Dan B. Hains
He Made the First Nationals a Success
If he were alive today, Dan B. Hains could look at organized water skiing and recognize it as a sport proliferating throughout the world in same pattern in which he created it back in 1939. Slalom competition as it is known in water ski tournaments was his idea. So was jumping, and tricks. To be sure, there have been many refinements, but the three events or disciplines of tournament water skiing worldwide were the conception of Dan Hains.
He used them as the framework for the first National Water Ski Championships held at Jones Beach State Park on Long Island in 1939 -- the first tournament sponsored by a new organization Hains initiated called the American Water Ski Association. Hains was tournament chairman. He wrote the rules. He was judge and sponsor. He made the first Nationals a success.
Yet, characteristically, he was inclined to minimize his contribution to the sport, of the first Nationals, he wrote in 1964 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the association:
"It was a bit presumptuous to call this a "National" tournament since it was made up largely of local talent. In this first tournament, the three basic events of slalom, jumping and tricks were inaugurated. The slalom buoys were in a straight line rather closely spaced. The jump was raised to five feet with a surface of two-inch diameter wood rollers spaced about eight inches apart--quite a dangerous contraption. The winner was the only man not to fall on three jumps. Trick riding was a bit primitive. The winning trick was familiar maneuver of removing one ski, placing the tow bar on th4e instep, then replacing the ski."
Like most of the pioneers in water skiing, Hains came by interest through aquaplaning. His son, Dan P. Hains, recalls that he made his first pair of skis in 1935 by splitting an aquaplane. The skis were towed directly by the boat, with the skier holding onto lines attached to each ski, similar to skis patented by Fred Waller 10 years before. Hains then bought a conventional pair of French make, and he was off on a combination hobby and business that would occupy a major share of his attention for nearly 25 years.
Not long after he began to take water skiing seriously, Hains met Hudson winner and the tow went into business together in Trenton, N.J. Manufacturing water skis among other equipment related to pleasure boating. Hain's name became synonymous with water skiing in the greater New York City area.
In 1939, he was called on by the New York World's Fair Authority to organize a water ski show for the fair after a group of French skiers were forced to cancel their contract. Hains rounded up some skiing friends in New York and called in other performers from the Atlantic City Steel Pier, and their act became one of the hits of the fair. The French skiers make it the following year but the authority sent them home when their performance turned out to be inferior the show Hains put together in '39 and he was called on once again.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Long Island at Jones Beach, Hains was staging the first two National Water Ski Championships with several of his better show skiers competing, including Bruce Parker, the winner of the first two nationals overall titles.
Hains used a picture of Parker jumping off a wake at Jones Beach as the basis for the AWSA insignia, which is still in use today.
With the onset of World War II, Hains and his manufacturing interests were involved in military production, including the first reinforced fiberglass boats produced for the U.S. Navy. After the war, Hains was principal in several industrial firms specializing in reinforced plastics, but he also resumed his interest in water skiing, continuing to manufacture skis in New York and New Jersey and serving as head of AWSA until 1949 when he turned over the reins of the association to Chuck Sligh of Grand Rapids, Mich. Hains, however, was destined for another significant role in the organized sport.
In the fall of 1950, when a dispute among European members of the International Water Ski Union reached a climax during the world tournament at Cypress Gardens, Hains was prevailed upon to accept the presidency of a new World Water Ski Federation.
The federation, in cooperation with Canadian National Exhibitions, sponsored the World Championships at Toronto, Canada, in 1953. Two years later, the WWDF was formally dissolved following a New York meeting between Hains and Andre Coutau of Switzerland that resulted in the founding of the World Water Ski Union, which have continued as the sport's ruling international organization since that time.
The AWSA Board of Directors presented Hains with a Certificate for Meritorious Service at the National Water Ski Championships in 1955 at Lakeland, Fla., and elected him honorary vice president for life, the first member ever so honored.
On the occasion of Hain's death on August 9, 1966, Jack Andersen, who was the first to do turnarounds on double-end skis at the 1940 Nationals, paid tribute to his old friend:
"Dan's greatest achievement is that he drew into water skiing people who, like himself, would work for the sport itself and not for what they could get out of it. Every water skier and even more so, every competitor -- whether he knows it or not--has benefited from the ability and sportsmanship of Dan Hains."