Ken Nelson

Ken Nelson was born in Wetaskiwin, Alberta and he started skiing at the age of 15. He skied his first national championships in 1973 where he won a bronze medal in the slalom event. For the next ten years, Ken continued skiing in various lakes around Calgary while searching for the perfect site to use as a controlled water ski environment. 

In 1982, he competed in the Nationals in Dartmouth, NS where he won a gold medal in the Senior Men’s event, a standard that he has maintained ever since in his respective age category.

Soon after his first nationals, Ken found the perfect site for his dream of owning a man-made lake. The project was started on December 22nd, 1985 and was complete the following year just in time for the 1986 National Barefoot Championships. Shalom Park became Canada’s first man made, specific water sport facility, that has gone on to become the most prolific host site in Canadian towed water sports history. Ken and Shalom Park’s hosting legacy includes:

A world junior championship in 1996 with 34 participating countries;

  • Three international competitions, 1992, 1993 and 1994
  • No less than 13 different national championships:
  • Canadian Water Ski Championships 6 times (awarded 2009, 2002, 1997, 1994, 1993, 1989);
  • Canadian Wakeboard Championships 3 times (2010, 2006, 1997);
  • Canadian Barefoot Water Ski Championships 6 times (2007, 2003, 1997, 1992, 1990, 1986);
  • Canadian Adaptive (Disabled) Water Ski Championships 1 time (2009);
  • 14 Alberta Provincial Championships in the sport’s different disciplines since 1989
  • 119 local competitions in the sport’s different disciplines since 1989;

In 1986, Ken started hosting events called “Recreational Water Ski Championships.” By setting a narrower line of buoys, it was possible for a recreational level of skier to succeed in maneuvering around the buoys and become interested in advancing in the sport. This led to a great surge in skiers around the province. 

Never forgetting about youth, in 1987, Ken started a program called “New Kids on the Water.” This program was designed for children between the ages of 5 and 12 to learn to ski in a safe and controlled environment. It is still running today and has taught over 1500 children over the years. Being the thoughtful and generous man he is, Ken started another event in 2011 called “Honour Day.” He invited the Military from Namao to come and use the water ski facilities for the day. He also provided a climbing wall, blow up playground, and face painting for the children. He offered them a BBQ lunch as well as a roast beef dinner to show them how much their dedication to serving our country was appreciated. 

Ken further helped build the sport of water skiing by developing methods to enhance the ease of the sport. He is the first known person to use cylinders as boat guides in the slalom course, which resulted in a rule change to allow for the smaller diameter guides. He also designed a portable slalom course that uses brace lines to hold the buoys in place. This system proved to be record capable. His design for a ski jump was approved for the IWSF at their congress in 1993. 

Ken also developed an automated time of use meter so that skiers could be assured of paying only for the time a boat was in use. He was also a 15 year+ Correct Craft dealer and sponsorship supporter of Water Ski and Wakeboard Canada, as well as the Alberta association.Ken Nelson has been a much-needed dreamer, innovator, giver and supporter and one of this sport’s recognized Pioneers.

Marc Cloutier

Marc Cloutier has worked with the Montreal Expos, the Olympic Stadium, and the Winnipeg Jets. He admits that his water skis helped him get there through all of his contacts. Marc began skiing in 1952 and attended the Water ski school at Laurentide Inn in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Québec. From 1953 to 1957, he started water skiing in Cypress Gardens, where he showcased his talents. During that time, he was put on many different television shows such as Ed Sullivan, Dave Garoway, Gary Moore, and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was also on a series for Water ski school and water safety on Radio Canada for four years.

In 1954, Marc was the highest ranked Barefoot skier in Canada, and 8th in the world. He competed in many championships around the world including Europe Velden Autriche, Campione Italie Water Ski Championships, Ruislup Championnat Commonwealth England (which had a BBC TV show with the Royal Family), Lockenhead in Scotland, Show with Esther Williams (Four months Wembley Empire Pool in London, England), Esther Williams show returns to America, the Honoured Ski Nautique Montréal Sport’s Celebrity at Hotel Mont Royal.Between 1955-1957, Marc did many water ski shows at the Canadian National Exhibition. Marc completed 32 shows per summer, sponsored by Dow, all over Quebec and Ontario in every water ski school in every town where the show was presented. In 1957, Marc was on a US Tour with the Tommy Bartlett Ski Show. The Tour visited forty states in a span of four years. During this time, Marc married Maurine Boyle-Cloutier and marked the first time man and wife both won the Canadian Championships in 1958. He was the Canadian Champion twice in a row. Marc was also a spokesman for Mercury Motor Out Boards and in 1958, the CWA got a Crosby boat with two 100 hp out board motors to be used at all tournaments in Canada.Marc’s accomplishments started to flourish even more from here. From 1959 to 1966, Marc was involved in many water ski shows in SainteAgathe-des-Monts, Quebec. Shows were every Sunday, and every year there would be a live TV show on Radio Canada French and English.

In 1961, he was the Director of Public Relations for the Montreal Canadiens. He became involved with Promotions as an Assistant of President David Molson in 1963. In 1967 Marc was a part of the Worlds Fair Expo involving 748 shows and 5 million spectators. Marc was a manager at the Olympic Stadium in 1976, and is a former stadium manager for the Winnipeg Jets, followed by becoming the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations. In 1984, Marc became the Mayor of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts and acted as an ambassador for his city. During the years 

1990-2008, Marc’s profession was a Real Estate Promoter in construction and sale of condos. At the same time, he was the Vice President of the World Hockey Association of Canada and the US, and was also the Spokesman at Cypress Gardens where he organized an annual reunion of all former water skiers.

Thank you Marc for putting so much of your time and effort into this sport!

See Marc Cloutier’s Timex Commercial.

Wally Sokolowski

Wally Sokolowski served as the Executive Director of the Ontario Water Ski Association (OWSA) for 25 years from 1971 to 1995. During those years he made significant contributions to the development of the sport both in Ontario and across Canada. Sokolowski hosted and officiated, most often as technical controller, at numerous national competitions. He took the OWSA from a volunteer, home-based organization to a government funded provincial sporting organization.

He initiated, organized and operated the WellandWater Ski Club and the Claireville Water Ski Centre. This involved building numerous water ski jumps and installing countless slalom courses across the province. He dedicated his life to water skiing. Sokolowski played a key role in the development of competitive water skiing in the 1940’s and 1950’s, before there was a Canadian Water Ski Association, Water Ski Canada or an Ontario Water SkiAssociation.

He proposed and convinced the International Water Ski Federation (IWSF) to adopt a rule change for water ski jumping in order to improve the safety of the event. Additionally, he had the vision to foresee the environmental issues that would effect the future of the sport and he invested significant time and energy in promoting cable water skiing both in Canada and the United States. He flew at his own expense to Germany to investigate the design and requirements for installation and operation of a cable system.

Sokolowski spent many winter months assisting in the development of Quiet Waters Park in Fort Lauderdale Florida. He worked tirelessly to initiate the development of a cable site in Canada but the only cableway, at Le Beach Club in Montreal, was not built until after his retirement.

Wally’s vision and foresight has played a significant role in the development of our sport, both in respect to the technical competitive standards but also for the vision to foresee the significance cable skiing would play in the future of our sport. For this, Water Ski and Wakeboard Canada recognizes Wally Sokolowski as a Pioneer in its Hall of Fame.

Eric Horton

Eric Horton is without a doubt, a pioneer in the world of wake sports. His innovative spirit has resulted in the evolution of speed control systems, and has helped to increase the international profile and competition standardization of wake sports.

Horton was prompted to create the PerfectPass speed control system when, while towing his water skiing children around the lake, he realized the large role played by boat drivers in wake sports. As an engineer he began to play around with speed control system ideas. By the mid 1990s Horton had a working prototype of PerfectPass.

As the creator of the speed control system, Horton is responsible for the increased accuracy with which boats are able to be controlled in competition. Also, this system allows for the standardization of training for athletes. The creation of this system has been revolutionary in that all current world records have been achieved behind PerfectPass.

Additionally, the increase in fairness that comes with the use of this system prompted the IWSF to make electronic speed control mandatory for all IWSF sanctioned events beginning in 1997.

As a result of this system, Horton has received numerous awards including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Technology for Atlantic Canada (2005), Sport Nova Scotia’s “Sports Make a Difference” award (2005), and honourable mention for the APENS Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Engineering (2006).

In addition to the creation of this speed control system, Horton is heavily involved in officiating and rule development/implementation for national and international federations. His water ski officiating led to three consecutive nods as runner up in Sport Nova Scotia ‘s IKON Official of the Year Award (for all sports).

Horton was influential in the creation of various rules and methods that serve to increase the degree of fairness and standardization of the participation in as well as the officiating of wake sports tournaments.

He also consults regularity with the technical director of the International Water Ski Federation and various national water ski federations on issues concerning rules, tow boat and speed control. Eric Horton’s involvement with wake sports can be characterized as innovative and full of dedication. Both attributes that make his induction as the first pioneer into the WSWC Hall of Fame warranted and celebrated.