By Steve Cuff
The Australian Water Ski Speed and Marathon Championships hit Lake Jindabyne this week and there will be more on the line than just national titles.
Many of the top end skiers will have an eye on a bigger prize, which is selection for the Australian team for the 2019 World Championships.
The Jindabyne event is one of the selection races, so some skiers will come with a focus on selection first and national titles may well be secondary.
The World Championships are every two years, and when Ben Gulley competed in Jindabyne in 2017, he had his eye on the world titles that year.
He won every race in at the 2017 World Champs and was crowned World Champion, with Daniel Graziano placing third. Australians have fared well in the world titles including Chelsea Blight winning the open women and Shantelle King third.
All the best Australian water skiers will be in Jindabyne. When we asked Ben Gulley about what conditions he would like in Jindabyne, he said, “I quite enjoy the rough water, that is my forte.”
“It’s a big commitment (world titles) and most of the racing we do here in Australia is fast river type races, where a lot of the worlds type races are held out in bays and canals, and rougher type venues.
“Some of those rough days that you get in Jindabyne where all you can see is white caps as far as the eye can see, some of our worlds racing will be as rough as that.”
Ben skis behind his father Gerald’s boat Strike Force, always one of the fastest boats and based out of Brisbane.
“We train out in Moreton Bay, which is probably why we are more orientated around the rougher conditions,” said Ben.
“We are out there most weeks, it is very good training water for us. We start in the river and it is about a seven minute run out to the bay and then we generally will do over an hour, so a typical day is up to about an hour and half on the water.
“We are leading into a really, really big season for us and we are focusing on going to the worlds at the end of 2019. But really the prep work starts kind of almost twelve months out, so it has already started.”
“You need that ski fit practice, just like snow skiing.”
With so many boats doing laps it can be confusing for the spectator, but there is a schedule and the same boats may have different skiers for different classes.
Ben said generally the boat owner selects the skiers and teams are often locked in for twelve month stints.
“Which is in everyone’s best interest to stick with a team for a period of time. As you bond as a team you grow, and you generally get more results when your team is together for a longer period of time.”
You can watch the action this week Jan 8-11 from Banjo Paterson Park, but feel free to wander past the Strzelecki statue where the event is based.