This family-oriented club is unique to Lakeland not only because of its long-standing and rich history, but for its inclusiveness to the community.
In 1949, Lake Hollingsworth became the breeding ground for a dream of three at-the-time-recent Florida Southern College graduates. Intercollegiate and national water ski competitors Bill Clifford, Glen Kirkpatrick, and Matt Obinger harnessed their passion for water competitions and formed what would become a leader in ski shows, a forum for the most prestigious tournaments, and an avenue for talented water skiers to thrive. They formed the oldest, continuously operating water ski club in the United
States — the Lakeland Water Ski Club.
Since its inception, the club has sponsored numerous tournaments, including the Lakeland Open, which is the longest continuously running tournament in the world. The club also hosted the 1955 American Water Ski Association (AWSA) National Water Ski Tournament and the 1958, 1966, 1968, 1974, and 1975 Southern Regional Water Ski Championships. Many people would travel from around the world to attend tournaments such as these.
Great leadership also has emerged from the club too. Many members of the club have served on national water ski 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.
Performing for both Lakeland residents and out-of-town guests, the Lakeland Water Ski Club became a leader in water ski shows. A large number of Hall of Fame skiers are from the club, and these skiers refined notable routines in Lakeland shows that would later go on to perform around the world.
Today, the club continues to host shows that compete on a regional level. But, even with this impressive portfolio, Lakeland Water Ski Club Show Director, Mitch Harvey, emphasizes that the club is not exclusive to those masterful in water sports. Members of the club welcome amateur skiers and are more than willing to help those interested in learning the basics. “We’re all just regular people doing really cool things on the water,” says Harvey.
The club is unique to Lakeland not only because of its long-standing and rich history, but for its inclusiveness to the community. “It’s a family-oriented club,” says Harvey, who has been a part of the club for about four years. “It’s very rewarding on many levels.”
Along with being a family-oriented sport, water skiing is also a rewarding activity for its ability to cultivate both healthy individual and team dynamics. “There are few sports where you have to be excellent as an individual in order to work in the team environment,” says Harvey. “I always say, it’s the biggest individual team sport I’ve ever been involved in.”
The club currently hosts 10 shows each year between September and April. These events are free and open to the public; however, donations are accepted. There are many different ways to get involved with the club, and those interested are encouraged to attend an event and introduce themselves to the team. If you have any questions or want more information, you can call 863-332-2SKI or visit lakelandwaterskiclub.com.