Warren Witherell

Inducted in 

The First to Jump 100 Feet

 

Warren Witherell can claim more firsts than any other water skier in the history of the sport.

 

He was the first to jump 100 feet - at the Nationals in 1954.

 

He was the first to use the double wake cut in the Nationals - that same one, as a desperation tactic on borrowed jumpers, after his hid been stolen the night before.

 

He was the first trick skier to complete both passes on a single ski - to win the event at the '55 Nationals in Lakeland, Fla.

 

He was the first, and possibly the only, slalom skier to run short line, six at 18 feet off, on a square back ski.

 

He was the first to run a perfect six buoys at 36 feet off the line at 34 miles per hour in 1961, the last year before the men's maximum boat speed was raised to 36 m.p.h.

 

He was the first, and may remain the only, skier to win national slalom championships over a span of 28 years.

And the list could go on.

 

Witherell, who is headmaster of the Burke Mountain Academy in East Burke, VT, learned to water ski in 1939 at the age of four on Lake George in upstate New York. He entered his first tournament, the Eastern Regionals, in 1952 to begin a competitive career that is unique in the annals of the sport.

 

His lanky, six foot three frame and powerful upper body strength have him a natural edge on the slalom course before the advent of the tapered ski and the increased boat speed put more emphasis on finesse and precise timing.  Witherell won national slalom titles in 1953, '54 and '55.  (He was second in '52 to Mexico's Emilio Zamudio at a time when foreign skiers were permitted to ski in the U.S. Nationals.)  He won slalom in the fist Masters Tournament in 1958.  His personal records show that from 1953 until his retirement from active tournament skiing in 1968, Witherell was beaten in slalom only five times in more than 100 tournaments.  Ten years later, he came back to ski in senior competition and in 1981, he won the Veterans National slalom title with a record run of four buoys with 38 feet off the line.

 

Witherell's first 100-footer in jumping did not get in the record book. The rule required a new record to exceed the old by at least two feet, so his leap in the Laconia, NH Nationals was scored as a 99-foot tie of the record.  But little matter, because Dick Binette and Butch Rosenberg followed him with leaps of 102 and 103 feet, respectively, and Witherell raised the record again to 106 feet two weeks later in the New England Championships.  All accomplished with the double wake cut which later campaigned to have outlawed because he considered it dangerous.

 

In tricks, Witherell was one of the pioneers in the use of toe turns, employing them in his 1953 Nationals victory at Long Beach, CA, and coupling them with a one-ski 540 off the ramp to win the world title later that year in Toronto.

 

But Warren Witherell has contributed more that just his skiing to the organized sport.  During the critical development period of the 1950's he was active on the Rules, Rating, Judges and Tournament committees of the American Water Ski Association.  And he has continued to use his ability to teach, write and serve as an articulate spokesman for the sport

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