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State of the Sport


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I think sideways is one good way to put it. From a guy in his mid 40's who grew up water skiing at an early age, skied in college, got my family of four hooked years ago and a member at a ski lake - I see two glaring trends. One, the collegiate scene is so awesome right now and thanks to people like @MarcusBrown, BallofSpray social media and other outlets -- sharing stories, photos & videos! I feel like the popularity at that level is really on the rise! I'm also seeing a tremendous amount of young talent (ages 6 - 18) which is awesome for the future of the sport. But the second trend is my fear and that's the cost of equipment - primarily boats & skis. That trend scares me -- wondering if post graduates can stay in the game (financially).
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@Murrski to your point about post graduates...funding the cost of skis, vest, ropes, etc is doable if you prioritize this as a hobby. The bigger and more cost prohibiting hurdle that is keeping post grads out of the game is finding/affording a place to ski.

 

If you don't happen to live near a ski club (ie. pay a membership to ski the site) then you typically have (2) options: 1. buy property and build a lake (not practical) or 2. buy a residence on a ski lake community. While the second option seems to make more sense as a mid 20's something kid it's extremely unlikely that buying a $500k house is even feasible. There are a lot of new ski sites up and coming but the lots to build are extremely high (some as much as $350k) and then you still have the expense of building a house to meet HOA requirements which could be another $350+k. Add a boat on top of that and I'd go to say there are very very few late 20's who could swing that.

 

If you graduate, spend 4-6 years not skiing because of availability and affordability what is the true likely-hood of that skier coming back to the sport??

 

Just my $0.02

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I think it is easier than ever before. Platforms like BOS make it easy to find skiers, and if you show up as a good driver (which means being coach-able), consistently willing to help out, pay for gas, etc you’re sure to be welcomed back. Sure, it takes deep pockets to get on a premium spot on a private lake. It also takes persistence to get in with an established group, but my advice to the younger/college age skiers is never underestimate the value of being the first to volunteer to fix a buoy, move a lift, or clean the boat. Remember that time is often the biggest issue for whomever you ski with.

 

I love the numbers of young skiers we see at tournaments. One event this summer we had 5-6 B2 skiers all on the dock cheering each other on, lots of friendly banter about who was going to get what score. It was really great to see the younger groups start to gel and get that friendly competition that you see in the older divisions.

 

So while we have lots of challenges like the cost of equipment and access to premium sites, generally I think things are trending up.

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Despite the impressive number of entries at this year's Nationals, I see tournament skiing in a decline in our area. The entries at the Southern Regionals were, to my knowledge, at an all time low. Our Kentucky State tourney was an all time low in entries. At our site we have decided, after 23 years, to stop hosting tournaments due lack of interest. Our last three slalom tournaments (3 rounders) had single digit entries. Having said that, tournament skiing is a poor yardstick for evaluating overall interest in water skiing. It's just my personal yardstick.
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Collegiate is growing, and that's great, but it doesn't transfer well to the rest of the ski world. Who doesn't want to ski when access is easy, access is cheap, and you're at the site with 20 of your best friends. Once access is hard, and expensive, well... you'd rather find something else to do with your closest friends. Out of every graduating class, I'd expect the sport keeps no more than 10% of skiers who weren't involved pre college and I think 10% is generous. There are other ways to spend time and money and the best part of collegiate skiing, isn't skiing, it's who you're skiing with.

 

That's why the energy is so great, and that's why the people tricking on kneeboards are having just as much fun as the people standing on the podiums. AWSA just doesn't have the same atmosphere.

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@RazorRoss3 I totally agree. I was involved in AWSA skiing before collegiate and would do 10 tournaments a summer. I had 4 awesome years of collegiate skiing but after my last college tournament I basically took 4 years without ever really skiing. Maybe once a year when visiting my parents. Cost to ski was too much. After the 4 years off I got the itch to ski more and started making it a priority. This just so happened after we bought a house, got married, a dog, etc. I haven't skied an AWSA tournament in 10 years now and really have no intention of doing so.
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@RazorRoss3 is right on. While most of my former team-mates have bought late model inboards and still ski, none of them are tourney skiers and I don't think any belong to clubs, live on private lakes, etc. Like me, they mostly ski open water with a small group of friends.

 

I know I've mentioned it before, but we really need to be learning from the skiers in South Korea. They have a thriving ski community there because they've captured the social aspect of skiing. PUBLIC WATER with massive floating docks with picnic tables, grills, music, etc. Several boats going at once. They all have slalom courses. They'll have 3 or 4 boats going at a time and 20 or 30 people hanging around the dock socializing. Most of them are younger, and there are as many women as men involved. It looks really fun.

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I think holding steady is a pretty accurate statement too. As a younger M2 skier, cost has always played a factor in my skiing. Not so much on the practice side of things, but more so the tournament side.

It's easy to throw in a few gallons of gas for a practice set. But when we are talking $100+ for single round regional and national tournaments plus travel expenses and time off of work, that's a tough one.

@bdecker I would agree that websites like BOS have bridged the gap for us as a community. It's opened a line to be able to communicate with other skiers. I like that you mention throwing in some manual labor to gain access to a site. If you don't have the means to build a lake or live on a premier site, it's an easy way to get invited and keep getting invited back.

@RazorRoss3 I hear you on the skiing with your best friends thing. My average set lasts 8-15 minutes. Tournament, probably more like 6 minutes. I skied a tournament this spring with a couple of buddies and I think we had the most fun out of everyone at the event. Just having friendly chatter in between rounds and pumping each other up. When we talk about holding onto the people graduating from collegiate skiing and the current state of things, I think it's important to note that 15 years ago, we weren't as well connected as a sport. That kind of left a missing link for the folks that were coming out of school. As of right now, there are more skiers in M1 than in M2 and M3. My thinking is that the M2&3 guys are the ones that just kind of left because they didn't have a place to go or don't get out enough to be competitive in tournaments.

@UWSkier the South Korean model of skiing is just smart. It's practically identical to collegiate skiing here in the U.S and maybe over time, we will shift to that model. In saying that, I get why we do things the way we do here in the States. Some of my favorite days are spent skiing, kicking around the lake swimming with a few friends, having a few cold ones and calling it a day. But getting to that Korean model would be ideal and is just going to take some time as the younger group comes up.

But overall, I think the sport is going to be just fine and on the tournament side, I think things will continue to improve. Maybe not as fast as we want it to, but things will evolve.

 

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@Skid, more M1 than M2 and M3 is because collegiate is growing, and all 4 years of college most of us are M/W1 skiers. I don't think that bubble proves the sport is doing well so much as it proves that once skiers graduate they don't stick around. Either by a function of affordability, accessibility, or that when they couldn't ski with their friends they didn't care to ski.

 

I'm 25, I've been competing since I was 14. This year I skied 1 tournament, 1. The only reason I went is because it was Alumni Regionals and I knew I was going to have the chance to see a bunch of old friends from college. I skied, and I enjoyed my set, but I enjoyed my time on shore equally if not more so. Without that event, I wouldn't have skied a single tournament this year. If there isn't something similar next year, I may not ski an event in 2019. I guess you could say that collegiate skiing ruined me for AWSA, because unless I can enjoy a day at the lake with a bunch of friends and ski a tournament on the side, I just not very interested in skiing a tournament.

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From my perspective things are growing. We are seeing more skiers come through The Boarding School each year. There are definitely a lot of "lifers" that come through, but we are also seeing a ton of guys that are converting to skiing from wakeboarding. I would say a lot of them are guys in the early 40's and beyond, that grew up skiing a bit, started wakeboarding, and are tired of getting their heads bashed in, and are converting back to skiing. But, we are also seeing guys that have only wakeboarded, and start skiing, because they want to do something more exciting than surfing.

 

I think that, with some of the new skis that make it easier and more fun for guys to start skiing pretty much immediately, are making it more attractive to people.

 

We are definitely seeing a bit of the collegiate surge as well, so all in all, I think it's on the up.

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I like the statement from @LeonL that tournament skiing is a poor yardstick for overall interest in skiing. Where I ski mostly, we are lucky in that the course is on public water and up until around 4-5 years ago it would get ripped up every second day by jet skiers and wakeboarders who didn't give a stuff. But gradually we are finding more folks coming in and slalom skiing and thus maintaining the course and keeping the halfwits out. Most are respectful and it's generally a great atmosphere where we all pull up and wait our turn and chat to people we wouldn't otherwise have even met, and I'm talking families not just young singles with plenty of time on their hands. Since I've had kids myself I love nothing more than chatting to Mums and Dads and also their kids about skiing and boats etc.

 

I'd say 70% of these people have never skied a tournament and have no plans to do so. They just enjoy the challenge and social aspect even though we're only really there for 30 mins tops, so I'd say the sport is going ok without going gangbusters.

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I know and ski with 15-20 people in the course locally. Out of that group I can count 5 that have ever skied in a tournament. 0 of us have skied in one in the last 3 years. All very active and skiing multiple times a week in the course.

 

Skiing is alive and well. However, I see people slowly having a harder and hard time due to access. Access to a lake with a course is the biggest issue. We have boats, we have drivers, we have spotters, we have the equipment. We don't have a consistently reliable spot to ski distraction free.

 

I drive 20-30 min to the lake one way towing my boat. I get really discouraged when I show up and there are 2 jet skis and a tuber out. This is a lake with 2 houses on it... Driving all the way there and not getting a decent set is discouraging and makes me debate if I should go the next day for fear of running into the same thing again.

 

I am not going to sit around and bitch about others using the lake. It is a public lake and they have every right to jet ski and tube on it just like I have every right to slalom. It just sucks that our sport requires the lake conditions it does. Makes it difficult for us public water folks to progress.

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I think skiing is in a good place, all things considered. Many obstacles continue to exist (i.e. cost, logistics, fitness level challenges), and some are even becoming perhaps increasingly difficult (access to calm water). But one thing seems to remain a common circumstance--once you try it, you're hooked in a bad way. And the improved equipment and information only contributes to the power of skiing to captivate.
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More and better web casts tells me it's growing at the upper echelon of the sport. May never reach ESPN Hot Summer Nights but it sure has come a looong way since the pro tours evaporated into non existence. I can only see that getting better and more popular to watch as tech advances.
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@BrennanKMN I was one of the skiers that you are mentioning for a while. Still know a ton of them. I finally got my Dad to go ski a tournament this year. His first since 2005.

@Wish Webcasts have gotten way better and hopefully continue to improve.

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Just a comment (that I've made in the past, so forgive my repetiveness) concerning availability of ski sites. I'm aware that central Kentucky isn't a hotbed of waterskiing or an area that is heavily populated but our private site (the only one) is within a one hour drive of the two most populous cities in the state. Not counting the population within the radius, just these two cities the population exceeds 1,000,000. We have 6 ski club members with only two that ski at least once a week.
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@Leonl, so you're saying I need to tell all of my friends that if they want to ski after they graduate they should move to Kentucky?

 

To be fair, at an hour commute you are probably lookin at a 4 hour ski day for 2 skiers between drive out, get ready, ski 2 sets a piece, clean up, drive back. It's a real commitment, but I know plenty of people who would be willing to make the trek once or twice during the work week and then make good use of it over the weekend.

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I think the issue with M2 & M3 frequently is family. When you begin a family it can be hard to get to tournaments. I came back to skiing when my kids were 5&6 and started in tournaments when my youngest got interested in Boys 1. When the kids are little it is tough to justify taking a full day to go to a tournament. Even when I played golf when the kids were little I would tee off before 8 and be done by 12 and frequently meet my wife and kids at the pool or worst case be home for the full afternoon. A tournament takes a full day away and frequently aren't friendly for small children to be hanging out at.
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@akale15 there are more options. Google earth to find some back water or place to ski. Not sure where your from but just need to research and try to connect with owners or if it’s publuc water. Gain access and ski. @6balls skis on a swamp. We found a small lake and put a perm course in. It takes time and leg work but can really pay off. Kinda like finding land to hunt on, treat land owners with care.

 

 

 

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@MS I couldn't agree more. As everyone has mentioned a little research and willingness to help out goes a long way. In fact it is how I've been able to ski post graduation but @Chef23 makes an excellent point. Since we've had our first child my skiing has dramatically decreased. I lived 12 min from a ski site and maybe skied 8-10 sets a month. A "quick" set easily turns into 2 hours. When you have a 1 yr old skiing from 5:30 to 7:30 doesn't coincide with meal and bed time very well. That being said the argument then becomes how do we make skiing more "convenient" and in my opinion the convenience of being on a private lake or having close direct access to a course is extremely challenging without a large financial backing.
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@akale15 unless you live on a lake it is hard to make skiing never mind tournaments more convenient. When you child is 2 or 3 you can bring them with you for a couple of hours put them in the boat with you and hopefully build some love for the sport with them.

 

I am fortunate in that we live on a public lake that has a course on it. Without that access I likely would have never come back to skiing and my son would be much more into golf which is what I spent my mid 20s-30s doing. I skied a bunch from the age of 5 until my early 20s always in the course and tricking but not skiing tournaments. I came back when we bought my childhood home on a lake.

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I think it all comes down to priorities. If you want to ski, you will make it a priority with allocation of your time and resources. Don't have access to a private site - get a portable course and put it in a public lake for the day (we did that for years). Have small kids - take them to the lake with you and build a family bond the is unsurpassed (my oldest was at the lake at 5 days, on the boat at 7 days old). You don't have to have a fancy boat or a house on a private lake to have fun! It was a ton of work for both scenarios, but the rewards made it all worthwhile. We now have a family lifestyle that I would not change for the world. The reward is having 2 teens that still want to spend time with good old Mom and Dad, often bringing their friends with them!
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On our small lake, the ski group has declined from 15 (~15 years ago) on an 85 parcel lake to 2-3 avid skiers as that group has basically aged, gotten injured changed priorities or moved away. There have been no 'replacements' joining in as the younger or even middle aged people that are moving on to the lake tend to tube, jet ski, paddleboard, cruise around and the home owns a pontoon boat rather than any type of speed /ski boat or vessel really capable of pulling a skier. Casual observation to me indicates the average person has migrated from active participation to more hanging out / cruising / fishing on a pontoon as those have ballooned on our lake. When at peak, we would have 3 ski boats sitting and rotating through our sets on weekend mornings, now my boat is pretty much the only one cracking the throttle for a set. So on the positive side for me, I can get plenty of ski / barefoot time on the water but it is more challenging to find driver(s).

 

Just my opinion, I view the state of the sport in two segments: tourney skiers where there does seem to be a resurgence and public or general population where that does not appear to be as much the case.

 

Glad this site exists and JTH posts or puts effort in to things like the ambassador project, ballers post comments on their situation or offers for skiers to catch a ride, etc.

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Having seriously considered selling my lake house and finding an alternative ski solution for two years before I can move my family out of state I can tell you it is incredibly hard to find a good skiing situation in the southern half of California. So in 1/2 of nation's most populous and wealthy state water skiing is more or less doomed.

 

On the other hand talking to boat and ski manufacturers everybody tells me sales are up. Boat and ski sales may not track parallel to tournament entries or association memberships.

 

I understand wakeboard sales is flat or down and surf sales are probably still trending up.

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@LeonL to me your site sounds like a prime location to reach out to local collegiate skiers - if only to let them know of the option during summer time to be your third. Then at least a few are likely to pick up occasional ski rides with you after college and your club might grow.

 

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FYI - BallOfSpray traffic has grown every year. Q1 & Q2 of this year were down but Q3 and Q4 are way up. Year over year the site is 3.75% over the previous 12 months. Point is there are a lot of skiers surfing the intertubes looking for information.

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@bracemaker, 45 minutes from me is the University of Louisville with an enrollment of over 15K and 1 hour away is the University of Kentucky with an enrollement of over 22K. Neither has a ski team or ski club. One of our members tried to form a team or club while at UK to no avail. No interest.
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As a 25 year old I believe tournament skiing is going to decline and I believe the companies within waterskiing are doing the most damage to the tournament scene especially in the age bracket from 18 to 30 and the average wage earners. Boats are increasing in value every year and so is equipment. I run a hobbie ski sales business and ski school in outback Australia to help the locals and the amount of people that are keen to do it (tournament) as an individual or a family but simply can not afford it is sickening. The fusiness and seriousness in tournaments has got out of hand to where it takes the fun out of it not to.mention who wants to go to a tournament pay $100 and miss the first pass because they're not someone who gets to ski every week. it isnt an overly inviting structure to someone who just wants to enjoy and not be a full serious competitor. Bouy height perfect, boat perfectly weighted, best boat driver, this prop that rudder, boats reving to high, boats not strong enough etc etc. I understand the serious side of it, went through it myself but there needs to be a happy medium to.invite new people into it because there are heaps that want to do it! people need to feel like skiing the course in the old outboard can still set them up to ski tournaments. Most things I have seen in tournament skiing over the past 10 years hasn't done much to help your average river rat get into the sport. Every man/woman and their dog out here waterski it's just how do you get them involved in our side of it when so many factors seem to be against them?
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@Skwake what really upsets me is that the new Porsche cost three times what I can afford for my next car. It's just sickening awful and unfair.

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@Skwake Ok seriously

How is it the ski and boat companies fault?

 

Let’s start with the cost of skis. I cannot speak for the Oz market but in the US a new top of the line ski with boot costs less than low- mid range mountain or road bike. You can get a base model ski for about the cost of beginner hockey gear. My point is the price tag of a new ski might look bad but it is not out of line with many sports. You do not have to always have the newest shiniest gear. Unless you are deep in to shortline there is a lot of used gear that is more than good enough.

 

As for the cost if boats – a new boat is a luxury item. If you want to compete at the highest level you might think you need a boat less than 10 years old. If you are just leaning the course a 15 to 20 year old boat that runs is fine. Do you know many 18 to 30 year olds driving expensive cars? I am not saying that boats are not expensive but the boat companies are not screwing the public on ski boats.

 

As far as the fussiness of tournaments goes – If you ski at a recreational level there is no need for you to concern yourself with the details. I do not know why you would even attend a serious tournament unless you aspire to ski at a higher level. Ski tournaments can be fun but first and foremost they are competitions. Do you think that skiers who have invested huge sums of money and time should lower the standard when you show up?

 

If you want to do something good then I suggest that you organize some fun unfussy tournaments. I bet if you ask the fussy skiers you know to come help they will. More to the point I think you will find that the higher end skiers want you to learn and improve. They / We will be happy to help you along the way.

 

The cost of skiing is an unfortunate reality. It is what it is. That reality has squeezed middle class folks away from the sport. Complaining about it is pointless.

 

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I will have to agree with @horton. (That's painful). Seriously, I recognize that new boats are expensive, but one can ski quite satisfactorily with a 20 year old bubble butt Nautique. I don't know what they're going for, but they reasonably affordable. (12K or so) You got to have a driver, so 2 or more people can invest in a boat.
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About 15k with PP. the biggest problem is the pull. ZO from PP feels like a freight train comparatively.

I ran 39 many times on a ski I bought for $200 on SIA.

I still feel that people don't tournament ski because it is simply damn difficult. On a mtn bike, you can get off and walk a hill, running or tri, more of a participation deal (and telling all your friends how to eat), wake surfing, well....

The family thing isn't all that hard to figure out, bring bikes, spike ball, frisbees,etc

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@LeonL and I will confess that I understand a 20 year old boat is like a 20 year old car. It might run forever or the mechanics bills might be painful. I arranged a sale between two friends last year of a 2008 196. The darn thing worked great the day it left my house and as soon as the new owner took possession of it it pretty much fell apart like the cop car at the end of The Blues Brothers movie. Even after all the repairs it's a hell of a lot cheaper than a brand new boat.

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@Drago that's because you choose to live in Colorado.

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How are boats the problem?

There are loads of used boats available at great prices. If you are 20-30 years old and want to get into the sport and the cost of a new boat is what is stopping you, you got other issues.

 

You don't need the newest, latest and greatest to ski. You need a boat, a ski and some friends. All of which can be had for under 20k pretty easily. Even less if you are willing.

 

Not hard...

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@Horton "what really upsets me is that the new Porsche cost three times what I can afford for my next car. It's just sickening awful and unfair. "

 

Sh*t, I'm quitting my day job and starting up a website......

 

https://www.porsche.com/usa/models/911/911-gt2-rs/911-gt2-rs/

 

2019 Porsche GT2 RS:

(Keep in mind this is a FROM price) $293,200/3= $97,733.33 (Cost of Horton's next car)

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First off- I'm fairly new to this forum and amazed with the amount of information found here.

I really can't comment on the "State of the Sport" specifically but I really don't think Boats and equipment are the problem at all....Lots of used stuff out there....

 

Access to good water and a slalom course/jump has always been my issue. Through my 20's & 30's I've had boats....Skied public waters, wakeboarded, etc... but without access to "good/private" water it only took me to be just a better than average Rec skier.....

Water ski lakes are around but it was always tough to get in the clubs around where I live or they were private lakes with homes and no public access.

 

So here I am at 49years old and can finally afford to have a lot on a nice ski lake. (skiing better than I have my whole life!)

I often think about how much better I would of been if I had the water access needed for training when I was younger.

 

And again... Just my 2 cents...

 

Sincerely,

"ski til I break myself again"

 

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@wawaskr GT2? seriously? That's pretty much a track day specialty car.

 

911 starts 90k-ish

 

https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/porsche/cayman

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