Winter may be coming to a close in North America, but now is a time of great anticipation and wonderful dreams coming true. The world’s best winter athletes are gathering at Sunshine Village in Banff, Alberta, for the first annual Pond Skimming World Cup Championship on Monday, May 23. The qualifying winners from pond skims across North America, at Crested Butte, Big Sky, Stevens Pass, and Squaw Valley, will go head to head with the winners of Canada’s Slush Cup for the chance to be crowned the Pond Skimming World Champion.
As the competition builds, these athletes are longing for their day of competition, the moment when the sun is shining over the giant plastic pond and it becomes clear to the world that these skiers are here to fulfill their destiny.
For Olympic medalist Wendy Fisher, winner of the Crested Butte Slush Huck, adrenaline is high. She knew she was born to pond skim the moment she pushed out of the gate of her first run, she says. Her manta for the final competition: “Go big or get wet.”
Fisher will be up against a number of talented skimmers also vying for victory: TJ Hamilton, also out of Crested Butte; Ryan Johnson and Roberta Shelby, representing Big Sky; Stevens Pass champion Don Brockett; and Squaw Valley victors Errol Kerr and Nate Holland.
Inspiring in their own right, each of these world-class pond skimmers draws their strength and focus from a number of different influences. For Johnson, it’s Jesus himself. “Some biblical scholars theorize that the Lord our savior was not walking on water, but was actually pond skimming,” he told POWDER while preparing his usual pre-competition meal: Gaper kabobs with a side of spring corn.
Hamilton, however, was first moved to skim after seeing an incredible demonstration of athletic prowess by Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel, while Brockett attributes a bad hangover as the catalyst that pushed him to sign up for his first pond skimming event. Now a seasoned participant, he relies on a Celine Dion playlist to get him amped for competitions. Others, like Shelby, prefer absolute quiet before she competes—better to hear the crack of a fresh beer; part of her customized all-liquid (plus a little pizza) training diet.
Holland will have Enya’s “Sail Away” blaring in his headphones before he drops in to the course Monday, unconcerned about physical fitness or mental toughness, the Cali boy says it’s all about holding your breath and closing your eyes—a unique approach to a storied sporting event that has served as a rite of passage for skiers celebrating the arrival of spring. It’s an excuse to wear something silly—perhaps a unicorn costume, or a banana hammock—though some competitors, like Kerr, say a costume has no influence on performance. “It’s all about soul skiing on the water. Pond skimming is 100 percent mental toughness and finding that place within to just skim across the top of the water,” says Kerr. Holland agrees, saying a costume is a cover up for a lack of talent. But their Big Sky adversary is coming at the competition with an entirely different approach. “Showing up to a pond skim without festive attire is like showing up to a funeral in Daisy duke’s and a wife beater,” says Johnson.
It’s clear already—Monday’s competition is going to be fierce as each of these competitors has sweat, trained, and sacrificed to earn a place at the Pond Skimming World Cup Championship. Their talent, dedication, and commitment brought them here with a chance to become the true champion—an honor determined but whether they sink or skim.
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