Everybody knows about the sport of water skiing. Water skiing is that funny thing people do down at Cypress Gardens, where they all get on top of each other's shoulders and whip along the shoreline past stands of tourists and flamingoes. The girls are always golden tan and beautiful and the guys aren't too bad themselves. Then come the clown acts and the barefoot ballet and lots of balloons. For a topper there is a man taking off from the water under a kite and then soaring to a splashy stop in the middle of some flaming torches. Everybody says goll-eee and goes home, secure in the knowledge that they have seen water skiing.
Well, they have not. Like certain other American inventions—two-car garages, for instance, and credit cards—water skiing has recently come to the burgeoning proprietary attention of the middle class. Growing affluence and ski-now-pay-later plans have permitted practically anyone who has the desire to buy a boat, a motor, a towrope and some skis—then to find a lake and zoom off into the horizon.
Along with this development has come a healthy shifting of interest away from the slick, commercial aspects of water skiing to the solid, competitive forms of the sport. And last week in Copenhagen, Denmark, halfway across the world from Florida, where it all grew up, American water skiers marked their finest hour.
Oh, there were still barefoot exhibitions and a few parachutes, but these came only after the true spectacle: the 11th World Water Ski Championships, which the United States won again.
Like basketball, this is frankly our game. The U.S. always beats the other guys in water skiing. On the way to Copenhagen, U.S. men and women had won this biennial tournament in each of the nine years that a team championship has been contested. It has never been close. The golden-tan U.S. team came to Denmark only mildly concerned that the outcome might be any different than before.
At a reception given by Lord Mayor Urban Hansen in Copenhagen's elegant Town Hall on the eve of the championships, 19-year-old Mike Suyderhoud, a Californian of Dutch parentage, pulled a London newspaper clipping from his wallet. "This guy writes that the Australians could beat us," he said. "I don't know if that's exactly right."
U.S. Team Manager Marv Rothenberg was even more succinct. "That makes us mad, right?" he said. "The Australians will definitely finish second. If we get regular water conditions without much wind there shouldn't be any problems. If it blows real bad the whole thing can open up for anybody."
But that was most unlikely. Not even the wind could spoil what had been a staggering effort by the Danish Water Ski Federation over three years to get set for the tournament. Not many world championships of any kind are held in this small country (though the natives pointed out that they do have a world-class piano player named Borge), and they were understandably enthusiastic. The neighboring kommunes of Frederiksdal, Gentofte. Gladsakse and Bagsvaerd had all chipped in with financial help, volunteers and social functions to help smooth the way for their big-city partner.
All the kommunes are spotted around the competition site, Bagsvaerd Lake, a picturesque strip of green water about eight miles northwest of the city. Sheltered on two sides by forests and on a third by hills, the lake was given over to the skiers by two rowing clubs which use it for their own competitions. A spectator area was already available on grassy tiers. Everything was set.
The Verdensmesterskaber pa Vandski (world championships on water skis) were divided into three events for men and women: slalom, jumping and trick skiing.