Updated: Oct 25
The USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Foundation’s Hall of Fame Selection Committee is pleased to announce the 2023 recipients of the USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Foundation’s Award of Distinction.
The five recipients will be honored along with 2023 Hall of Fame inductees Keith St. Onge and Jimmy Siemers on Saturday, April 15 at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, Fla.
The 2023 recipients of the Award of Distinction are Chuck Alleger, Betty Bonifay, Roger Dilling, Russell Gay, and Matt May.
Chuck Alleger (Barefooting)
Internationally recognized as a builder of barefoot water skiing, Chuck Alleger dedicated more than two decades to the sport by developing better boats across the Southern Region, the United States, and the world. From 1987 to 1998, Chuck was the Chairman of the AWSA Towboat Committee and was always working on ways to help improve boats for skiers from all disciplines. Chuck also was the Vice President of the American Barefoot Club and ABC representative for the AWSA Board of Directors. He became Senior Driver and Senior Judge for the American Barefoot Club and was the Chief Judge for several U.S. Barefoot Nationals. He was the Regional Director for the Southern Region for six years. After a long day of work, he would come home to spend several hours in the boat training his son and several other barefooters. Chuck was part of five U.S. Barefoot Teams as a coach or manager, and all of those teams won world championships. Chuck also participated in annual boat tests from 1987 and 2002 and helped FlightCraft to get started in the US and was a big part of MasterCraft's barefoot program for more than 10 years.
Betty Bonifay (Show Skiing)
The name Betty Bonifay has been synonymous with swivel skiing and show skiing for decades. The Bonifay Ski School was the first school for students to learn all different acts of show skiing. but her main focus was always swivel skiing. Hundreds of women credit her with making them the best swivel skiers they could be by incorporating ballet and the art of performing on the water. Betty has traveled all over the United States sharing her passion for waterskiing and her goal was always to encourage her students to compete. Betty has always looked for ways to improve the sport and the equipment including putting foam in the middle of a wooden ski to make it ride flatter on the water. Betty also took the old canvas toe straps and had neoprene toe straps designed for her ropes. She developed the braid at the end of the handle for girls to be able to use for certain tricks. Betty is a true pioneer and innovator of swivel skiing.
Roger Dilling (Water Skiing)
In addition to being a globally recognized water ski judge and scorer, Roger Dilling was renowned for his work within the technical control/homologation community on a global basis. He worked closely with pioneers like Ed Brazil and Dave Clark in the early days of creating a ‘level playing field’ in water ski competition and record certification. Roger spent several decades (1980-2010) as a technical controller and was the first to create his own traveling tech control mini-van which was a staple at many record-capable tournaments throughout the Southern Region. Roger served on the AWSA technical committee for many years.
Roger was an innovator that had the ability to look at a body of water and determine the best layout to install competition courses in the most efficient manner. Roger was instrumental in trying to make a tournament run better and is credited with the development of the pre-gates in slalom, which was intended to aid drivers in their approach to the slalom course. Roger was a mentor to several new upcoming technical controllers, lending them equipment as needed and providing guidance.
Russell Gay (Water Skiing, Industry)
Russell Gay has dedicated much of his life to water skiing both as a competitor and as part of the water skiing equipment industry. A tricks specialist, Russell has scored a personal best of 12,070 points and has been on the podium at numerous national and world championships, and holds two national trick records.
For more than 25 years, Russell Gay's company Masterline has produced quality water ski ropes and handles. The Masterline family also includes Quantum Skis and Eagle Wetsuits. Masterline ropes have pulled all of the current world records. Quantum skis has a claim to the World Trick Record set by Aliaksei Zharnasek at 12,570 points. Anna Gay also won the US Open and World Championships on a Quantum in 2015.
Matt May (Show Skiing)
Matt May was born into a water skiing family... a true "Ski Baby" and all-around water sports athlete. His mother Judes Gilkerson and his Uncle (Hall of Famer) Skip Gilkerson were seasoned show skiers at Cypress Gardens and the Tommy Bartlett show in Lake Delton, Wisconsin. Before the age of two, Matt was skiing professionally at the Tommy Bartlett show under the tutelage of his Uncle Skip. Matt progressed quickly in his skiing skills. He was slalom skiing by age four as well as barefooting and ski jumping by the age of five. Although adept in competitive skiing, Matt’s bread and butter was the show skiing stage. From 1986 to 1989 Matt was a featured skier at all of the Pro Tour events performing barefoot and freestyle jump exhibitions in front of thousands of fans each weekend. In 1992, at the age of 16, Matt completed one of the most unique placements in the history of the sport. He placed 3rd in the nation in freestyle jumping, traditional jumping, and barefoot jumping.
Matt has water skied for shows around the world, from the USA to Japan, Singapore, Germany, France, Russia, and Monaco. Over a career spanning four decades, Matt May has had one of the most unique careers in the history of show skiing and in the sport of water skiing. He has done a combination of things that no other skier in the history of the sport has achieved. His career as a show skier is unmatched. Many great skiers have come before Matt, but none have exceeded his diverse resume. He was named Tommy Bartlett Skier of the Year 1998 & 2000: Sea World “Lynn Novakofski” Skier of the Year 1990, Boys Barefoot Jump National Champion and Record Holder 1995, Collegiate All American Men’s Jump 1996-98, National Freestyle Jump Champion 1998, 5th place Wakeboarding Nationals 1998, X Games Finalist Barefoot Jump 1999, Most valuable skier, Nagasaki Japan 2007, Sea World Australia Skier of the Year 2012-2013, and Australian Men’s O35 Jump Champion.
Huge Congratulations to all! We can't wait to celebrate these recipients in April!