Nationals and ski sisters

Hundreds of fans have descended on Piarere to watch 109 water skiers from around the country compete in the New Zealand Water Ski Nationals.

The March 26-31 event is held here every six years or so because the 66-year-old Piarere Water Ski Club at the Horahora end of Lake Karāpiro is considered one of New Zealand’s best competition sites.

Vicky Wilson, wife of former club president Nigel Wilson, is looking forward to competing in the upcoming tournament. Photo by Viv Posselt

Recent past president Nigel Wilson said that reputation was based on the rare proximity to the action spectators can enjoy from the clubrooms.

“Few others have the jump and slalom courses right next to the spectator area, and we have extensive stacked decking to accommodate the numbers,” he said. “This is a very popular competition venue because of it.”

Nigel has been involved with the club for some 17 years and has done much to build its family friendly reputation.  “We’re now well into our second generation of skiers, with some of the third generation coming through. That’s important to us.”

The club draws its members from far afield with many turning up at any time during the season to camp in the grounds and enjoy the water.

Among them are a pair of nine-year-old girls who call themselves ‘ski sisters’.  Savannah Slow lives in Tauranga and Auckland’s Zanneja Murray.  Both got into it through their families in around 2020 and are among the youngest to compete in the nationals.

Savannah was on double skis at age five.  She mastered the single ski last year and now reckons her favourite disciplines are the slalom and tricks.  Her mum Justine Slow, who is married to current club president Matt Slow, is also competing in the nationals for the first time as she wanted to wait until both she and her daughter were ready for the event at the same time.

Zanneja is the daughter of wakeboarder Jason Murray.  She graduated from a kneeboard as a child through to her current preference of slalom and ski racing and is said to be a whiz on a wakeboard as well.

Those taking part in the 2024 Rothbury nationals, which has free entry for spectators, include skiers across the age spectrum.  One of them is Nigel’s wife, Vicky Wilson.  She’s far from the most senior but does some head-spinning slalom work that defies logic.

“I’m a bit of a late bloomer and not naturally sporty at all,” she beamed. “I only started about 10 years ago, but that doesn’t mean I’m not competitive.”

Barry Fowler, 73, will be racing slalom and tricks for the seniors.  He’s been doing it since he was around 14 and reckons it’s a great way to stay fit.

Cambridge’s Tess Hancock, 11 Dani Apperley, 14, are taking part in the under 14 girl’s slalom at the nationals. Photo: supplied

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