Skillman Suydam

Skillman Suydam is a champion, as a water skier and in life.


He grew up in Orlando, on a lake. His dad, Henry Suydam, had won 4 varsity letters during his prep school years. Skillman wanted so much to make his parents proud of him, through sport. Henry, who had suffered the loss of his left arm, below the elbow, in an accident also wanted to share a sport with his son. In 1948, dad and son went to nearby Cypress Gardens to see a ski show. Now they had found a sport! There, young Skillman stood under the "wishing tree" and looking skyward, prayed for a blessing that someday he might be a water skier who would make his parents proud.


The rest is history! On their lake, they had a row boat with a 22 horsepower Johnson outboard motor. Now all they needed was a pair of water skis. Acquiring a homemade pair of skis, father and son taught themselves to water ski. Henry never let his handicap slow him down. In fact, he was more determined than ever! Skillman was determined as well. A trip to Cypress Gardens, for Skillman to learn to jump proved to be tremendous success! That year, 1949, he entered the Dixie Water Ski Tournament and won the Junior Boys division. Dick Pope Jr. seeing this, took an interest in Skillman, teaching him the finer points of jumping. The two became fast friends, even though they would be competing against each other in the Men's division.


In 1949 Skillman won the Jr. Boys Division at the Water Ski Nationals and successully defended his title in 1950. A rare event occurred at the 1950 Wold Water Ski Tournament. The Junior Boys title was won by Skillman, while the Veterman Men's title was won by Henry---son and father atop the podium. Dick Pope, Jr. won the Men's, Willa Worthington McGuire won the Women's and Mary Lois Thornhill won the Junior Girl's.


By now, mom and dad were most proud of their son. Henry was so fascinated with water skiing that he quit his job and became a fulltime water ski teacher, coach and mentor. Henry was the long time coach at Rollins College and including outside students, taught hundreds of pupils each year. Henry also competed, despite his handicap, with the best and made barefoot skiing look easy.


Skillman was skiing in the Men's Division in 1951, when he went head to head with Dick Pope, Jr. for the title. Skillman, finally, edging Dick out after several runoffs in slalom, to win the Overall Men's title.


Skillman also competed in archery and pistol shooting. He is an avid supporter of the Chevy all electric "Volt" and has his hands in numerous tech developments in the automotive field. He credits his Christain faith for all he has accomplished. A finer person you could not meet. Skillman never had children, but he has lifetime friends, young and old, who would agree with this comment.

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