More than 600 of the world’s top water ski athletes are expected to compete in the GOODE Water Ski National Championships in a city you might not associate with water sports: Wichita, Kansas.
The Nationals, held Aug. 7-11, is the world’s largest three-event water ski tournament with competitions in slalom, tricks, jumping and overall, in respective age divisions.
Why water sports in a landlocked state like Kansas, you ask? Perhaps you think a coastal city is a better fit. The staff at Visit Wichita say otherwise, proclaiming the destination “is a must-visit Midwest destination complete with facilities for sports of all kinds, from basketball and softball to ice sports and BMX.”
The GOODE event isn’t the first time a water-based championship has been held in Wichita, however. The Mystic Lakes Ski Club, which includes world-record capability water ski lakes, has previously hosted the Midwest Regional Water Ski Championships, Junior U.S. Open Water Ski Championships, and Barefoot Water Ski National Championships.
In addition to the thrills that will be had by the extreme sport of water skiing, you can go casual or even corporate as a group outing. There will be on-site crowd areas set up for spectators, including live music, a beer tent and food trucks.
Still, “it’s not every day that world record-holding water skiers will be competing in Wichita,” says Cynthia Wentworth, the CVB’s vice president of marketing.
With world records up for grabs, athletes will come to Kansas from as far away Australia. One Australian, 14-year-old Levi Kelly, trains in Wichita and lives with guardians Erin and Cole Kalkbrenner, both of whom are water skiers.
“Unfortunately, because he is not a U.S. citizen, he cannot compete for placement, but only scores to put him on the world ranking list,” the Kalkbrenners laments.
But they add, “This is his home site and knows the lakes probably better than anybody. He knows the wind patterns and what it feels like to ski in the wind better than any competitor his age.”
Both the Kalkbrenners and Visit Wichita say the championship is great exposure for both the city and sports.
“Water sports enthusiasts used to be able to turn on the TV and see our sports top athletes battling it out on ESPN,” say Kalkbrenners. “With the help of other passionate skiers and events, such as the Americas Cup, we hope to restore this sport to its glory.”