Local skiers in Guinness book
By James Card
If you see a pink-haired water-skier in Fremont and she is talking about a Guinness, chances are she’s not referring to the Irish stout but rather setting a new world record.
The bobbed pink wigs with bangs are part of this year’s Candyland theme of the Webfooters Water Ski Club Show. As for setting records, skiers from Webfooters have placed four times since 2019 in the Guinness Book of World Records for their waterskiing feats.
Eric Gran, a former Webfooter that was skiing last Sunday evening to fill in for an injured skier, works with two water ski groups whose sole focus is pushing the limits on breaking world records. One is Big Pull, a mostly upper Midwest group, and the other is the Chain of Records, a Florida-based group that recruits the best skiers from around nation and the world.
“Many of the Webfooters have come and participated with those groups. I know a number of the skiers here and they will get invites to ski at these world record attempts. It’s a collaborative effort. These records are so big that there is no single team in the country that could attempt these records by themselves. Even the largest team, which is probably triple the size of Webfooters is not nearly big enough to pull off a world record. That’s how big the records are now,” said Gran.
Fremont Webfooters have participated in the following placements in the Guinness Book of World Records: in 2022, the biggest human pyramid composed of 93 people (of them, 14 Webfooters). In 2021, the biggest synchronized ballet line composed of 59 women skiing behind one boat. In 2019, they set a record for having 38 people barefoot-skiing behind one boat. Again in 2019, they set the record for having 14 sets of trios (one non-skier supported by two skiers) skiing in a line behind one boat.
Big water, big boats
They want to keep setting records but there are two exponential problems: to set a bigger record, bigger boats and bigger water is needed. The Wolf River isn’t big enough. It’s too narrow to make wide turns. They have abandoned multiple waters in Wisconsin that aren’t big enough to pull off the performance. Lake Dubay near Mosinee is the biggest and best spot that is nearby.
“A lot of these records require us to turn on a measured course and execute a move going one way and turn it nonstop. It takes us about a half a mile to make the turn for last year’s record attempt. Because if we turn too tight, we flip the boat or people sink so we have to do this giant, gentle turn,” said Gran.
For the 2022 record, if each of the 93 team members (both men and women) were to have an averaged-out weight of 150 pounds it would equal 13,950 pounds needed to be skidded across the water with tractor-like power.
“Just think of the deadweight hauling behind there. A team I was on called Badgerland built the first triple-rigged three-engine [150 hp] ski boat for show skiing. They built it in 1997 and by 1999 the consensus was, ‘Let’s see how much this can tow. Let’s try for a Guinness record.’ And that’s small by today’s comparison,” said Gran.
Currently in the works is a boat with a triple-500 hp engine that is only 21 feet long. “We’re not looking for speed; we’re looking for dead-pulling power. Like we could rip dead tree stumps out of the ground with this thing,” said Gran.
One sweet show
The Webfooter shows are free and held every Wednesday and Sunday at 6 p.m. in downtown Fremont. Their bandstand is directly across from the Neuschafer Community Library.
The show is a culmination of many volunteer hours—much of it off the water. Around the bandstand (which doubles as a storage shed) are hundreds of ski boards and miles of individual ski ropes coiled and cinched off with a cow hitch.
“We start in the gym in January. We have mats beneath us and we’re climbing with ropes that are tied off secure. We hang onto the ropes to climb our pyramids and we have a lot of spotters around. We do that though April and we try to get on the water in May,” said Landsverk.
The show starts off with some of the junior water-skiers showing off their new skills. Some are barely kindergarten age and the older youth are learning to form their first pyramids. “We have skiers all the way from three to all the way into their 60s. And a lot of families ski together,” said DeAnn Landsverk, the club’s engagement director.
After the junior skiers, the Candyland storyline begins and a man known as King Candy is dressed in royal garb and acts as the master of ceremony. There are props of gingerbread man cookies, lollipops, gum drops and pop music such as Bow Wow Wow’s 1982 song “I Want Candy” blares through the speakers.
King Candy mentions how everyone likes Airheads and at that moment, ski boat races up the Wolf River and a skier launches off the ramp, goes airborne, does a spinning back flip and makes a perfect landing.
Coming from far upriver, the experienced skiers formed a huge human pyramid and make a pass at the bandstand. More skiers perform stunts and the pink-haired female skiers take to the water, make a circle and pass by in a long line that resembles the Rockettes.
After their performance, they let go of the lines and make their way to shore with only their pink hairdos bobbing above the surface. They climb up on stage dripping wet and knock out a hip-hop dance routine.
Heading to state
The Webfooter show on Sunday, July 23 will be canceled because many of the skiers are participating in the largest and oldest water ski tournament in the world. It’s the Wisconsin State Water Ski Tournament which lasts from July 21-23 and is held at Red Sands Beach on Lake Wazeecha near Wisconsin Rapids.
The Webfooters are a Division 1 team and traditionally have been highly competitive and usually send skiers to the national competition.
“It’s one of the few Sundays we don’t have a show here at home. We’ll be at Lake Wazeecha and we ski on Sunday morning at about 9:30 or so. That’s our big tournament of the year,” said Landsverk.