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Waterski: Growing Sport in Queensland

Waterski: Growing Sport in Queensland

Australia has had plenty of great waterskiing champions over the years, from Bruce Cockburn and Kim Lampard to Bruce Neville, Glen Thurlow, and Karen Neville, to name a few. Today, the talent remains strong, particularly here in Queensland. 

We interview Emma Sheers, a multiple world champion, who is training some of the state’s most outstanding prospects for future Australian success. Emma runs Oz Ski Resort on the Sunshine Coast, where she offers waterski and wakeboarding coaching, along with her husband Rick Habermann. In July 2018, Emma headed over to Spain to supervise three Queensland teenagers who were selected in the Australian waterski team to contest the Junior World Titles in August. Abbey Teague from Caloundra, and Molly and Sadie Ferguson from Roma, are proof of what a good training ground Queensland is for skiers.

Is waterskiing a growing sport? 

Emma Sheers (ES): It’s funny, when Rick and I started Waterski Queesnland around ten years ago, there were only six people at our first tournament. This has expanded to where we see three regions holding tournaments in North, South, and Central Queensland, with 50 or 60 skiers at each event. This happens each month, starting in September and going through to our Nationals at Easter.

At the Nationals event, Queensland really showcased a strong resurgence. Our state had the largest team, taking over 90 skiers who had all qualified with their National rating. I think the sport is in a great place. This is largely due to an excellent tournament format where anyone who can get up on a slalom ski can compete.

Division 6 caters for beginners and gives you four guaranteed passes in slalom. This allows everyone a chance to build confidence and learn about the sport in a really friendly and fun environment. This format, where people are put in divisions based on ability level, has been really successful and has helped grow the sport here in Queensland. People are really finding their love of skiing again.

Why skiing? 

ES: Traditional waterskiing is a challenging sport, and it’s a real family sport where you need Mum and Dad to be involved; without them kids can’t ski. I’ve seen kids who don’t necessarily fit into the football, cricket, netball mould who have really found their passion in waterskiing. It has improved their self-esteem, their results at school, and given them a sport they can excel in, where traditional sports may not have suited them. As a parent, I would much prefer a tournament waterski boat if I was making a purchase. You can ski, tube, wakeboard and wakesurf behind it, just by adding ballast and possibly a tower. This means it is fun for the whole family, and it doesn’t limit the fun you can have.

What makes Queensland a perfect training location? 

ES: Queensland is a perfect place for tournament skiing. We have the best weather all year round to train and compete, and we have a very active tournament scene. In fact, five of the Junior World squad members are from Queensland. And between the three females – Abbey, Molly and Sadie – 15 National records have been broken in the last two years under our coaching, so we are really proud of them all.

Who are the famous local skiers? 

ES: Many waterskiers have come out of the Gold Coast and Brisbane. This includes Mick and Karen Neville, Bruce and Toni Neville, Geoff Carrington, and Brett and Joel Wing (local Gold Coasters). Plus, Grant and Andrew Barnett, and my brother Curtis Sheers and myself, called South East Queensland home for a lot of our careers.

What do you think of the Gold Coast hosting a skiing event? 

ES: The Gold Coast has an active club in Coomera, and holds events from time to time, but it is not a great venue for spectators. I think the Gold Coast would be a great place for more events, but finding the right venue is key. This would help to expand the sport not only on the Gold Coast, but across Queensland.

What about state government support? 

ES: The Queensland Government have some grants, which athletes can access, that help in State and national events. However, the sheer volume of travel our athletes do means it really only assists in a small way. I would like to see our Queensland Tournament Federation put a lot more effort and funding into our Juniors, and the junior programs, to see even more of them progress to the next level. Right now, most of it is placed on the shoulders of the parents.

Practical tips for buying skis? 

ES: It is really important if you are looking at buying skis that you find somewhere to test them. Look for shops that offer a trial before you buy, where you can actually get on the skis, set them up for you, put you on the right ski for your height, weight and ability. We see a lot of people who have bought skis that really don’t suit them, so it’s important that if you make that investment, to also get some expert advice.


By Kellie Byrnes