Bob LaPoint, true life Hero that changed my life -
The year is 1987. The World has 2,700,000,000 less people than it does today, the Giants beat John Elway in the Super Bowl, Richard Branson makes the first Transatlantic flight in a Hot Air Balloon (2,790 miles) & Freddy Krueger is a serial killer....and a 3 event skier. I remember that Plane flight like it was last year though, because it was my first time in an Airplane. Scared, excited, and eagle eyeing out the window harder than anyone in history...there was soooo much to see!!!! And everything looked unlike anything I'd ever seen before....houses, roads, lakes, mountains....all the stuff I'd already become familiar with in my 8 years of life....but it all looked so different from up here. As we made our approach into West Palm Beach Int'l Airport, I remember looking out the window and pointing to the trees and asking my dad "DAD DAD, look at those trees!!!....they look like pine trees!!??...how is that possible??!" See, on the west coast, in my world, I had only ever seen pine trees in the mountains...where it snows. I knew Florida had neither of those things, so it blew my mind.
A couple days later, after my brother competed in his first U.S. Water Ski Nationals, my mind was about to be blown again. This particular year, 1987, was the first year the Nationals week would be capped by a US Open on the weekend. It was my second year skiing, and I knew all the names of the best in the World...but I'd never seen them ski anywhere other than ESPN (remember when water skiing was on ESPN?). The weekend didn't disappoint. As an 8 year old kid with stars in my eyes....I remember standing on the shoreline thinking, "These guys were INSANE!!!" Some guy no one had ever heard of, Jeff Rodgers, showed up and cranked the shit out of some 1,3,5's. I remember the rumor being that he'd just started skiing a few years before and ran the slalom course the first time he ever tried it. That, to my little pea-brain, was hard to fathom. And here he was already fighting to beat the best in the World. A West Coast legend, Carl Roberge, ended up tying for 2nd at that US Open, right before my eyes. In 1987 he was the defending Tour champion (5 years later Terry Winter and I were chasing Carl's Jr Boys Western Regional slalom record...3 @ 35 off). I had 2 hero's before getting to watch that US Open..Bob & Kris LaPoint. They were West Coast skiers, and legends around the World. In 1987 Bob LaPoint won the World Slalom Title at Thorpe Park, London (5th World Title) and won at Marine World and the MasterCraft invitational. And when I left Okeeheelee, after witnessing the greatest sporting event I'd ever witnessed, I had a new goal: I wanted to be out there someday, doing what those guys did. The US Open was the seed planted...it was everything I needed as a kid looking for something to hold onto..and it was a pivotal moment in my life..the moment that sparked everything that was to come.
Exactly 20 years later, in 2007, I found myself standing on the dock at the US Open, shoulder to shoulder with the best skiers in the World: Drew Ross, Thomas Moore, Nick Parson, Will Asher, Jamie Beauchesne. MasterCraft & Chris Sullivan had joined forces and pulled off one of the greatest water ski events I've ever been a part of. They brought the US Open to Disneyworld. It was at night, under the lights, and I was fortunate enough to make the 6 man final, squeaking in by beating out Jeff Rodgers..one of the Legends that inspired my ski bug 20 years prior. The conditions were pretty tough: dark, rolly, lumpy,...unpredictable,...just how I like it. The boat ran its simulation pass, I pooped in my pants a little...and it was time...
And somehow, when the spray settled that eve, I ended up in a Tie-breaker with my buddy Thomas Moore.
Going out first, I was able to run 38 off cold - not very pretty tho. Coming back at 39, I knew buoy 2 was going to be all or nothing...TMo could crush 39 on his second effort & I knew I had to leave it all out there. I think I got lucky,...I blacked out at 2, slammed it as hard as I could, and somehow my ski stayed in the water. I ended up running the pass, and finishing with 1 at 41. TMo looked so solid in that runoff. I'm not sure what happened at 39, but he was late at 3, and couldn't finish the pass.
Afterward, I was standing on the shoreline, bare feet in the wet florida grass, just like it was only 20 years before...gazing down the lake, lights half blinding me, thousands of people lining the waters edge...realizing that two decades prior and a couple hours away, I had been lucky enough to witness this very event, an experience that had changed my life. I stood there in disbelief that I had won the US Open....hoping that my buddies and I had actually inspired some kids that night....hoping that we had sparked a light for the next generation.
- Marcus Brown