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Skip Gilkerson

Skip Gilkerson

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Skip Gilkerson, both as a show skier and a world-class three-event skier was known globally as Mr. Showmanship. Skip’s water-skiing productions entertained tens of millions of people, created a positive image for water skiing, which helped grow the sport into a respected sports discipline; all of us in the sport of water skiing have benefited from his unwavering commitment and impact on the sport. Skip elevated the sport of show skiing, and those around him, to a higher standard of excellence that still exists today. From the moment his feet hit the water at age 6 – Skip was a natural. His first attempt at skiing…using his mother’s clothesline as a rope, and a broomstick for a handle, he got up on two skis, lost one, and slalomed in his very first attempt on skis. Skip’s talents and love for skiing initially took him to Santa Claus Land in his home State of Indiana, and eventually to the Water Ski Capital of the World, Cypress Gardens. And when Skip performed, he did it with an exhilarating flair and unmatched style. Skip was a living legend in the world of water skiing, having skied at Indiana Beach, Cypress Gardens and Tommy Bartlett’s, where he eventually served as show director. Skip, who was never lacking in self-confidence, was certainly a gifted athlete, but Skip was first and foremost a performer, not just a water skier. His charisma and showmanship were contagious While at Tommy Bartlett’s Ski Sky and Stage Show, he was an instant sensation and after one summer, Skip had earned the show director’s position, which he held for 26 years. Skip incorporated many new maneuvers, acts, and equipment into show skiing, including: his unique style and showmanship, freestyle jumping, strap doubles, Broadway-style costume designs and of course his trademark… shoe skis. Skip also choreographed and produced shows for the World’s Fair, Sea World and Tommy Bartlett shows in Okinawa, Japan, and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Everybody in competitive show skiing has a story about Skip. Wherever he went, Skip came across as confident and bigger than life…but most importantly, he welcomed and inspired everyone to be a part his life. However, as big of a legend as he was on the water, Skip was just as big off it. He embraced his celebrity status in a way that was all his own. And he used it to elevate others and promote water skiing worldwide. Recognizing the impact and influence that Skip had in the industry, Rob Shirley, the founder of MasterCraft Boat Company, enlisted Skip’s help in the formation of the World’s first cash prize water ski series, the Coors Light International Water Ski Tour. As director of promotional activities for MasterCraft, Skip helped develop the tour’s format, flow, and promotions to a global audience on ESPN. Like every venture Skip tackled, the tour was a tremendous success, launching the sport into the global spotlight like never before. Skip will never leave our hearts or the sport of water skiing. The standards that he set and the legends that he created are still very much with us. The USA’s National Show Ski Championship’s highest honor, for male skiers, is named for after Skip. He also officiated at more consecutive USA National Show Ski Championships than anyone in history and officiated every World Show Ski Championships until his untimely passing. He was also a regular featured guest on shows aired on ESPN, ESPN 2, The Water Channel, OLN (now NBC Sports), and many more. Skip was inducted into the USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Hall of Fame, where his image graces the walls of the museum as a competitor, official and innovator in the sport. His Legacy will continue to inspire show skiers worldwide and for generations to come. As long as people talk about show skiing, people will smile and mention the name Skip Gilkerson.

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