If you’re not already immersed in its world, “waterskiing” likely brings a couple of sepia-tone images to mind: The celebrated old ski shows at places like Florida’s original Cypress Gardens, and midcentury family gatherings Up North. (If you saw the movie “The Great Outdoors” in the '80s, Dan Akroyd and John Candy might be part of that second image.) As waterskiing celebrated its 100th-anniversary last year, it’s easy to assume that it belongs to the past. Yet the sport is thriving in the 21st century, with 11 million people in the United States enjoying this dynamic sport.
Many recreational skiers discover they have a passion for competition, and with roughly 900 sanctioned waterski events across the country, they have plenty of opportunities to grow in their sport. David Rezin is one of those skiers, and he embraced his passion at an early age.
Like waterskiing itself, which was born when a man named Ralph Samuelson used a pair of boards and a clothesline on Lake Pepin in 1922, Rezin has Midwestern roots. Waterskiing is huge in his neck of the woods. He was born and raised in Rome, a little central Wisconsin town nestled on the border between Adams and Wood counties. As a youngster, he performed with the Shermalot Water Ski Show Team on Lake Arrowhead.“I skied with the team from age 9 to 16, and I served as the show director at 16,” Rezin recalled. “That was my first foray into show directing. I loved the sport, loved leadership.”
He never looked back. Rezin has performed with and served as show director for the Wisconsin Rapids Aqua Skiers Show Ski Team, which has offered free shows on Lake Wazeecha since 1959 and also has hosted the world’s largest waterski show tournament for 50 years. Since 2001, he’s been with the Rock Aqua Jays in his adopted hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, where he currently lives with his wife, Jennifer, and three children. In fact, he and Jennifer met waterskiing in Janesville, and she also is part of RAJ.
In 1975, team members organized the first National Water Ski Show Tournament at RAJ Stadium on the Rock River in Janesville. In 2012, they helped organize the first World Water Ski Show Tournament there as well. “The Rock Aqua Jays are the New York Yankees of the show ski world,” Rezin explained. “We’ve won half the national titles, and we have a world-class site for hosting.” As a champion show director and six-time member of Team USA, Rezin is one of the sport’s top athletes. In 1996 and 2005, he received the Skip Gilkerson Award, which recognizes the male MVP in the National Show Ski Association National Championship. “I do freestyle jumping with inverted moves, back barefoot skiing, trick skiing, doubles, and pyramids,” he said. “I can lift my wife and daughters over my head. My kids all started waterskiing at age 2; my daughters are 15 and 12 now, and my son is 8.”
A Powerful Partnership
Speaking of pyramids, Rezin recently was involved in setting a world record. The Mercury Marine Pyramid (USA) achieved the largest human waterskiing pyramid formation on Sept. 10, 2022 in Janesville with a jaw-dropping 93 people. They broke their own record of 80, set in 2018. “It was amazing,” Rezin remembered. “It was just a wall of people. We had to block off the river. “This relationship with Mercury is a pivotal one, especially now,” he added. “We couldn’t do these massive pyramids or show our skill set without Mercury, because we need the power to get off the dock. We need those triple 300s.” A high-performance sportboat with powerful triple Mercury Racing 300Rs make pyramids, barefoot lines and ballet lines possible. A second boat with the same configuration of the 4.6L V8 engines is always on hand to provide backup during a show. Twin Mercury Marine 300XL Pro XS engines provide power for double and individual skiers, and it can serve as an end pyramid or B-team/development towboat. Smaller engines power shuttle and safety boats, as well as barges for necessary dock extensions.Rezin noted this vital relationship between Mercury and the waterski world goes back to the sport’s early days. Mercury founder E. Carl Kiekhaefer, who started the company in 1939 in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, built a friendship with a man named Tommy Bartlett in 1949. Bartlett would put Wisconsin Dells on the map with his Tommy Bartlett Water Ski and Jumping Boat Thrill Show, which became a permanent attraction at Lake Delton in 1953. More than 20 million people experienced the show before its permanent closure in 2020. “I spent two seasons with the Tommy Barlett waterski team,” Rezin said. “I enjoyed that. It gave me a lot of great relationships.”
Start Your Own Adventure in 2023
According to Rezin, interest in waterskiing is on the upswing. To support new skiers, USA Water Ski & Wake Sports launched its “Get On Water” campaign in 2022; it gave people resources to help determine which discipline might be best for them, find a local team or club, and receive instruction free of charge. “The campaign was designed to raise awareness and build relationships,” Rezin said. “It’s also was way to say thank you to our incredible community.” Here’s the great news: USA Water Ski & Wake Sports and its affiliated clubs will host free learn-to-ski events during summer 2023. Rezin encouraged new skiers to learn more about the different types of waterskiing, attend a “Get On Water” event, and then find a local club. “It’s more fun to be part of a team, and each one has a real family atmosphere,” he said. “This is a tradition that is passed down from generation to generation.”