Summer’s Here: Your Guide to the 64th Annual Masters Waterski and Wakeboard Tournament

Published 3:32 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

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By Greg Terry


It’s Callaway Gardens, it’s Memorial Day weekend and that can only mean one thing: It’s time for the Masters. 

The most prestigious event in the world of water skiing and wakeboarding is taking place in Pine Mountain this weekend. For 64 years, Robin Lake at Callaway Gardens has been the home for the Masters, and this year is no different. 

The action begins on Friday with the best U17 athletes in the world taking the water, showcasing their skills in wakeboarding and the three ski disciplines, slalom, trick, and jump. Following the juniors will be the professionals, who will compete in a preliminary round on Saturday before the four-person finals on Sunday where the Masters champions will be crowned.

In order to qualify for this event, skiers participated in a set of qualifying tournaments held in central Florida at world-renowned ski sites. On the flip side, wakeboarders were selected based on the world rankings lists. 

Athletes from all around the world migrate to Pine Mountain for Memorial Day weekend. This year’s event shares that sentiment. Competitors from five different continents will be taking the water this weekend, with Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Australia all represented. The host nation, the U.S. leads the way in the number of competitors with 36.

This year’s field has plenty of competitors to watch out for, and a lot of intriguing storylines. There will be some Peach State flair with a number of local Georgia athletes competing in the junior division on Friday. Dallas resident Chase Sparks will take the air in the jump event and BG Bickley from Macon will kick off the action in the trick event. 

Let’s take a snapshot look at some of these competitors, what’s at stake, and who to watch:

Joel Poland: Pure electricity every time he’s on the water. He’s the first athlete in 24 years to participate in all three events at the professional level. He’ll be hard to miss.

Jake Abelson: Not often is a world record holder too young to vote, but the 16-year-old phenom recently set a new world record in the trick event. However, he won’t be skiing against the pros on Saturday and Sunday. He’ll be competing in the junior overall competition on Friday. He’s that talented.

Matias Gonzalez: You thought we were done with the young guns? Gonzalez is 16 as well and took home the Swiss Pro Trick title in late April to claim his first professional victory. Unlike Abelson, the Chilean superstar will be competing with the pros, and he’s got a good chance to come away with a victory.

Charlie Ross: Surprise, another young guy. Ross is 18 and aged out of the junior competition, but he decided he would just go out and qualify for the pro event because why not. In a fantastic qualifying performance, Ross broke his U21 world record with an astonishing 5 buoys @ 41’ off. The two-time junior Masters champion will seek a professional title to take home.

Nate Smith: “The Natural” is back to defend his slalom crown. After picking up Masters championship number 7 last year, Smith is vying for 8. Widely regarded as the best slalom skier of all time, the current world record holder wants another title.

Freddy Krueger: “The Nightmare” is the undisputed greatest men’s jumper of all time. The 14-time champion will be looking to break the all-time Masters title record shared with the late Andy Mapple by bringing home number 15.

Regina Jaquess: The greatest women’s skier of all time is back and ready for more. She’ll be looking for yet another slalom title and will also be competing in the jump event. 

Neilly Ross: A Social media star with over 200 thousand Instagram followers, Ross will be looking to put on a show for the Robin Lake crowd in the women’s slalom and trick events.

Hana Straltsova: She’s been taking the women’s jump world by storm and has established herself as the woman to beat in the jump event. Only time will tell if Straltsova can go back-to-back this weekend.