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Terry Bennett’s Top 10 (1982)

terry-bennett.jpgReproduced from “Water Skiing in Australia”, courtesy of Bob Wing.

Written by Terry Bennett (photo left) in 1982.

Over the past twenty years I have had the opportunity to ski against the skiers who have in the comparative short life span of the sport of water ski racing been regarded as the best skier on the water at the height of their success.

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The names and their position into which I place them will cause plenty of room for discussion. A lot of names that are well known in the sport today are missing. This also will cause discussion but I believe that the list is close to the mark, because all the skiers have been the best at their particular time, and to be the best you have to have the dedication and ability to be a continued winner and there are a lot of skiers around who are great skiers and win a few races, but there is always one skier who is regarded as the best. These are skiers I have selected in the top 10 Australians.

The fastest skier ever to step into a ski. Paul’s ability to go fast was backed by tremendous endurance created by a lifetime of competitive barefooting. Paul was unbeatable when the boat held together. Nevertheless and with a tremendous will to win, Paul skied in competition both in Australia and in the U.S. and proved his ability to ski faster and longer than anyone.

robbie-woods.jpgAt 18 Robbie had won everything that was to be won in Australia and the U.S. A tremendously strong skier, Robbie was not as classy as McManus and didn’t chase the high speeds like McManus. Sheer strength and ability won Woods his races and like McManus has been a continual boat breaker with the result that both skiers would have won even more races than they did.


chicka-noel.jpgNot a lot of skiers on the water today will remember Chicka but like McManus and Woods in their time Chicka was the best. When races were all 60 miles and held on Saturday afternoons in Botany Bay and around Sydney Harbour, Chicka crouched over his ski and holding onto a single slalom bar wore the competition out.

Chicka did not have the opportunity to compete overseas, but he would have been right in there with U.S. stars Chuck Stearns and Butch Peterson. Chicka, like McManus had a background of competitive skiing, tournament, rather than barefoot, and Chicka´s will to win was best demonstrated when with his son Charles was the only boat to finish in a gruelling race around Lake Macquarie, late in his career. Chicka spent a week in hospital from Exhaustion following the event and if his time had been today, using the quality of skis and techniques used today, he would show why I select him No. 3 of Australia’s best ever.

bruce-robberds-small.jpgFor over fifteen years Bruce has been a top line contender, and in fact got better as he got older. Until a recent injury forced retirement, Bruce Robberds, at the age of 42 was still beating the cream of Australia’s Ski Racers. I believe Bruce Robberds to be a better skier than Chuck Stearns who won the Catalina for the 11th time. It is a pity that Bruce Robberds didn’t ever visit the U.S. to compete. With his attitude to competition he would have been a great success.

Rory could finish at Number 2 before his career is over. A brilliant skier, Rory needs to pick up a little more dedication to back up the brilliance he has. Like Robbie Woods, who needed 6 months of hard work to show the World he was the best, Rory needs a lot of hard work to be able to run down the fit Europeans who stand between him and the World Title.

Like McManus, another freekick skier at high speed, this ability combined with superb reflexes and a physique that didn’t need to be conditioned. Jones was unbeatable in the late 60´s. Wayne demonstrated his ability in Europe in 1972 when he won the European Grand Prix, by nearly five minutes from Europe’s best. The only reason Wayne is not higher on the list is that a spirit of self preservation did not let him really show the world how good he was.

wayne-ritchie.jpgWinner of the Worlds first ever Ski Racing Title, Wayne, like Wayne Jones, was a super fast skier with tremendous reflexes. One of the arts of ski racing is the ability to let the body and legs absorb the wave that stand up unexpectedly or the continued shock of rough water. Wayne had this ability and at the height of his career was the best on the water.

A top line skier in the sixties, Ginger skied with Jack Murray in the early Australian Marathons and was one of the first speed skiers and if timing devices had been available would have been the first skier to crack 100 m.p.h. Like McManus and Jones, McKewan was a natural skier and rated in my top ten.

chris-massey.jpgOnly serious injury prevented Geoff Burgess being further up the list of Australia’s best skiers. Geoff won and Australian Title and skied in a most casual sty, fearless when on the water. A brilliant skier and a tremendous natural athlete, Geoff did not get the opportunity to capitalise on his ability due to the injury suffered when he fell at a speed of over 130 m.p.h. while attempting to set a World Water Ski Speed Record.

Ray Wheeler, Geoff or John Hardaker, Wayne Atta, Peter Ward, Col Billington, Glen Faust, Barry Cairn and many more have been at or near the top and I think the discussion caused by the above list allow number 10 to be left to your own judgement.

Written by Terry Bennett

Read the Fred Williams article

Bob Wing added …
I think Terry Bennett was a brave man to put his pen to paper to the above article and I will add my name to the list in Col Billington who with Paul McManus was unbeatable in the early seventies. As well as breaking the sound barrier with under one hour in the Bridge to Bridge, he showed real courage to go out in the first ever officially timed speed attempt to go over 90 m.p.h. flat chat behind “Caroline” and to add to this, his effort in breaking the world endurance record after working on the motor practically all night was exceptional.

This article was reproduced from “Water Skiing in Australia”.
Courtesy of Bob Wing.
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