Leave it to the one and only Danny Amir, AKA DanO the ManO, to create yet another amazing water ski event. Having done Feet on Fire in Orlando for years, DanO decided it was time to do something where his roots lie, up in Wisconsin, where growing up he was a member of the Aquanuts Water Ski show.
For the past 46 years, people have flocked to Lance Park in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin to watch waterski shows; but, on Friday, August 17 more than 1,000 packed the “Corn Cob Arena” to witness a new event combining all-you-can-eat corn with all-day on-water action, featuring multiple state and national award-winning skiers. This was the Twin Lakes CornFest: Music and Waterski Showcase. Presented by Centurion Boats and Twin Lakes Marine, the event brought 50 water skiers together from five states, including several different show ski teams, multiple disciplines within towed watersports and ages ranging from 12 to 63.
The four different water ski competitions offered a fresh take on traditional contests in each discipline: Feet on Fire North, Connelly Freestyle Jump Royale, Trick Ski Showdown and Swivel Showcase.
Feet on Fire North is a throwback to the early days of barefooting with a 32-man, head-to-head barefoot endurance contest with one main rule: no barefoot suits allowed, only a pair of shorts and a vest. Former Wonder Lake Waterski show team member and long-time Universal Studios Singapore Water World Star George Hartmann took first place, followed by Ethan Shulda in second and Paul Stokes and Mike Pierce in third. Hartmann also scored the event’s SeaDek Best Crash award after taking the whip to one-foot and going out the front, straight into a face plant following his round two win against Mad City waterskier Matt Strode. Shulda and Stokes also took home the PCM Marine Engines Longest Battle Endurance award, for completing a full figure-eight and enduring one minute and five seconds of fiery, sole-scorching enduro on their feet. Twenty-year veteran of the Aquanut Waterski Show team, Brandon Kirchens won the Roswell Marine Best Step Off award. The Roswell Get Loud Zone erupted as Kirchens jumped out of two skis, one-handed, straight to the feet and stuck it perfectly, earning himself bragging rights and a vintage Cypress Gardens step-off ski.
The Connelly Freestyle Jump Royale featured six two-person jump teams competing in a one-heat super final to see who could push the limits off the ramp. Traditionally pulled by waterski-specific boats, the combination of power & performance provided by the 450hp PCM Marine H6DI held speed and direction through every jump. On a mission to “Make Freestyle Great Again” and bring waterski jumping to new masses, Waterbugs Showskiers Craig Planton and Terry Roslawski, who stepped out of retirement to compete at TL CornFest, took the top podium spot and brought home a brand new set of Connelly HC800 jump skis, each. The duo landed a one-ski front flip, over one-ski front flip in jump one and a one-ski gainer over one-ski front flip in jump two. They were followed by Liam Klotzbach and Cody Coffey, who executed a two-man, two-ski back mobe and front flip. Ethan Shulda and his brother Jordan (Gordo) Shulda took third with an impressive two-ski front flip with a two-ski gainer over top.
The Trick Ski Showdown was a 16-person, single-elimination trick ski contest based on difficulty, variety of tricks, creativity and (most importantly) showmanship. Jarad Meyer earned the win and walked away with a new Radar Skis 2018 Graviton Trick Ski. He performed a series of large, floaty tricks made possible by the steep and crisp wake of the Centurion Fi21. Ethan Shulda, who placed second, was a quarter of a rotation away from landing a double flip with no ballast or extra weight. Jarrett Breber followed in third place after executing a series of backrolls in the roughest water of the day.
Swivel Showcase takes some of the best swivel skiers and pins them against each other for a super final to see who can throw down the most creative, riskiest and untraditional maneuvers on a swivel ski. Known for her technical high-risk, high-reward style, Wonder Lake Show Director Brea Imse took home first place along with $500 in custom SeaDek Marine Products and $250 to the charity of her choice. In second place, hometown favorite Kendall Krieger captivated the audience with her signature, award-winning mix of technical spins and presses. Two-time and current reigning national swivel champion and member of Team USA, Madi Hagemann took third place, laying down her signature Scorpion as well as raising the bar on all levels.
The most coveted honor of the day was the Waterskiin.com Most Impressive Overall Performance award, which was presented to Ethan Shulda, who competed in every round of every event, with the exception of swivel – totaling nine different rounds across three events. He earned a podium spot in each event by holding nothing back and leaving everything on the water.
“Organizing an event of this nature was no doubt a risk, but with the support of friends, the local community and towed watersports enthusiasts from across the nation, we made year number one a total success,” said Danny “Dano the Mano” Amir, who organized and announced the event. “Athletes came for the innovative and progressive format, knowing it was anybody’s game. And, the crowds, some came for the all-you-can-eat corn and stayed for the waterskiing; while, others came simply knowing they were going to see a good show. The talent was there and the performances were nothing short of outstanding. What’s great about TL CornFest is that it gave athletes a chance to compete on a whole new level and it brought thousands of new eyes to the sport of waterskiing.”
The athletes weren’t the only ones treated to good times behind the Centurion Fi21. Past WWA Wakeboard World Champion and local wakeboard coach, Timmy Burnier from Wakestone, offered free lessons and demos all-day-long in collaboration with Twin Lakes Marine on the Centurion Fi21 and Centurion Ri237 – both powered by PCM Marine Engines, featuring GM Marine Engine Technology. Throughout the event and all weekend long, Burnier pulled nearly 40 riders, 20 of which had never surfed Centurion’s award-winning wake.
“Twin Lakes CornFest is the nation’s most unique event with an array of disciplines. Feet On Fire barefoot challenge, the nation’s top swivel skiers showing off their talents, a trick ski showdown and a crazy strong finish of the event with freestyle jumping,” Centurion Boats National Sales Manager Mark Gibbs said. “CornFest is a true piece of Americana, and Centurion Boats is excited to continue supporting this event. Skiers threw down personal best performances behind the Centurion Fi21, which was built for wakeboard and wakesurfing – further proving that anything is possible behind a Centurion.”
Outside of waterskiing, the Oakley Belly Flop contest tied together the on-water action, giving spectators the opportunity to join the day’s competitions for a chance to win a prize pack from Oakley worth more than $500. Tampa, Florida’s Hunter Hanson won with perfect form – a flying squirrel, red-belly slapper that even the Beer Garden felt the next day.
The day’s double main event comprised of the Feet on Fire North finals and highly anticipated corn-eating contest. Jordan Karweik from Waterford, Wisconsin—a member of the Brown’s Lake Aquaducks showski team—won $500 in custom SeaDek Marine Products after successfully clearing three full ears worth of kernels. He shucked multiple cobs and demolished the sweet corn in under 90 seconds, clearly winning the judges’ votes unanimously.
Throughout the afternoon, DJ Mike Mantas spun a wild mix of funky fresh 80’s beats and early 90’s flare that kept people amped for the competitions. Following the award ceremony was a live performance from McHenry, Illinois progressive bluegrass band Miles Over Mountains.
Dozens of sponsors provided raffle prizes, totaling more than $5,000 in value for a lucky 25+ attendees, who walked away with prize packs featuring Go Puck portable chargers, GM branded Fitbits, Eagle vests, a Liquid Force wakeboard and an O’Brien wakesurfer – just to name a few.
The Calvary United Church of Christ complemented the all-you-can-eat corn by serving up Tom Krumpen’s Famous Brats – all proceeds went directly back to their church. All told, the one-day event raised more than $1,000 for the Water Sports Industry Association’s “#PassTheHandle” initiative, Ride Dry. Dry Drive., Aquanut Adaptive Aquatics and the Alzheimer’s Association.