By Jane Peel
The Waterski Pro Tour returned after a month-long break with a high-scoring slalom competition at Hilltop Lake in Arlington, Washington. It was the first WPT stop in the USA after five consecutive weekends in Europe in June and July.
In the men’s event, the first two rounds on Saturday set up things nicely for a classic final. The tour leader, Will Asher (GBR), had a phenomenal day, twice running the 10.25m (41’ off) line and getting a score of 1 @ 9.75m (43’ off) to go into the last eight as top seed. Fellow Briton Freddie Winter was not far behind with a 5 @ 10.25m from round one, followed by the USA’s Nate Smith with 4.5 @ 10.25m from round two.
The big surprise was Stevie Island (USA) coming back from 19th and last place to storm his way into his first pro final with a personal best of 3 @ 10.25m. With such high scores, 2 @ 10.25m did not make the cut.
Sunday’s final did not disappoint. It was a return to normal service for the defending Hilltop champion Nate Smith, who had not been happy with his skiing on Saturday. He breezed through 10.25m to lay down a score of 1 @ 9.75m with just two skiers left on the dock. It proved unbeatable. Freddie Winter was next out and managed 3.5 @ 10.25m. Will Asher squeezed out an extra half buoy to finish on 4 @ 10.25m and take second place ahead of Freddie in third.
The result means Nate maintains his record of winning every pro competition he’s contested this year but, having travelled to only one of the European WPT stops, he is currently in third place in the standings. Freddie moves up to second and Will extends his lead at the top.
There were eight competitors in the women’s slalom, so all went through to the final with the top five getting into 10.75m (39.5’ off) in both their preliminary rounds and Regina Jaquess (USA) coming through as top seed with 1 @ 10.25m from round two.
The Waterski Pro Tour leader, Allie Nicholson (USA), was competing off the back of a successful European campaign (two victories and two second places) but was unable to make the podium at Hilltop, going down early with 1.5 @ 11.25 (38’ off) to finish sixth.
Third seed Whitney McClintock Rini of Canada looked as if she was going to make it into 10.25m but was unable to hold on after rounding buoy 6 @ 10.75m, falling before the exit gates. Out next, Canada’s Jaimee Bull, who had won all three of the European competitions she contested, scored 4 @ 10.75m. Regina Jaquess knew she had to get something at 10.25m to beat Whitney and she did just enough, settling for 0.5 @ 10.25m.
With neither Regina nor Whitney having travelled to Europe, their points for first and second place were not enough to move them into the top three in the Waterski Pro Tour standings. Allie Nicholson still leads with Jaimee Bull’s third at Hilltop keeping her in the second spot.