Water Skiing in Central Florida

Filed under: Florida News,Hidden Orlando,Just For Fun,Leisure,Vacation Tips |

Yesterday I showed you the latest attraction in the Kissimmee area with Fantasy Surf’s Flowrider so today I thought I’d stay on a water sport theme and take you to the Water Ski Museum and Hall of Fame. The museum is located near exit 44 on Interstate 4 and is difficult to miss… but somewhat difficult to find! Sound odd?

Many times I’ve driven down I4 and seen the AWSEF Water Ski Experience situated a stones throw from the interstate highway but never really given it much thought. Well, yesterday I decided to take a step further and on my way back from a business meeting in Tampa I decided to take a look at the place. Getting to it is something of a pain however, as the venue apparently isn’t allowed any road signage by those in power. Utterly crazy.

So, if you do decide to go… and you should… be warned….you’ll see the building very easily but then you have to work out how to get to it! It sort of adds to the challenge… but here’s the secret: Exit 44 on I4 and head south on SR. 557. Head south for about 4 miles and then take the 557A by the The Barn Antiques (another place you should visit while out this way) and then go back the 4 miles you’ve just come. As you cross over I4 the facility will be on your right and you’ll need to make a sharp hairpin turn right to take “Holy Cow Road” (I love that name!!) that leads to the museum.

Now that I’ve got you there, what’s it all about? Well, Central Florida is the World Capital for Water Skiing and you’ll soon learn more about the sport and its history as the museum has over 1200 relics from the past for you to look at.

The American Water Ski Association states that water skiing began in Lake City, Minnesota in 1922, when Ralph Samuelson used two boards as skis and a clothesline as a tow rope on Lake Pepin. The sport remained a little-known activity for several years, as Samuelson began taking his “stunts” on the road, performing around the United States. Numerous claims began to surface as to who was the first water skier, however, in 1966 the American Water Ski Association formally acknowledged Samuelson as the first on record and hence he became known as the “Father of Water Skiing”. Samuelson has also been credited as the first ski racer, first to go over a jump ramp, first to slalom ski and the first put on a water ski show.

There is an interesting timeline wall depicting the history of the sport and you can actually see the first skis (pictured above) that Samuelson used …and they make for interesting viewing as not only are they very long, but effectively they are two planks of wood that he simply bolted to his feet!

Pioneer Hall is the official name for the museum and it’s here you get to learn more about the sports history and see pictures of some of the early stars. The Perpetual Trophy Room is also interesting as it is home to all the trophies the sport presents to its winners of the major nine disciplines.

Further, the library and audio visual theatre is believed to be the most complete library and resource center devoted exclusively to water skiing in existence. You are welcome to browse through files, books, magazines, news clippings and to view films and tapes depicting water skiing in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Also, as you stroll through the museum, make sure you pay special attention to the statue of a certain George A. Blair. “Banana” George was born on January 22, 1915 in Toledo, Ohio and he enrolled at Miami University, where he was a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity. He graduated in 1937

He was not exposed to water skiing until 1955, when he was in Florida recovering from a fusion operation on his back. Already a successful businessman from New Jersey, Blair observed the local waterski school, and it was not long until they convinced him to try waterskiing himself. He instantly fell in love with it, and he and his family returned to the Northeast and opened two ski schools, which they successfully owned and operated for over 20 years.

What’s remarkable is that Blair learned to ski on his bare feet when he was 46 years old and since then, he has won many awards and holds numerous records, including several entries in the Guinness Book of World Records. Today, he continues an active lifestyle barefoot waterskiing and snowboarding at the age of 95!

Naturally, the venue has a full water ski school with experts to teach you how to water ski. No matter whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro you’ll enjoy taking to Lake Grew, situated alongside the museum, to test your skills.

The cost to visit the museum is $5.00 for adults, $4.00 for seniors and $3.00 for those under the age of 12 with those 5 and under going free. All money goes to help defray the expenses of running this multi-million dollar facility and not-for-profit corporation. It’s well worth supporting and you’ll see some unique stuff!

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