Who Performed The First Water Ski Jump?

Who Performed The First Water Ski Jump?

The invention of a sport is always fascinating because at some point a person or group of people played it for the very first time absent of the years, decades and sometimes centuries of evolution, professionalism and technological development.

Long before the development of large inflatable pool floats and carbon-fibre water skis, an 18-year-old young man from Minnesota invented a completely new sport. Three years later, he would perform the first water ski jump ever. Three months after this, his idea would be poached.

Ralph Wilford Samuelson was born on 3rd July 1903 and from a young age was already skilled at aquaplaning, an early watersport which saw people ride on planks of wood towed behind a boat and attempt not to be thrown off.

Mr Samuelson was a fast learner, but he wanted to create something more dramatic and transform watersports the way the ski had revolutionised the sledge.

Living close to Lake Pepin, he experimented with a few designs, including snow skis and the curved wooden staves from barrels before making his own skis out of pine boards with the edges curled by boiling water.

These worked fine until Mr Samuelson started jumping wakes, which is the point when the infamously brittle pine wood snapped.

On 28th June, he finally successfully created a pair of skis that could withstand the water and gained a lot of attention for his attempts to jump a ramp on water skis.

His first attempt finally took place on 8th July 1925 and ended with him falling flat on his face into the water due to the effects of friction. Greasing the platform did the trick and he successfully landed the second attempt in history to a water ski jump.

However, by 27th October 1925, Fred Waller, the inventor of Cinerama widescreen film, received a patent for water skis, so Mr Samuelson unfortunately never received a penny for his invention. 

He was even removed from its history for a long time as several sources erroneously claimed Mr Waller was the inventor.

This eventually changed, and whilst Mr Samuelson spent much of the rest of his days as a turkey farmer, he was inducted into the Water Ski Hall of Fame in 1977, although tragically died of cancer just six months later.

His legacy lives on in the invention, bravery and audacity of water skiers today.