Al Tyll

Inducted into the Water Ski Hall of Fame in 1994 and described as the “magician” of trick skiing, Al Tyll commanded the tricks event during the 1960’s, sweeping four consecutive national championships from 1962 to 1965, adding a couple of Masters titles, and holding seven world records. In 1965 he didn’t lose a single tournament. After a two-year hiatus, Al returned to competition in 1968, winning the Eastern Regional Overall title and the National Senior Men’s Trick Championship. Al set the pace for skiers of that decade because of his ability to perform the high point tricks, especially wake and ramp tricks, more sharply and rapidly than the others. He was the first to break 4,000 points and perfect a style that would set the pattern for the high-point trick runs of later years.

Born in Troy, New York, Al learned to water ski in 1954, saying in his first book, “Don’t be discouraged — I didn’t even make it on the first try!” His improvement was rapid, and soon he was attempting gymnastic tricks on water skis. He entered his first tournament in 1959 and began winning regularly in 1961. By then Al lived on Bantam Lake in Connecticut, where he skied and trained five months a year while leading a busy career as a court reporter. Yet Al still found time to design and endorse skis, trick handles, boats and equipment; to run Al Tyll Enterprises, a mail order house for custom ski equipment; and to serve as President of the Connecticut Water Ski Association, on the Rules Committee of the American Water Ski association, as a member of the Eastern Region Council, and as president and in various other roles for the now-famous Bantam Lake Ski Club, which he had co-founded several years earlier.

Al's passion for water skiing didn’t stop there. He set standards of sportsmanship and promotion that were world class. He did features for many national magazines including Popular Mechanics, Boys Life, The Water Skier, Boating News, Waterski & Smallcraft Magazine, Scinautico, Look, West Coast Boating News, and The Boating Industry.  He was seen many times on Sports Spectacular, Wide World of Sports, and Sports International, and made other TV appearances on shows such as To Tell the Truth and Story of Al Tyll.  To give back to the sport that had become such a meaningful part of his life, he lectured regularly, conducted wildly popular shore clinics at tournaments all over North America, and authored two how-to books (Water Skiing, published by Fawcett in 1966, and The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Water Skiing, published by Doubleday in 1970). Correct Craft even manufactured a tournament ski boat with his signature and named it the "Al Tyll Skier.” A few can still be found online as collector’s items.

From 1964 to 1983, Al was married to Chris Tyll, a regional champion water ski jumper herself and an important partner in Al's water ski endeavors. Their only child, Tracey, did a bit of show skiing, jumping, and trick skiing herself as a junior girl. The Tylls' home became the focal point for the Bantam Lake Ski Club as well as Al’s own ski school. A handful of Al's students went on to win national championships themselves, including fellow Hall-of-Famer Wayne Grimditch.

Al and his family moved to Lake Ida in Boynton Beach, Florida in 1979 where Al continued to live and ski well into his 80’s. He was one of the first to receive the American Water Ski Educational Foundation's Award of Distinction. Al passed away on August 2, 2018 at the age of 86. He enjoyed a tremendous presence in the water skiing world and will be missed overall for his huge iconic smile, positivity, enthusiasm, dynamic strength of character, and infectious zest for life and the sport. He was an inspiration and a mentor to countless water ski enthusiasts of all ages.

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