Updated: Apr 3
In the 80's and 90's waterskiing was the hot new thing on ESPN often with 6-10 thousand spectators at event and big sponsors like Coors Light and Budweiser. Between show skiing, slalom, tricks, and jump, the ski community was growing and thriving. Even as late as 2000, the founder of COMPETE, Jennifer Leachman Lapoint, produced over 50 TV shows showcasing just women’s water sports that aired on Fox Sports primetime.
With all of this hype in the late 90s, where did skiing go? When I tell people “I water ski” or “I am a competitive water skier” the first thing I hear is “I didn’t know you could compete in water skiing”, or I will be asked “cool, do you do pyramids and stuff?”. Towards the end of the 90’s, there was a new hot water sport on the market, wakeboarding. With skateboarding and Tony Hawk as popular as they were at the time, kids began to gravitate toward the “water equivalent” and so did the networks. Before long, the beaches of the ski lakes that used to pack thousands of spectators barely had 1000. Sponsors began pulling their support from the world of waterskiing, and the major networks decided that the world was simply not big enough for more than one water sport, and the new hot ticket was wakeboarding. Soon after, wakeboarding was lost to the next hot ticket, wake surfing, and as the sports lifecycles seems to go, the athletes and tribe of people who love these sports seem to be forgotten.
Major sports networks have the power to make or break what sports are popular at any given time. COMPETE is working hard to put waterskiing back on the map by giving the athletes using the app the power to give their sport a following again. Which comes first demand for a sport and more people playing or national TV coverage to drive demand or both? Since we can’t control the TV coverage, COMPETE plans to increase demand by enticing the 10 million boaters and 3.6 million people who water ski every year to COMPETE. Currently, the COMPETE app is operational for water skiers allowing them to use a phone to record a performance, get a score, world rank and compete virtually. COMPETE is a platform with the intent to “video gamify” sports play.
We at COMPETE believe that a huge reason for the decline in waterskiing is the lack of involvement from children and amateurs. It seems that while kids may boat with their parents on the weekends or learn to ski at kids camp in the summer, it is never thought of as a “sport” but rather a hobby. Many large public lakes do not have a course, and if they do it could be hidden, or just run over by the other boaters. The first thing that COMPETE wants to do is bridge the gap between everyday skiing and competition. COMPETE has a “Free Ski Mode” where any skier, on any water can have someone in the boat film their ski run in app, the app will calculate their path through a virtual course, and give them a score accordingly. With this mode in our app, we are trying to transform free skiing and practice into a competition, turning a hobby into a full-on sport.
As water skiers we also recognize that this sport takes a village and COMPETE wants to make it as easy as possible for you to find that village. As a network that will not only allow virtual competition, through our Team mode, we hope that we can make it easier for skiers to find people to go out to ski with. Team mode will allow players to create teams of skiers. They may have a family team, a team of friends, even have a team for their whole lake. The idea is to not only turn individual practices into competition, but allow virtual teams to compete in a head-to-head match in real time. There can even be “flash tournaments” that pop up on a lake in the middle of the afternoon. Imagine a windy day on a 20-mile public lake. You look outside and realize that your normal ski spot looks pretty bad. Next thing you know, you have a message in your team that says “Glassy waters on the SW end of the lake. Competition starts at 12PM. Now you not only know which part of the lake is best for skiing in smooth water, you also have people to ski and have a fun with!
There has been an overall decline ins sport participation and at the same time an increase in obesity rates. There is a whole generation that grew up with video games, stuck indoor on a couch not moving. COMPETE feels that if we can “video gamify sports play, we can reintroduce to cool old sports to a new generation and revitalize waterskiing, but also many other old sports…anyone remember windsurfing?
Though it would be a shame that a sport as athletic and beautiful as waterskiing ever vanish, together athletes and niche outdoor sports can stop this trend by networking together in COMPETE.
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