Aqua Jays blend skills with flair to win first national title since 2005
Sunday at Traxler Park, the local show ski club dusted off a five-high human pyramid on skis. It drove a silver DeLorean car onto a ski platform, and blasted the “Back to the Future” theme song loud enough to drown out a three-engine ski boat.
The Aqua Jays blended performance flair with technical skills Sunday on the Rock River, performing an hour-long competitive routine based on the 1980s film “Back to the Future.” The combination earned the club top honors at the Division 1 National Ski Show Association Championships.
“It’s a shock,” said Aqua Jay club member Jacklyn Kumlien, who was soaked after helping throw the club’s directors in the river to celebrate the win Sunday.
The 15-year-old Janesville native won best female skier at the weekend-long tournament, her barefoot, backwards ski performance was one of the highlights of the club’s championship performance Sunday.
The win comes as the Aqua Jays celebrate their 50th year as an amateur show ski club. It’s the club’s record 16th national championship.
The Aqua Jays have been on a roll this year, winning the Mercury Marine Show Ski invitational, which the team hosted in June, and the Wisconsin State Water Ski Show Tournament in July.
But winning the nationals at Janesville—especially during the club’s 50th anniversary season, was “something pretty special,” said Dave Rezin, show director for the Aqua Jays.
“It’s a huge cherry on top of the cake and much, much more,” he said.
No amateur ski team in the country has won more national championships than the Aqua Jays.
Perhaps no one knows this better 36-year Aqua Jays club veteran Gerry Luiting, who competed in multiple events this weekend.
Luiting has been a part of all 16 of the club’s national championships. But he said he relished Sunday’s win more than many of the others because of the adversity the Aqua Jays have faced in the last several years.
Flooding of the Rock River during the last four years has forced the Aqua Jays to relinquish hosting nationals twice, once in 2008 and again in 2010. The floods also limited the club’s ability to practice and led to scrubbed performances.
This weekend was the first time since 2006 that the national tournament was held in Janesville.
“It’s been a tough road. The flooding was brutal. Trying to overcome all of those obstacles that mother nature threw at us—every year it was like a battle,” said Luiting.
He said the comparatively dry weather this year has been a godsend for the club.
“Just look what can happen if you actually get the chance to practice for the whole year,” Luiting said. “This is exciting. It’s awesome.”
The Aqua Jays on Sunday blended a seamless display of spinning ski tricks, barefoot maneuvers and aerial tricks with 1980s music and a tongue-in-cheek floor show performance.
The floor show featured a crowd-pleasing performance by a club member dressed as Dr. Emmett Brown, the manic scientist character from “Back to the Future.”
“It was the old school Rock Aqua Jay way,” said Luiting. “It was awesome show production and awesome, difficult, powerful skiing—and that’s a formula for success.”
Rezin says after the floods of the last few years, the win Sunday proves the ski club is again a top-shelf contender. He said he believes it’s ready for the future.
“I think I can say and the team can say we’re officially back on top, and we’re hoping for even bigger and better things next year.” Rezin said.
AQUA JAYS FINISH FIRST AT 2011 U.S. NATIONAL SHOW SKI TOURNAMENT
Event: 2011 U.S. National Show Ski Tournament
Dates: Friday through Sunday, Aug. 12 through 14.
Location: Rock River, Traxler Park, Janesville.
Estimated per day crowd: 5,000
Results: The Rock Aqua Jays Ski Club of Janesville won with 2,021 points, followed by the Wonder Lake Water Ski Show Team, Wonder Lake, Ill., 1,961 points; Mad-City, Madison, 1,914; Backwater Gamblers, Rock Island, Ill., 1,802; Badgerland, Merton, 1,724; Webfooters, Fremont, 1,697; Aquanuts, Twin Lakes, 1,643; Waterhawks, Waterloo, Iowa, 1,605; Water Bugs, Muskego, 1,559; Beaverland Must-Skis, Beaver Dam, 1,462; Chippewa Lake, Medina, Ohio, 1,411; Five Seasons, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1,318; Arch Rivals, Lake Saint Louis, Mo., 1,217; Ski Broncs, Loves Park, Ill., 1,199.
The Rock Aqua Jays scored the highest in the following acts: swivel, 388 points; strap doubles, 391 points; pyramid, 450; .
The Rock Aqua Jays scored the highest in the following box scores: dock and equipment personnel, 107 points; pickup boat, 310 points; tow boat, 856 points; sound crew, announcers 1,114 points.
Top Female Skier: Jacklyn Kumlien, Rock Aqua Jays of Janesville
Hosts: Rock Aqua Jays of Janesville.