By: Pete DeVito
October 21, 2022
On October 19th, a few of our Sunnyland members were invited to participate in a once in a lifetime event. It all started in late 2021 as plans were underway to host the 100th Anniversary of Water Ski along with the 2022 IWWF World Water Ski Show Tournament here in my home town of Winter Haven, Florida. The folks planning the event knew I had an antique boat and called upon me to carry the IWWF flag during their opening ceremony. Knowing how important this event was, I said I would be honored but I asked how we could get a few more antique boats into the ceremony. They immediately asked if I could get enough boats to carry the country flags of the countries competing in the tournament. Knowing what I thought would be an easy sell, I called the first owners that came to my mind and they were as excited as I was to be included in this event.
The 100th Anniversary of Water Ski ceremony would be at the former Cypress Gardens water ski stadium on the banks of Lake Eloise. Most folks have fond memories of visiting Cypress Gardens when they were kids. Winter Haven is the water ski capital of the world and we owe it to Dick and Julie Pope who built the first theme park, Cypress Gardens. It was only fitting for Winter Haven to host these two beautiful events in the water ski capital of the world.
On Wednesday evening as the sun was setting over Lake Eloise and the stadium was full to capacity, our boats awaited idling out of sight of the spectators. We were told that at exactly 6:16PM there would be a flyover and that was our cue to parade in single file toward the stadium. Each of our boats carried a junior skier from the Cypress Gardens ski team carrying one of the country flags. As each country team walked across the waterfront in front of the stadium our boat carrying their country flag was passing in the water behind them. It was spectacular and the teams and crowd loved the boats. Once we passed with our team, we turned and all our boats faced the stadium. Once the teams were seated, we again lined up in single file and exited the stadium area at about half throttle. The rumble of our engines was much more exciting than a plane flyover.
Once back at the launch ramp we pulled the boats out and had a great dinner at the local Harborside restaurant on Lake Shipp. It was a great way to cap off a beautiful day with friends and plan our cruise on the south Winter Haven chain of lakes for the next day.
On Friday morning the 2022 IWWF World Water Ski Show Tournament commenced on the shores of Lake Silver in the heart of Winter Haven. The Cypress Garden Ski Team is now based at this location and the City of Winter Haven has transformed this park into a first class tournament skiing venue. The different countries competed in Swivel Ski, Freestyle Jumpers and different team competition throughout the weekend. The tournament concluded on Sunday.