SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) – Over 250 of the most talented water skiers from around the globe are here in the Panhandle this week as the Pickos Waterski and Wakeboarding School in Santa Rosa Beach is hosting the IWWF World Waterski Championships.
“I am floored that we have over 25 countries represented, from places like Monaco, Morocco, we have girls here from Cyprus, and they all kind of made the trek, it’s not an easy one right now with traveling, and so we’re just really fortunate,” tournament director Caitlin McGinty said.
The competitions consist of Slalom Tricks and Jump, which began Sunday with the 17U age groups and 21U began Thursday morning.
Kennedy Hansen, a Milton High School alum from Pensacola, dominated the 17U groups in the female division, taking first in tricks and second in both jump and slalom.
“I think it’s super cool to see like everyone’s different way, like obviously you have your coaches and like their teams and how they prepare, so it’s super cool to also meet them and talk to them because we all share the same passion with the sport, so it’s super cool,” Hansen said.
Another group of locals, who had an incredible showing to start the week, were the Jaramillo twins, who are recent graduates of South Walton High School.
The twins live and train at the Pickos facilities, so they are familiar with the course, but said that this week’s competition was the hardest they have ever faced.
“It is at the end of the day a world championship, the nerves, everything, you don’t train with nerves, you don’t train with competition, you don’t train with anything really that a tournament brings, so, just having everybody here after a year or so of not really competing and like the nerves everything, you have to go out there and do it that day,” Luisa Jaramillo said.
Luisa and her brother, Federico, both took first in Slalom for 17U and will also compete in the 21U division this week.
While they represented their native country of Columbia, they enjoyed also representing their second home in Santa Rosa Beach.
“It’s pretty cool because it’s a small town and not a lot of people know about it, it’s growing but still relatively small, so it’s pretty cool to get a bunch of people from all over the world to come here and see how awesome it is,” Federico said.
The 21U competitions will run until Sunday with the finals and the awards ceremony happening then. Spectators are allowed to come watch the competition each day, free of charge, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.