Hall of Fame Inductions’ Live Webcast Set For Saturday, April 24
by Scott N. Atkinson
The USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Foundation’s 38th Water Ski Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be live webcast on Saturday, April 24, beginning at 7:00 p.m. (EDT).
Wakeboard athlete Shaun Murray, water ski athlete Mandy Nightingale and adaptive water ski athlete Joe Ray are the 2020 Hall of Fame inductees. April Coble-Eller, Gene Davis (posthumously), Nikki Lee, Don Mixon Jr., and Eddie Roberts (posthumously) are Award of Distinction honorees. Ed Brazil will be honored posthumously as the 2020 recipient of the USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Foundation Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award.
Murray was a four-time world champion wakeboarder. He was born on April 28, 1976 in Mission Viejo, Calif., and started water skiing at the age of 8. In 1988, he moved with his family to Lake St. Louis, Mo., where he honed his skills as a member of the Lake St. Louis Water Ski Club. After graduating from high school, he moved to Florida to compete for the Florida Southern College water ski team and teach water skiing at the Benzel Ski School. His wakeboarding career started in 1995 and was full of innovation and accomplishment, including many pro tour and world championship titles. Murray invented several wakeboard tricks, including the Bel Air, Tweety Bird, Square Raley, Crook, Crow 5, Heelside frontside and more. He promoted his own "Backyard Tour" with pro rider and friend Gerry Nunn; has been featured in many wakeboard movies, magazine and television pieces; created his own wakeboard instructional series entitled "Detention;" and was the star of his own video game, Wakeboarding Unleashed. In the summer of 2004, Murray dislocated his knee while riding. He tore his ACL, PCL, and MCL. After reconstructive surgery he was told he might not ride again. But, just months later he was back riding. He helped develop signature products that include boats, wakeboards, life jackets, wet suits and clothing lines. Murray was the first wakeboarder to land a 900 (Regular Heelside) in a competition, and he is the only rider ever to hold World, Pro Tour and National Championship titles at once.
While considered a formidable three-event water ski athlete, Nightingale was one of the greatest trick skiers of her era, winning back-to-back world championships in 2003 and 2005, and establishing a world record of 8,740 points in 2006. She was a five-time champion of the U.S. Open and two-time champion of the Masters. She was named USA Water Ski & Wake Sports’ Female Athlete of the Year in 2007 when she competed on two U.S. water ski teams and collected four individual medals in the process. She also won women’s tricks title that year at the Australian Open and U.S. Open and swept both events of the IWWF Water Ski World Cup. At the 2007 Pan American Games, she earned the silver medal in tricks and bronze medals in slalom and jumping. At the 2007 Water Ski World Championships, she was the lone U.S. team member to win an individual medal, earning the bronze in tricks.
Ray announced his retirement from competition at age 59 following the conclusion of the 2017 Disabled Water Ski World Championships. Competing in the MP2 Division from 1998-2016, Ray won 34 gold medals, seven silver medals and four bronze medals at the U.S. Disabled Water Ski National Championships. He was a 10-time national MP2 overall champion. As a nine-time member of the U.S. Disabled Water Ski Team, he won 13 gold medals, six silver medals and five bronze medals at the Disabled Water Ski World Championships. He was a three-time world MP2 overall champion and a member of five gold-medal winning U.S. Disabled Water Ski Teams. He set six MP2 world slalom records and he was the first MP2 water skier to run the outer course. At the only two Disabled Pan American Championships held, he won the overall gold medal both times in Seated Men. He was a six-time recipient of the Water Skiers with Disabilities Association’s Male Athlete of the Year award.
The many career highlights for Coble-Eller, who won 30 national water ski titles, included winning the 1990 Junior Worlds (slalom and overall), 1992 Collegiate Nationals (slalom and overall), 1996 Moomba Masters (overall), 1997 Masters (overall), 2010 Malibu Open (slalom) and 2014 35+ Worlds (slalom). She was selected USA Water Ski & Wake Sports’ Female Athlete of the Year in 1990, 1997 and 2008, and USA Water Ski & Wake Sports’ National Coach of the Year in 2004.
Davis, who passed way after a brief illness in January 2019, was a jumper in local, regional and national competitions. He was a senior judge and was a very sought-after technical controller for record tournaments, including the Masters, Water Ski National Championships and Water Ski World Championships. He was chairman of the American Water Ski Association’s Technical Committee for many years, a past AWSA president, the executive vice president of AWSA’s Southern Region from 1997-2002, and was instrumental in bringing the technical standards up to their current standards and has taught many the tricks of the trade.
Lee is a longtime AWSA tournament official and board member. She has served as chief judge at numerous international events over the past 30 years, including the 2003 Pan American Games, 2004 World University Games, 2009 World Games, 2011 Water Ski World Championships and 2017 Under 21 Water Ski World Championships, in addition to the Masters, U.S. Open and IWWF Water Ski World Cup. She was a member of the AWSA and USA Water Ski & Wake Sports board of directors from 1990-2005 and served on the AWSA International Activities, Rules and Awards committees. She was a recipient of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports’ Award of Merit, the organization’s highest honor for volunteerism, in 2010.
Mixon Jr. won the 1981 Junior Boys national barefoot slalom and overall titles and his scores were high enough to put him into the Open Men Division at the tender age of 13. As an Open Men competitor, he competed in every Barefoot Nationals until 1996, with the exception of the 1995 national championships due to injury. He was a member of every U.S. Barefoot Team from 1984 to 1996. He contributed points in every world championships he competed in and his contributions helped the U.S team win gold at every world championships in which he was a team member. As an individual competitor, he captured the silver medal in slalom at the 1985 and 1994 Barefoot Worlds. A slalom specialist, he set the world slalom record four times. He also was the first barefooter to do a front-to-back positional turn before his back slalom pass and the first barefooter to do a wake 360 turn (unwrapped) in a tournament. He won the Open Men national slalom title in 1985 and 1994, and the Open Men national jumping title in 1996.
Eddie Roberts' involvement in the industry dates back to the 1960s. He helped establish O’Brien, H.O. Sports and Radar Skis to world prominence. He was responsible for many notable innovations in water ski and wakeboard equipment. He also volunteered immeasurable hours at tournaments, clinics, clubs, and trade shows promoting the sport. A well-known personality in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California water ski communities, his encouraging and jovial demeanor was an inspiration to water sports enthusiasts of all ages. Eddie passed away in 2019, but he will be honored posthumously.
Brazil served the sport for more than 50 years and was internationally known and sought after for his technical expertise. It is estimated that he supervised installing or adjusting more than 500 slalom and jump courses during his career. Among his several innovations, he is believed to be the first person to write a computer program for a 3-point slalom course survey; developed a radar-computer interface to figure distance to 36 mph and deviation in the slalom course; came up with the 55-meter pre-gate buoys and did the centerline deviation estimates using his survey instrument; worked on jump course design, including the 60-foot spacing buoy and 500-foot cutout buoy; and came up with the rule to specify the jump ramp by slope or height/length and made the first graph for it. He was the Chief Technical Controller at the Moomba Masters from 1982-1991 and the was the Chief Technical Controller of the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He served on the USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Foundation’s Hall of Fame Selection Committee for 22 years, and was chairman of the committee for 12 years. He was the 1995 recipient of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports’ Award of Merit, the organization’s highest honor for volunteerism.