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"Joe Cash changed my jumping style"
You might say Larry Penacho Began water skiing because his father, Joe Penacho, was a commercial tuna fisherman.
It came about in the late summer of 1956. The Penacho fishing boat was in port at San Diego Bay when someone in the family suggested they take the boat around to Mission Bay and try water skiing. A cousin had a pair of skis and the boat was equipped with an 18-foot tender, which would be about right as a towboat.
Larry was 12 years old at the time. It came his turn to try water skiing and he got up on the first attempt. A year later, he was skiing in the National Water Ski Championships.
His rapid development as a competition skier came about through a series of family circumstances. His father and mother, Madeline, became as enthusiastic about the sport as Larry. Joe later sold his fishing boat and began to devote more and more time to driving not only for his son but for water ski tournaments throughout California. Then, through the encouragement of Larry's older sister, Charlene, the Penacho family joined the San Diego Speedboat & Water Ski Club, and Larry began his rise to the top.
He practiced for months on two skis so that his transition to a single slalom ski in February 1957 was a breeze. He finished high enough in the Western Regional later that year to earn a place in Boys Slalom in the National Tournament, which was held in his hometown.
Larry began trick skiing in the fall of 1957 after watching films of Micky Amsbry, Chuck Stearns, Roger Ray and Joe Cash, all pacemakers in the event in those days.
He had already tried jumping, finishing last in the Regionals with a leap of 46 feet, little realizing that his jumping would take him to World Championship heights in the years to come.
Larry won Boys tricks at the 1958 Nationals at Callaway Gardens with a score of 1721.5, the second highest total ever run in competition (Stearns had a score of 1943.5 in the Men's Division). He won Boys tricks again at the 1959 Nationals in Laconia, N.H. moving up to Men's competition, Larry won the jumping title at the Minneapolis National in 1960, and captured the overall national title at Long Beach in 1963.
While still in the Boys age bracket. Larry made his mark in the Masters. He won the Boys overall title in 1959 with a victory in Slalom and second in tricks and jumping. He then made a clean sweep in the 1960 Masters, and his name became the second to be engraved on the famed Masters Trophy (Nancie Rideout's was the first in 1959).
But it was not his victories that Larry remembers most about those early Master Tournaments. It was the advice he received from a future Hall of Famer, the late Joe Cash.
"Joe changed my jumping style," Larry recalls. "He told me to lean forward over my toes and get out of a squat position."
The advice worked so well that the Penacho "spring" off the ramp became the talk of jumping specialists and led to his victory in the Long Beach World Championships in 1961 and again at the World meet in Australia in 1965.
In retrospect, the Long Beach jumping triumph was Larry's greatest thrill in all of his year's o f water skiing. "I was just 17 years old at the time," Larry remembers, "and it was an honor just to be in the tournament. I shall always remember seeing the sun going down as it came my turn to jump. The moment I left the ramp, I knew it was a good one."
It was - a record leap of 150.8 feet.
Larry was born Lawrence Joseph Penacho in San Diego on September 21, 1953. He and his wife, Aleta, and son Zachary 6, live on 3 1/2 acres in Jamal, a San Diego suburb.
At the time of the induction, Larry had been teaching mathematics for 28 yeas, the most recent eight at Patrick Henry High School. He was also a wrestling coach for 26 years.