 6; Twin Lakes, Wis., Aug. 8; and Perham, Minn., Aug. 8.Click here for a comprehensive list of locations and dates, and info on how to register. As part of the grant program, USA Water Ski & Wake Sports will also be awarding a minimum of 10 veteran adaptive water ski athletes funding to purchase relevant 3-event competition adaptive water-ski equipment up to a $9,500 value for participation.
The 2022 Disabled Veteran Athlete Equipment Grant is funded by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
USA Water Ski & Wake Sports is affiliated with the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (world governing body) and is recognized by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Pan-American Sports Organization as the national governing body of organized water skiing and wakeboarding in the United States.