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Water Skiers With Disabilities Association

A History Of Disabled Water Skiing

Water skiing has been adapted so that physically disabled athletes can participate and compete. Tournaments offer slalom, tricks and jumping events for vision impaired individuals (blind or partially sighted), multiplegics (paraplegics and quadriplegics), leg amputees (above and below knee), arm amputees and athletes with both arm and leg disabilities. The skiers in the latter three categories compete with the same water ski equipment used by able-bodied athletes and have the option of using a prosthesis.

Vision impaired athletes do not require special equipment. However, they are guided by another skier in the jumping event, although they must be released before they go over the ramp and use audible signals instead of buoys in the slalom course.

Multiplegic athletes use a sit ski, which is larger than the ski of an able-bodied skier and includes a cage similar to that used in snow skiing.

A narrower slalom course than that set out for able-bodied competitors is an option for those whose disability is greater such as quadriplegics and athletes with both arm and leg disabilities.



1987 - The first World Trophy, a non-record event, took place outside London in England with officials from the European, African, Middle Eastern (EAME) Region and one from the Pan Am Region.   There were 40 participants from 7 countries.  Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA & Australia.

1989 - The second World Trophy, a national record capability event, took place outside Perth, Australia with officials from the Asia-Australasian Region and one each from the Pan Am and EAME Regions.  There were 55 participants from 9 countries.  Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA & Australia.

1991 - The third and final World Trophy, a world record capability event, took place in Michigan, in the USA with at least two officials from each Region. There were 65 participants from 12 countries. Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA & Australia.

1993 - The inaugural world championships, a world record capability event, was held in Roquebrune, France, with at least three officials from each Region as per the new rules. There were a record 84 participants from 15 countries. The USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Australia.

1995 - The second world championships was held in Mulwala, Australia with 56 athletes from 12 countries. Nineteen world records were set. The USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Australia.

1997 - The third world championships was held in Florida in the USA with 66 athletes from a record 16 countries. Sixteen world records were set and one equaled. Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA and Australia.

1999 - The fourth world championships was held outside London, at the site of the first World Trophy. There were 75 athletes from 15 countries. Eleven world records were set.  The USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Australia.

2001 - The fifth world championships was held near Melbourne, Australia. There were 57 athletes from 15 countries, the best attendance to date both in athlete and country numbers in the AA Region. Eight world records were set. Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA and Australia.

2003 - The sixth world championships, and the sport’s 10th anniversary, took place in Florida, USA. There were 68 athletes from 15 countries. Eight world records were set and one tied. USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Italy.

2005 - The seventh world championships was held in Schoten, Belgium, in September with 60 athletes from 17 countries, the latter a record with two new ones participating, Brazil and South Africa.  There were 10 world records, and the team title was won by Great Britain, ahead of the USA and Australia.

2007 - The eighth world championships took place in Townsville, Australia, in May with 52 athletes from 15 countries, the number of countries tying an AA record for attendance. Eight world records were set; and Great Britain won the team title again, ahead of Australia, second for the first time ever, and the USA. The USA and Great Britain have now each won four world titles.

2009 - The ninth world championships was held Sept. 3-6 in Vichy, France, with 47 competitors from a record 18 countries, the newest country being Austria. There were four world records set, one of them (a jump) having stood for 20 years. The United States broke its 4-4 team-title tie with Great Britain in garnering the prestigious team title, ahead of Italy and France, both on the podium for the first time ever.

2011 - The 10th world championships was held Aug. 25-28 in West Chester, Ohio, with 38 competitors from 13 countries. The United States won its second consecutive team title; and Italy anf France repeated their podium finishes of two years earlier in France. There were four world records set and one tied by four different skiers from three confederations. For the first time, medals were awarded in only three categories: seated, standing and vision impaired.

2013 - The 11th World Championships was held Aug. 29-Sept. 1, in Milan, Italy, with 45 skiers from 12 countries. The United States won its third team title in a row with Italy second for the third time straight and Australia third, back on the team podium for the first time since 2007.  The United States is the first country to ever win three consecutive team titles. There were five world records set by three different skiers from two confederations. Nine of the twelve countries in attendance won medals.


1986 - In Norway, the original commission of three persons was formed.

1987 - At the time of the first World Trophy, there was one member from each Region, all disabled, and a president, Peter Felix.   It was a commission, reflecting a lack of participating countries, hence a world trophy instead of a world championships.

1989 - At the second World Trophy, an additional member was chosen to the commission from each Region, all able-bodied.

1991 - After the IWSF Executive Board encouraged the disabled commission to move toward council status (the status of all other major sports disciplines such as tournament, barefoot and racing, a third member was selected to the commission from each Region, and in some cases an alternate.

1992 - The IWSF Executive Board approved council status for the disabled in July, due to an increase in participating countries, established rules, etc. The Disabled Council is now on equal footing with tournament, barefoot and water ski racing.


Chairman: Jim Grew, USA (93)

Confederation Pan Am (North America and Latin America)

Bill Bowness, USA (86) - President

Jim Grew, USA (89)

Chris Holden, CAN (09)

Confederation EAME (Europe, Africa, Middle East)

Philippe Turchet, FRA (06) - President

Christophe Fasel, SUI (96)

Dany De Bakker, BEL (09)

Ivar Fosse, NOR (09) - alternate

Confederation Asia-Australasia (Oceania and Asia)

Scott Wintle, AUS (12)

Jamie McDonald, AUS (00)

Darryl Hoyle, AUS (09)

Noel Dix, AUS (09) - alternate


Technical Committee: Co-Chair, Paul Airey (2013); Co-chair Dany De Bakker (09)

Classification Committee: Chair, Jeroen Bergman (2011)

IWWF Web Site Liaison: Paul Airey (2011)

IWWF Athletes Commission Representative: Toon van der Ploeg (2013)

Six of the nine Council members are elite athletes, four of whom were slated to compete in the 2013 world tournament, one of those four also serving as a classification official. A fifth, the first disabled athlete to be inducted into the IWWF HOF in 2013, served as an appointed official along with his wife while the sixth coaches a national team and still competes.


       In 1989, each region had its own set of IWSF world rules for the disabled. By 1991, one set of rules, keyed to the IWSF able-bodied rules, had been approved. A more sophisticated set was finalized, including all the necessary appendices, and keyed specifically, rule by rule, to the IWSF rules in 1992. 1994 witnessed the addition of a tournament handbook which by 2001 contained sections on classification, interpretations, and records (record standards and a complete record series).


       The first world records were set at the 1991 World Trophy with the provision that there were at least 4 contestants in the event. Performances from the 1989 World Trophy that qualified under this stipulation, and were not exceeded at the 1991 event, were also grandfathered in as records. All others were tracked as world tournament bests. With the 1993 Worlds, records could be set in all categories because minimum standards had been established. 1995 witnessed the tracking of regional records for the first time. 


       The original categories were as follows: Arm amputees (A); Leg Amputees (L & LP); Multiple Plegics -Paraplegics & Quadriplegics – (MP1, MP2 & MP3); Blind & Vision Impaired (V1, V2 & V3); Deaf; Les Autres (the others)

- The Leg Amputee category was divided into two (with and without prosthesis) after the 1989 World Trophy.

- The Multiple Plegics category was divided into three after the 1991 Trophy according to a classification system performed at each worlds.  The women were recombined at the world tournament  in 1995 because of a lack of participation and were separated again in 2000.

- The Vision Impaired category was divided into two according to the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) classification system, which necessitates passports indicating status.  In 1994, it was combined back into one again. 1998 saw the IWSF Disabled Classification Committee take over the task of classifying its athletes using the IBSA like parameters.

- The category for Deaf was eliminated after the 1989 Trophy.

- Les Autres, a catch-all category for those who do not fit into the current framework, became demonstration in 1990.

- The IWSF Disabled movement was determined to be for the physically disabled only in 1989.

- A new category was trialed in the 1999 Worlds called A/L for those with significant arm and leg impairment, arm and leg amputation, and hemiplegia.  This category would also include skiers with cerebral palsy and other disabilities/conditions that are able to ski upright for slalom. It received a second trial in 2001 and was added as an official category after that event and for the 2003 Worlds, for men only. After the 2003 Worlds, this category was expanded to include women. In 2006, it was divided into two categories (A/L1 & A/L2).

- Also trialed was a new slalom event for the vision impaired called audio slalom, which better simulates able-bodied slalom. It replaced wake slalom in 2001.

- In 2010, the 10 existing categories at that time were combined into three: seated, standing and vision impaired for medal distribution. World record standards remained in all 10 categories.

* The International Water Ski Federation (IWSF) became the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) in August 2009.