We’ve all heard the name Thibaut Dailland. We all know his prowess behind the boat as an overall skier and we’ve seen him dominate the podium. But to many, Thibaut is a mysterious character among the throng of famed elite athletes in the water sports arena. What’s Thibaut’s story? Where did he come from? How did he get so good? How do you even say his name? Connelly Skis sat down with their decorated team athlete to get the low-down behind his story.

Tell me about your upbringing and what is was like to grow up in Mauritius.

There is nothing that compares to growing up on an island, even down to what the people wear. Most days shoes and and a shirt were optional for me. Despite the fact that I was going to school, I was still able to enjoy all the benefits of living in a vacation destination - kitesurfing, scuba diving, surfing, etc. Living life near the ocean was amazing. However, having a home on a beach front definitely doesn’t keep your mind focused when it comes to your studies haha

How is your first and last name said correctly? We American’s have a difficult time with it haha

Thibaut Dailland: Pronunciation is “T-BO Dayland”

How did you get involved in skiing and where did you ski most of your life?

I was born and raised in Ivory Coast, Africa until the age of 14 when we moved to Mauritius Island. My dad was a surfer and my mom took up water skiing as a hobby on weekends. Before too long, my mom convinced my dad to get behind the boat. He was hooked from the beginning and the rest is practically history when it came to my ski career. My dad was my first coach, but at 10 years old I caught the eye of Tanguy Benet (also an Ivory Coast native) who saw potential in my skills and coached me all the way until I was 21.

When did you first come over to the states and why?

I first came to the U.S. in 2001 when I was 11 years old. Tanguy Benet was working at Swiss Ski School and persuaded me to come train with him and a group of skiers. Wow was that a cool experience! I practically had stars in my eyes stepping foot into America and getting to train with professional skiers like Marco Riva, Anais Amade, Sebastien Cans, Marina Mosti, Angeliki Andriopoulou and Carlos Allais. It was a dream come true!

KingOfDarknessPoster2There’s something about watching a jumper shatter the dark with a 200+ ft. leap behind a MasterCraft boat that makes the adrenaline pump on the dock and pulse through the crowd. The 2017 King Of Darkness is an edge-of-your-seat event, and you won’t want to miss it.

This unique event gives world-class athletes a stage to showcase their impeccable talents while promoting the sport and the high-energy lifestyle that accompanies it. The festivities not only include the experience of watching elite skiers, like Freddy Krueger who took the victory in 2016, battle it out for a cash prize jackpot, but also a whole slew of fun-filled activities, yummy eats and good times.

Turn it into a family outing and bring along the youngsters. We’ll have free rides, ice cream trucks, face painters and arts and crafts lined up for the kids to enjoy. And parents, we haven’t forgotten about you. You’ll have nine food, beer and wine trucks accompanied by two bands to get the good vibes flowing and make it a night to remember.

Join us at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4 at Isles of Lake Hancock to watch the best skiers in the world showdown in all three events to take home the King Of Darkness crowns.

Lake Address:
Isleview Drive
Winter Garden, FL. 34787

For more information visit:


By Ellie Rae Horton

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“Always walk like you're on a mission.” A small piece of advice from father to son has become the mantra of one man’s every endeavor in life. Those endeavors formed the backbone of our sport as we know it today and established his role as a forefather of today’s unprecedented, technologically advanced skiing. Untouchable achievements have been breached because of this man’s expertise and wisdom. Eddie Roberts is a living legend. And while many know him as the kind-hearted, die-hard skier who can often be found behind the wheel, easing new skiers out of the water or whooping someone's butt in ping pong, behind it all, he is truly one of the most pivotal pieces to water skiing.

An introduction through a mutual water-ski friend - who happened to live two doors down from the O’Brien family on Lake Sammamish - kindled a many-years-long association between Roberts and Herb O’Brien. Roberts was immediately thrust into the industry after he, “watched O’Brien ski behind their Century Arabian inboard and was very impressed to say the least.” The rest is history…a lot of history. That friendship evolved beyond lake-day parties into a right-hand-man partnership at HO Skis.

“He was the muscle and brains behind the operation,” Chet Raley, renowned water ski coach and skier, relays of Robert’s position in the early-days at HO. But it wasn’t just the operation of building skis. Roberts was right in the fire of the birth of each water apparatus - wake boards and all. His hands craved to create: handles, ropes, vest, gloves, water toys, shaped skis, entry level skis, kids products and kneeboards. His total product count is bottomless compared to any other engineer in the game today, praises Chris Sullivan, MasterCraft Business Development Manager, NW North America.

Roberts has ushered in the sphere of ski design. But, surprisingly, his grandeur hasn’t come from a vast secret he’s kept in his pocket. To this day, Robert’s simple code is to be stern and strict with the process. “It’s the reason why any ski design, company or model he has ever been involved in has been so consistent,” Sullivan conveys. “He’s always used what he had to the best of his ability.”

His knack for product engineering helped cultivate one of the most coveted ski brands on the market today. “Roberts is the heartbeat of Radar Skis,” Chris Rossi elite slalomer and Radar team skier raves. Hardly a single product is put through production without Robert’s fingers touching it, and his years of invaluable partnership with O’Brien are apparent in every finished Radar device. Even when there is a problem in the lab, “he always seems to have a solution and keeps things running smoothly,” Brooks Wilson, Radar Global Brand Manager, explains. “He’s invaluable.”

Not only is Roberts a viable element to Radar skis, he is one of the greatest intermediary agents to the past - especially with the passing of O’Brien. “Roberts is the link to our roots,” Trent Finlayson elite slalomer and Radar team skier said. However, Robert’s is more than merely the wizard designer hacking away in the lab and keeping the past alive with his wealth of knowledge. He’s the glue that keeps the family together.

“Roberts has taken me under his wing from the beginning,” Rossi said. His intelligence might be great, but his heart is greater, which is why it is not uncommon to find him wrapped up in countless elite skier’s accomplishments. “Roberts has been and continues to be one of the most crucial components to all of my skiing,” Rossi said. He has built or overseen every ski I’ve ridden since 2004. I would be lost without him.” Even when he has a construction for one of the highest performing skis teetering in his hands, Roberts is never too busy to lend a hand, provide excellent customer service or go the extra mile for others. “He has helped a legion of skiers with everything from fin placement to personal advice,” Eddie Roberts III, Eddie’s son, remarks.

He is the reason the elites of our sport exist and the boundaries have been shattered. “In our sport, if it wasn’t for legendary people like Roberts the others would never exist,” Raley said. “He is a behind-the-scenes legend. He may not be the actual skier, but he is the legs and arms behind the skier at all points at all times.” His expertise in the industry and even more importantly his affable spirit have been indispensable.

Roberts isn’t just consistent as a designer. “He’s always 100% committed to do anything for water skiing,” Sullivan said. He has and still gives everything back to the sport and industry that it gave him.

Offering support even on the advertising side of the sport has not escaped Robert’s repertoire. He’s been an exceptional voice over talent for HO ski ads and is no stranger to assisting with video edits. He is truly a magnet for everything skiing. Robert’s handiwork can be found in all aspects of our sport.

“The industry overall would be a very different landscape without what he’s delivered and will continue to do,” Sullivan admires. “I don’t see him slowing down any time soon.”

At the end of each year, the staff at BallOfSpray asks the same questions: Who are the skiers whose performances were the most historically significant this year? What were the breakthrough scores that will be talked about for years to come? Who should be named the BallOfSpray Skiers of the Year?

The answer to these questions for 2016 was clearly Anna Gay, Sean Hunter and Brooke Baldwin. Below are a few words by Ellie Rae Horton about these 3 distinguished skiers.

Brooke Baldwin 
It’s not easy being a teenager.  The rise and grind of high school’s early morning classes and college prospects can take any young adult on a whirlwind. Try adding in 25 hours a week of lake time and training, professional tournaments and two junior national records to maintain. Brooke Baldwin is the complete embodiment of a balancing act, and she bears it with beauty. Don’t let the spunky personality or stunning smile fool you. This girl is a firecracker. In fact, she might be the next powerhouse to take down the queen herself, Regina Jaquess. 
Already, scarcely 16, this blonde bombshell has attacked the elite women’s slalom ranking list with a massive 1 @ 41 off, becoming the youngest female ever - by five and a half years - to complete a full pass at 39 1/2 off. With a defending Jr. Masters overall and slalom title, gold in jump and overall at the Jr. U.S. Open, and a 4th and 5th place finish at the U.S. Open and Swiss ProAm, respectively, it’s safe to say Baldwin claimed the season of her life in 2016. Despite many additional accolades this year, there was one that trumped them all. “My favorite moment of the season has to be when I ran 39 1/2 off for the first time with world champion and record holder, Regina Jaquess, as my boat judge and Chad Scott as my driver. Talk about ‘dream team.’”
3. That has been the magic number. Choosing to stick with three elements and drilling them until they are ingrained into her style has propelled Baldwin to attain the extraordinary at her age. With precise focus and a unique charisma on the water, which she explains as “being light and flowy and letting the boat do the work,” Baldwin has gained a foothold in the professional sphere that is proving her unstoppable. “I assure you this is just the beginning,” Jaquess said after watching Baldwin run 39 1/2 off for the first time. “The rest of us need to watch out for her. She’s becoming fierce competition.”
Sean Hunter
Sean Hunter
Cruise control. That’s Sean Hunter’s approach to the course when he hops on his lime green Dthree Arc slalom ski. A former co-holder of the B2 National slalom record of 2 @ 39 1/2 off, Hunter has recently become a new face among the B3 and 36 mph spectrum - this being only his second year. Age aside, Hunter has quickly asserted his dominance by seizing the top of the national rankings list. A mix of intrinsic motivation and pure enjoyment of water time has procured the perfect formula for Hunter’s recent surge of success. From 2015 to 2016, this upcoming prodigy advanced an entire pass within a season, an almost unheard of feat at such a short line length. His first year in B3, Hunter had only seen 39 1/2 off once, scoring 0 at the pass. With the help of his coach, Matteo Luzzeri, Hunter stunned his competitors this year with a whopping 1 @ 41 off in October.
“Mentally, he is resilient like few and extremely composed,” Luzzeri says. The duo spent five months of Hunter’s second year in B3 honing in a more relaxed rhythm and maximizing outward direction off the second wake. Although the height of their training was preparation for Sean’s first Jr. Masters, the benefits reaped from the early season transformed his entire year. Since then, Sean has consistently conquered 38 off and this year claimed the Jr. U.S. Open boys slalom title, a silver medal at the AWSA Nationals and a spot on the 2016 Jr. World’s team competing in January.  “Literally, exponential improvement in the last 5 to 6 months,” Luzzeri says of Hunter’s rapid growth. “Sean has the potential to become a great name in our sport for years to come. He has a lot on his side.” 
Anna Gay
It’s 4:45 am. The sky is still blanketed with the night, and Anna Gay has already started her day, not at the lake, but at the track. Six days a week, her early mornings are dedicated to cross country. Though only a small component of her regular activities, long-distance running has played a substantial role in a feat more noteworthy than daily sunup practices. “I was skiing my best when I was running a lot.”
To translate, “skiing my best,” meant stomping a flawless 10,610 point trick run, dethroning 3-year reigning world trick record holder, Erika Lang. Like watching a ballerina on water, Gay epitomizes pure grace and dynamism while she performs, which has contributed to her new supremacy. An immaculate run was the key to her success this year, and it was achieved through perpetual repetition of sequences. “Waste as little time as possible. That definitely was key to getting the World Record. It all had to be in time and it all had to be perfect,” she says.
However, she’s not done yet. Gay clinched the record with points still left in her run, her reverse back-to-backs being out of time. Not only is she aiming to break her own record by swapping easier tricks for more advanced maneuvers, she is setting her sites on an exploit that will break a whole new barrier for women’s water skiing- a run worth 11,000 points. “She really amazes me,” Russell Gay, Anna’s father and coach, says. “Last year she told me she wanted to trick 10,000 and I told her ‘that’s a great long term goal,’ then six months later she did it. She has a run worth 11,300 that is very doable.”
A new record coupled with gold medals and new course records at the U.S. Open, PanAm Championships, Masters and Moomba Masters - to name just a few - has launched Anna to a level of her own. Will anyone be able to catch her?

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