Ski Racing at Age 9
In 1968 at the age of 10, Mike Avila stepped into his ski and into the greatest water ski racing career ever.
During a career in which he had both arms paralyzed and diagnosed irreparable, Mike attacked those odds with self-therapy, continued to race and remained a top contender. He is widely considered the most dominating Men’s ski racer that has ever competed in the National Water Ski Racing Association.
Mike started skiing at the age of 9 and entered his first race a year later 1968. In a sign of things to come, he finished in first place.
Mike’s father, Richard, trained Mike and his siblings, Rick and Denise. He used to make them run steep sand hills to get in shape, and pulled them for hours at a time for practice. An average practice day was Richard putting Mike and Rick behind the boat at the same time and make lap after lap around the lake.
There perhaps can be no higher praise for Mike’s abilities than a recent testament from 1982 Water Ski Hall of Fame inductee Chuck Stearns – a 10-time winner of the famed Catalina Ski Race and the only skier in history to maintain a position at the top of both three-event water skiing and water ski racing at the same time. “I can remember while racing at Colero Lake in 1969. I spent the day skiing and having a great time with Mike and his family,” Stearns said. “I can remember 11-year-old Mike saying to me, ‘…. some day I will be the best just like you, Chuck.’ There was something about that little boy who seemed to speak more than just words. Well that came true by leaps and bounds. As a kid, Mike was racing in the Open Men’s division and winning. He started winning marathons as a junior. He was by far the strongest skier ever, being compared to other strong skiers such as Butch Peterson and Danny Churchill. Thank God he came after my time or he would’ve skied circles around me!”
In 1982 Mike had a fall that left his right arm paralyzed for three months and incredibly weak. But he came back to win the national championship that same year. In 1990, he had the same thing happen to his left arm and came back to win again in the national championships the same year.
Mike placed in every national championships he raced in for 20 consecutive years, only to have the streak broken by boat failure. He won the first overall marathon in 1976 and since then has recorded the most overall wins with 149. He has won more than an 500 circle races in his career.
He is a four-time Open Men’s national champion; seven-time Open Men’s national marathon high-point champion; five-time member of the U.S. Elite Water Ski Racing Team, three of which won the world team gold medal; and one of only two ski racing athletes (Robbie Woods, 1977) to win the Lake Mead Grand Slam - The 50 miler, The 75 Miler, Age Class Circle Race and Open Men’s Circle Race - and he did it an unprecedented four consecutive years. He is the only ski-racing athlete in the world to have finished first or second in every major ski-racing event in the world.
He is by far the winningest athlete in ski racing history with more than 149 overall championship victories; 27 national championships; 31 high point championships; and 5 world titles. He is the holder of every fastest average speed record in the world, has been voted the greatest of all time by Hot Boat magazine and fastest of all time by Powerboat magazine. He broke every course record in the United States and still holds all but one. And, he was the team captain and carried the United States flag in six Water Ski Racing World Championships. These and countless other titles spanning a lifetime of incredible achievements are why Mike is the first ski racing-only athlete inducted into the Water Ski Hall of Fame.
At the time of his induction, Mike was living in Pacifica, Calif., and operating a construction management company. He was still skiing every week and racing from time to time. He finished under and hour and won his class at the Catalina Ski Race a few years ago, and he won the Outboard division at the 2001 Water Ski Racing National Championships. Mike also continues to drive his Warpath race boat, pulling and training ski racers to be the best they can be. Since Warpath Racing began in 1993, Mike has been helping kids stay out of trouble and away from drugs. Warpath racing is dedicated to helping the youth of today find a way to learn great skills needed for today’s fast-paced lifestyle. These skills include teamwork, learning to focus on your goals, and learning how to achieve those goals. Twelve kids have gone onto national championships.
Mike also continues to set and achieve goals. Since 1993, Warpath Racing has been undefeated at all Points Races and has won the High Point Championship three consecutive years. He also is going after the world V-Bottom world speed record with his new Warpath 3 racing boat. Mike has unofficially gone 2 mph over the record and hopes to shatter the old mark by 10 mph in 2002.