There’s lots to report from this year’s Malibu Open, which was held at Veterans Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. First off, the conditions were significantly better than the previous two years: There was no wind, the water level was low (no rollers), and as Nate Smith says, “The water was slow and soft, which is exactly how I like it.”
History-Making: The biggest news came from the pro men’s slalom division; the second round was the highest cut ever, not just for the Malibu Open, but for all water ski events ever. Five skiers — Terry Winter, Jon Travers, Chris Rossi, Thomas Degasperi and Will Asher — tied with 3 at 41 off (crazy!).. Chris Parrish and Nate Smith had already secured their advancement, with 4 at 41 and 4½ at 41, respectively.
In the end, it was Rossi and Smith in the final head-to-head matchup skiing behind the highly crafted hull of the Response TXi, with Smith taking the title in a matchup that carried over from last October’s Katy Ski Jam.
“Whether it is in the dark or during the day, I approach every round of skiing trying to post the best possible score I can,” Smith says. “The first pass under the lights was kind of a shock to me. I’ve skied under the lights many times before, but I have not done it since last year. On the first pass, it felt like we were going about 42 mph, but by the second round of head-to-head, I felt very comfortable on the water with the lights.”
Rematch: Regina Jaquess went into this event with many completed passes of 39½ off under her belt this season, but here her best score was 5 at 39½ off.
“I wanted to start the weekend off strong, running 38 in the first round. Several girls stepped up at Malibu Open and ran 38 off the first round as well,” she says. “Running 38 in every round was a goal I had set before going into the competition, and staying mentally strong was my biggest key to winning the event.”
April Coble broke through the pack to compete against Jaquess in the final head-to-head under the lights.
“Skiing against April in the final round was amazing, and also a flashback,” Jaquess says. “Three years ago at this same event, April and I were in the head-to-head for first place, and April took me down. Skiing against April is never easy. She is a tough competitor and has the most experience out of all of the women skiers out there.”
Jaquess got her revenge this time, beating her seasoned rival and going home with her first Malibu Open win.
The Nightmare: Freddy Krueger’s consistency throughout the event was a thing of beauty: His best jumps were 223, 222 and 221 feet. Krueger sees consistency as the key to winning events. “Anyone can go out and hit one now and then,” he says. “But you have to figure out how to do it consistently to stay ahead of the great jumpers pushing you.” The veteran night-jump champion won with 221 feet in the final. This year’s Masters jump champion, Ryan Dodd, was close behind, with a 216-foot leap. Two weeks later, he got his revenge, winning the Calgary Pro Water Ski Shootout and a sweet check in the amount of $10,000.
Upstart: With Natallia Berdnikava injured, the field opened up in women’s jump. Marion Mathieu of Mont-de-Marsan, France, jumped 162 feet in the night final for the title — her first pro win. Unhappy with her first-round jump of 151 feet, Mathieu thought the boat path was better on the second round and was motivated by her frustration with her previous jump, and she rocketed off the ramp for a jump of 164 feet to make the final. “We only got two jumps in the final, so I felt like I had to do well on the first attempt. Skiing at night, it’s easy to panic and rush your turn and be really early to the ramp, so I forced myself to calm down,” she says. The impressive 18-year-old Lauren Morgan took second place, with a jump of 159 feet.
All of the athletes expressed gratitude to the event’s promoter, Dana Reed, who was able to attend his last Malibu Open, surrounded by his family. Reed passed away the following week on Aug. 13. “Thanks to Dana, who made this event happen and gave a chance to all the skiers to be together to compete and promote our sport. Without people like Dana, our sport would not move forward,” Mathieu says.
1. Brando Caruso 1 at 39½ off
2. Jonah Shaffer 4 at 38 off
3. Eamon Van Der Merwe 4 at 38 off
1. Brie Carter 6 at 35 off
2. Kara MacIntyre 5 at 35 off
3. Marta Simoes 5 at 35 off
Junior Men’s Slalom
1. K. C. Wilson 4½ at 39½ off
2. Zane Nicholson 3½ at 39½ off
3. Stephen Neveu 5 at 39½ off
Junior Women’s Slalom
1. Caroline Hensley 5 at 38 off
2. Makayla Haw 1 at 38 off
3. Delfina Cuglievan 3 at 32 off
1. Nate Smith 6 at 38 off
2. Chris Rossi 3½ at 38 off
3. Will Asher 1 at 41 off
1. Regina Jaquess 6 at 38 off
2. April Coble Eller 3 at 38 off
3. Manon Costard 1 at 39½ off
1. Joshua Briant 174 feet
2. Nicholas Lang 171 feet
3. Taylor Garcia 160 feet
1. Valerie Grenier 131 feet
2. Jaye Morris 115 feet
3. Erika Lang 118 feet
Junior Men’s Jump
1. Daniel Efverstrom 197 feet
2. Tobias Hvaara 190 feet
3. Luca Spinelli DNS
Junior Women’s Jump
1. Lauren Morgan 159 feet
2. Caroline Hensley 153 feet
3. Makayla Haw 137 feet
1. Freddy Krueger 221 feet
2. Ryan Dodd 216 feet
3. Rodrigo Miranda 204 feet
1. Marion Mathieu 162 feet
2. Lauren Morgan 159 feet
3. Regina Jaquess 155 feet
*When the third-place score is the highest number, the score was from an earlier round.