Moomba Masters Invitational


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It seems that most skiers, boarders and fans agree that the Moomba Master is one heck of an amazing event, whether a spectator or participant and many proclaim it as the best event of its kind in the world.  2024 was the event’s 63rd year, my 4th as a spectator and I can attest to firsthand how cool it is to watch, as well as how many athletes have told me that they just love to compete in it.  Whether you want to read through the rest of this article or not, you’ve got to watch this 15 second video of Ryan Dodd in the night jump.

My first trip to Australia was in 1988, which began my love affair with the country and the Moomba Masters. I met numerous Aussie coaches at the Mike Suyderhoud Waterski School, who would come work at Mike’s school in their winter, our summer.  Every year they would tell students that they should come and ski with them in Australia.  According to the late, great Ray Stokes and my pal still, Murray Pigdon, I was the first student who to ever actually make the trip.  So after skiing with Ray, at Mulwala, Murray, at Columbo Creek, and Bruce Neville at Deniliquin, I headed to Melbourne for the 29th edition of the Moomba Masters. The below photo was taken by me in 1988.

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In 1988 the Moomba champions were Mike Kjellander – Slalom;  Kreg Llewellyn – Trick; Glen Thurlow – Jump; Mike Kjellander – Overall; Karen Morse – Slalom;  Jodie Skipper – Trick; Deena Mapple – Jump; Karen Neville – Overall.  How’s that for some legends of the sport?  It was especially fun for me, as Mike Kjellander had skied with us at Columbo Creek and Deniliquin.  I had also played some golf with Bruce Neville, Steve Cochran and Mike Kjellander, after skiing one evening, with Kangaroos hopping around the Deniliquin course.  They were all also heading to Melbourne for Moomba.  BTW, Bruce kicked all our butts on the course and, although I’ve never skied anywhere remotely close to his level, I did out golf Mike, a World Champ & World Record holder, that day ????.

So, what makes the Nautique Moomba Masters such an amazing event for spectators and athletes alike?  The answer is a whole bunch of things!  It takes place over a March long weekend, on the Yarra river, in the heart of Melbourne, a city of over five million people (over 3,000,000 in 1988). As the title sponsor, Nautique Boats, have been making this one of their premier events for the past 19years, making a huge investment in the event, luring athletes from around to world.  It is also part of Melbourne’s Moomba Festival, which is setup in the same area, along the Yarra and there are also walkways, restaurants, bars, shopping, theatres, boat tours, etc., all along the river bank.  In fact, they need to have quick breaks throughout the event, so that river traffic can pass through ???? So with all these things going on there are thousands upon thousands of people walking along the river bank over the long weekend who, even if they didn’t come to watch the waterskiing, wakeboarding and ski shows, will stop and watch for a while.  So there is always a great crowd to cheer on these elite level skiers and boarders.  The festival includes a midway, music stages, local artists and all sorts of family flavoured and cultural activities. 

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Finally, and arguably the coolest things of all, is the night jump.  If you haven’t watched the quick video clip of Ryan Dodd’s night jump with the lights of the city and midway, along with fireworks going off in the background, who have to watch it. 

Ryan of course, is a long time friend and Shuswap Ski & Board Pro Team Skier, World Record holder, multi time World and Moomba Master Champion.  This year Ryan won the day jump comfortably but lost out to the young Frenchman, Pol Duplan-Fribourg, by .1 of a meter in their final jump off that night.  It’s also a very cool format.  Ryan had out jumped everyone in each round but they take it down to the top two jumpers and they only get one jump each for the final two jumps of the night, longest one wins the night jump for the whole event.  Ryan had jumped furthest so got to go last. Pol was on the dock off the charts excited to be down to this last jump against Ryan, who Pol referred to as “the God of jumping” while talking to the announcer. 

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So when Ryan landed and they posted the score showing Pol had won, he let out a crazy yell and he and the announcer jumped into the river together.  As soon as Ryan got back to the dock he gave Pol a big congratulatory hug and Pol was just so excited Ryan had to laugh and celebrate with him.    When I spoke with Ryan right afterwards he was thrilled to have young up and coming jumpers, like Pol, nipping at his heels to keep pushing him.  We also laughed about how many times he’s won by .1 of a meter, like nudging Freddy Krueger out for a World Championship, so it can go either way when championships are on the line.

Not as many Canadians as usual competed this year but George Malinovskyi, Hannah Stopnicki, Neillly Ross, Charlie Ross and Whitney McLintock-Rini were there representing Canada.  

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A Nautique and Radar Team Skier, Whitney set out the score to beat in women’s slalom and, after looking like she was down at ball 2 on at 10.75 M (39 ½ off) Regina Jaquess managed to hang on and get part of ball 3, nudging out Whit by a half ball.  Neilly, a Nautique and D3 Team Skier came away with 2nd place in Tricks and 4th in Slalom.  Charlie, also a Nautique and D3 Team Skier competed in Junior Moomba, as well as the main event and turned in ah 2nd place in Junior Slalom and went down earlier than expected finishing 14th in Men’s Slalom.  Charlie did take top spot in the Men’s Slalom Challenge, which gives skiers who didn’t make the final another chance to compete in front of the fantastic Moomba crowd.  There was talk of making the Challenge into a last chance qualifier, as another route to make the finals and I think that’s a must do.  Hannah, who skis on Radar, also competed in Junior and Women’s Tricks coming in 3rd in Junior and 5th in Women’s.  Hannah and I have skied together a lot at Matt Rini’s Ski School, in Orlando, so it was a treat to see another one of Canada’s young skiers performing well on the international stage.  George was in all three ski events on the Junior side and had a 4th in Slalom, 5th for Tricks, 3rd in Jump and a 3rd in the Overall, another great young Canadian skier.

It's pretty unlikely we’ll ever see a World Record set in the, sometimes crazy conditions on the Yarra.  It has a current, it is tidal, the conditions usually vary from one end of the course to the other but the crowds, the energy and excitement have the athletes, and fan alike, raving about it and coming back year after year.  This was Hannah’s first Moomba and she was blown away by being part of it.  While talking to Ryan Dodd, right after night jump, Igor came to join Ryan and me.  Igor, Morozov one of the world’s top jumpers, had not skied to his capabilities and was still stoked about what a fantastic event Moomba is.  Whitney, who confessed to being keen to get home to Zane and Matt, expressed no doubt about what a magnificent event Nautique and the Moomba organizers put on.  Of course her 11 Moomba event wins are probably the most by any athlete, so pretty hard not to love skiing in it ????

So, don’t take my or the athlete’s words for it.  If you’ve ever have an excuse to be in Australia in March, make sure you put the Nautique Moomba Masters into your plans.  Nautique just extended their commitment to the event for another 6 years and they’re are guaranteed to make sure it remains one of the best towed watersports events in the world.  Even after 4 trips to Moomba, I still hope to get back there again.  Of course I’m always up for going to hang out with all my Aussie mates and don’t need to make up any excuses.

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