It’s now a classic: Huell Howser covered the race for California’s Gold back in 1992

10 DEC 1993 Huell HOwer with JP and John

No Photo Finish Necessary in 2016 Catalina Ski Race

The Warpath Team of Matt Ducie, Mike Avila, Wayne Mawer and Kevin Wynne celebrate after Mawer’s Men’s Open victory at the 2016 Catalina Ski Race in Long Beach, Calif.

The Warpath Team of Matt Ducie, Mike Avila, Wayne Mawer and Kevin Wynne celebrate after Mawer’s Men’s Open victory at the 2016 Catalina Ski Race in Long Beach, CA

It’s not often that Mike Avila and his crew arrive at the start line of any ski race—let alone the granddaddy of races, the historic Catalina Ski Race from Long Beach, Calif., to Catalina Island and back—with a less-than-confident approach. Avila, who resides in Northern California, has been a world champion behind the boat and behind the wheel, and he’s not afraid to tell you that he’s been the best in the world.

Yet, after interviewing him earlier this week, Avila said the confidence level was mediocre at best on Saturday morning when Avila, Kevin Wynne, Matt Ducie and Wayne Mawer, an Australian ski race world champion, got set to compete in the 62-mile race across the Pacific Ocean in Mr. Warpath, Avila’s Fountain Powerboats V-bottom powered by triple 1,000-hp BoostPowerUSA engines.

Avila and Mawer were on a mission to win after the team fell short on a judges’ decision in 2014 following what has been deemed the closest finish in Catalina Ski Race history. It’s just that everything seemed to be working against them in the two weeks leading up to this year’s event (because of an injury Mawer couldn’t compete in 2015, but Avila’s team won the Open-class race with skier Jake Tegart behind Mr. Warpath). Between tearing up some belts during a couple of rough-water training runs, breaking a roller lifter a week before the race and having to rebuild the engine, and blowing a transmission on Thursday and swapping it out the same day, nothing was going in their favor.

“The water was pretty rough for all of the training runs we did,” Avila said. “On Saturday the water was middle-of-the-road rough. I’d call it ‘technical water’ where you have to be on your game the whole time. We definitely caught some air a couple of times so you know that’s a big bump when my boat goes completely in the air. Thankfully the boat ran well and we didn’t have to press it too much.

“We took off hard coming out of the breakwater and played that into a lead,” he continued. “We knew already by the conditions that no one would be setting a record so we went into ‘win the race’ mode and tried to maintain a good pace and keep everything under control. When we went around the turn at the island I’d say the first four or five boats were within a half mile of each other. I told the guys it was time to separate so for the next few miles we cranked it up to ‘critical race pace’ and gained a comfortable lead. From there we went back to ‘win the race’ mode to avoid any mistakes.”

In the end, Mawer completed the race in 50 minutes, 26 seconds, which was almost 20 seconds ahead of fellow Australian Ben Gully, who was towed by Sean Clancy and Tom Whitham in the 38-foot GAC See Spot Run. Twelve-time Catalina Ski Race champion Todd Haig of Southern California, who was towed by Randy Davis in his 43-foot V-bottom from Nordic Boats, finished in third nearly one minute behind Mawer.

“Over the last couple of weeks our team was challenged with a ton of adversity and together we stared it in the face and overcame it,” Avila said. “I believe that if you have the heart to compete then adversity will make amazing people do incredible things. We as a team were down but never out—we leaned on each other and fought our asses off to make it happen. I could not be more proud of my entire team.”

Avila, who made sure to thank his friends at Terrible Herbst Motorsports as well as Jim Andersen, Darren Reilly, Gordy Jennings, Gary Teague and Gary Smith for their assistance and support, said despite the setbacks leading up to the race, the last couple of weeks were quite special to him after witnessing such dedication from the team and its extended family.

“Wayne Mawer is someone I’ve admired form a skier’s perspective for a long time—he’s one of the greatest champions I’ve ever known,” said Avila, who has been involved in ski racing for nearly half a century. “I mean that in every sense of the word. With his actions toward others, his humility, his ability and the way he represents this sport, he personifies what a champion is supposed to be.

“It’s kind of funny, I still think of myself as a skier and relate to the skiers out there,” he continued. “That’s why I love to teach and give what knowledge I have to the skiers of today. I live vicariously through them when they’re skiing, too. That’s one reason I wanted this win—for Wayne. I still feel like he deserved it in 2014 so we wanted to get one back this year.” And so they did.

Haig Ties Catalina Ski Race Record with 11th Victory

Bob Brown – 22 July 2013           Photos by Bob Brown/Media Direction

With 10-time winner Todd Haig in tow, Team Nordic leads the pack out of California’s Long Beach Harbor for the start of the 65th annual Catalina Ski Race.

Any athlete will tell you that winning a championship is the crowning achievement to a sports career. And successfully defending that championship is even sweeter. So when you consider that American speed ski racer Todd Haig has now won the world’s most challenging water ski race 11 times, the achievement deserves a few extra minutes of reflection.
Pre-race speculation was focused on Haig and his major competition, Peter Proctor of Australia. In the past four years, Haig and Proctor have dueled to a draw, each winning two overall Men’s Open titles. In order for Haig to win his 11th crown, which would tie him for the most Catalina wins with the legendary Chuck Stearns, he would have to get past Proctor and a half dozen more world-ranked skiers to make history.For 65 consecutive years, water skiers from around the world have gathered for the Catalina Ski Race in Long Beach, Calif—a 62-mile open-ocean dash from the fantail of the Queen Mary to Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island and back. This year the starting grid consisted of 60 teams with skiers ranging in age from 73 to just-turned teenagers. Overcast skies and lumpy water conditions in the unpredictable channel awaited the well-conditioned contestants who came from as far away as Belgium, Australia, Spain, Denmark and England to challenge America’s best.

Haig, towed by Randy Davis in the Team Nordic 47-foot V-bottom with twin Mercury Racing 1,200-hp engines made their intentions clear in the initial 2 miles of the race, leading the 60-boat field out of the inner Long Beach Harbor and through the Queens Gate breakwater opening with a 300 yard lead. Haig and Davis, who owns Nordic Boats in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., were the first team to the turn boat at the halfway mark with Team Warpath, a 47-foot Fountain with triple 1,000-hp BoostPowerUSA engines driven by Mike Avila, attempting to close the gap with Proctor in tow. READ MORE

65th Annual Catalina Ski Race Starts July 20

posted: 7/1/2013

LONG BEACH — Powerboaters and waterskiers from around the world will compete in the 65th annual Catalina Water Ski Race, July 20, hosted by Long Beach Boat and Ski Club.

The 62-mile challenge — with fast powerboats towing waterskiers from Long Beach to Avalon and back — will start at 8:53 a.m. between Island White and Island Grissom in Long Beach Harbor. There will be a split start, with 21-foot and smaller boats starting first, and larger boats up to 43 feet starting at 9 a.m.

Boats will tow skiers to Avalon’s Descanso Beach before heading back to the finish line in Long Beach, off Queen Mary’s bow.

There are 19 different classes for participants — ranging from novices to experts, and masters (age 60 or older) to juniors (age 15 or younger). – READ MORE

“Skiers Shine in 65th Annual Catalina Race”

by GotHalos Published on 07-22-2013 03:46 PM

It was a dark and foggy morning as the boats filed into position just off the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. Some 60 boats filled the entry list this year for the running of the 65th annual Catalina Ski Race.

Dubbed “The World’s Greatest Water Ski Race” competitors come from all over the world to take part in the 62-mile round trip race. Completing the course in and of itself is a feat, yet these athletes choose to do so with unpredictable ocean swells, fishing/spectator boat traffic and the ever so mighty wake of the monster Catalina Express.

Just a few of the reasons this is one of the worlds toughest water ski races. The waters of the Pacific have been filled with skiers for the past few months training for this once a year race. The Maya hotel was booked to occupancy and spectators lined the rails of the Queen Mary. The anticipation was coming to an end.

The first flight of boats, 21 feet and under left the harbor around 9 a.m. nearly 15 minutes in front of the 21+ foot boats. Fans gathered at the stern of the famed Queen Mary for a glimpse of the field before taking off into the big blue. After all competitors safely and successfully headed out, the wait was on. Fans waited anxiously for the first sign of a return boat, with skier in tow. READ MORE

Watch “The World’s Greatest Ski Race” From the Queen Mary

By Alysia Gray Painte |  Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013  |  Updated 6:57 PM PDT

Not waterskiing to Catalina Island? You can still enjoy the fun, sans sea foam.Watch the start — and end — of the epic Catalina Ski Race from the Queen Mary on Saturday, July 20. Waterskiing is a popular movie device — hi, “Freaky Friday” and high-jinx-y summer comedies — and the Go-Gos put it on the cover of one of the ’80s iconic albums.

As comically as it is sometimes portrayed, however, waterskiing is a rigorous form of sport, and even someone gliding across a lake is giving their all in the strength and skill departments. But the zenith of waterskiing and athletically giving one’s all merges every year in the Catalina Ski Race, which is often billed as “The World’s Greatest Ski Race.” It’s the 65-year-old, 62-mile ski-off that’s set to run — er, ski — again on Saturday, July 20.

And the course? Oh, just Long Beach to Catalina Island and back. That’s all. READ MORE


Australia’s hottest water ski racer, Peter Proctor, went wire to wire this morning to earn his second career overall victory at the 64th Annual Catalina Water Ski Race in Long Beach, Calif. The 24-year-old bested a strong field of Men’s Open competitors including ten-time Catalina champ, Todd Haig, 33, from the United States.

Australian Peter Proctor took first place overall at the 2012 Catalina Ski Race today. all photos courtesy/copyright Bob Brown.

Australian Peter Proctor took first place overall at the 2012 Catalina Ski Race today. All photos courtesy/copyright Bob Brown.

The 62-mile round trip race from the stern of the Queen Mary to Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island and return was done at a near record-setting pace of just under 51 minutes for the winner who was towed by Mike Avila’s 47-foot Fountain offshore power boat powered by triple 1,000-hp engines from Boostpower Marine in Newbury Park, Calif. READ MORE


By Jonathan Van Dyke | Gazettes

For many, water skiing might be a sport best tried in jest, or at least at moderate speeds in calm waters — not so much for the competitors taking to Long Beach waters this weekend.

The Parker Oil Products Catalina Ski Race will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 21. Officials said the best viewing locations for the start and finish of the race will be at Cherry Beach or near the Queen Mary.

This will be the 64th Catalina Ski Race. There will be about 70 entries from across the country and world. Competitors will be as young as 12 and as old as 60 — but they are all fairly seasoned, organizers said.

“All of these competitors compete regularly, and nearly year-round, in their own part of the country or their country of origin, to prepare for this race each year,” said John Krieger, commodore of the Long Beach Boat and Ski Club. “This race has notoriety because of the number of participants and it is the only open ocean ski race regularly scheduled anywhere in the world. READ MORE



Catalina Water Ski Race

62 MILES: When you see scenes from friends water-skiing on a lake, the setting is, well, finite. Over there, on that shore? The boat house. In the other direction? There’s the dock. A fun and active day can be had on skis out on the lake, of course, but nobody on a small body of water is going to head for more than a straight mile or two in any one direction. So, what can the enthusiastic water-skier do who wants to go in one constant direction for several miles? What is the answer for someone who wants to water-ski all the way from the mainland to an island? Why we’re glad you asked. It’s the 63-year-old Catalina Water Ski Race, which has a beautifully clear summary: Water-ski behind a boat from Long Beach to Avalon and then back. READ MORE



Chris Erskine | LA TIMES

America’s silkiest super highway, the stretch of sea between Long Bench and Avalon, was full of skiers Saturday as the Catalina Water Ski Race went off for the 63rd time. It’s the zaniest start in sports: Speedboats race in with flags announcing the event is about to begin, then a start boat sends up a flare or two.

All it’s lacking is Rodney Dangerfield dropping his anchor into your dinghy.

Part tanning party, part grueling endurance test, this prestigious ski race is one of those “why-do-they-do-that-again?” sporting events that just gets to be habit and wiggles its way into local lore.

This year, Captain America was there, of course, as was Mr. Incredible.

Most incredible of all, though, was this skier Todd Haig, a California kid who skips across that choppy channel like a moonstone. Broke the course record on Saturday, in good though not ideal conditions, completing the ornery task six seconds faster than ever before.

“Today, I was a little Jell-O-y out of the gate, just nerves,” Haig explained. “Then I finally settled down.” READ MORE


2011 63rd Annual Catalina Island Ski Race, the greatest water ski race in the World! Water skiers from around the globe come once a year to California determined to finish the 62 statute-mile race. Being a part of this great race, attracts the world’s greatest skiers. Long Beach to Catalina and back. READ MORE

Race photos by and available at: Daren Van Ryte & OC Photo Graphics