Competitive Water Skier Johnny Maitland Aims To Return To Nationals


Scott Maitland

Maitland plans to achieve his goals this upcoming season by "water skiing more than I did last summer,” he said.

Murphy Schuster and Carlie Weigel

While managing a busy schedule made up of not only basketball, soccer, and academics, sophomore Johnny Maitland is also a competitive water skier who made it to the 2018 national championships.

Maitland started water skiing competitively nearly ten years ago, after his dad encouraged him to begin competing. He said that his dad water skied all summer long as a kid, which had inspired him to do the same. “[My dad is] always there to push me,” Maitland said. “He tells me if I’m doing something wrong and how to fix it.”

Last year, Maitland took a break from water skiing because he wanted to devote his time to soccer and basketball, as it was his first year playing high school sports. “I’d rather focus on the sport I’m doing at the time, and then move on to the next one as it comes,” Maitland said. 

The year before, however, when Maitland was only 14, he placed first in his age division, for the 2018 Western Regional Championship. Water skiers from 13 different states in the Western Region traveled to Windsor, Colorado for the tournament. Since Maitland placed in the top five, he qualified for the 76th GOODE Water Ski National Championship.

Scott Maitland
Maitland’s dad inspired him to start water skiing competitively nearly five years ago.

The championship event was held at Mystic Lakes in Maize, Kansas, and hosted over 600 of the nation’s best water skiers, Maitland being one of them. Within his age group, he placed third. 

Maitland plans to start competing again when this season begins in the spring. He said that his goal is to place in the top five at next year’s national championship, which will take place in August in West Palm Beach, Florida. Even though Maitland took a year off from tournaments, he still thinks he can achieve his goals by “water skiing more than I did last summer,” he said. 

Tournaments have allowed Maitland to travel all over the country. He said he goes to Washington most often, but he’s also been to states such as Idaho, Florida, and California. One of his favorite locations is Tate Lake in Mesa, Washington. “It’s in the middle of nowhere, and every night they have big bonfires,” Maitland said. 

During tournaments that Maitland skis slalom, one of the judges sits in the boat he skis behind, and the other two judges count the number of buoys he can maneuver around. While balancing on only one water ski, Maitland said that he’s reached speeds up to 35 miles per hour.

The best Maitland has ever performed in slalom was at the Buoys Band & Banquet tournament in Molalla, Oregon. He said his score was close to 100, meaning he navigated around nearly 100 buoys in one run. 

Scott Maitland
Maitland goes around a buoy while water skiing slalom at the 2018 national championship.

Even though Maitland thinks that slalom is his best event, he still wants to improve at his trick and jump events. Trick is based off how many tricks Maitland can perform in a specific time frame, whereas jump requires him to leap off of a five foot ramp. “Tricking is a lot of try and fail because if you fall it hurts a little,” Maitland said. “For jump, you kind of got to go for [it].”

While Maitland has a boat on the Willamette River, he said that his family doesn’t take it out much because there are too many boaters. Instead he usually practices on Winlock Waters, an artificial lake in Washington, which is specifically set up for waterskiing. 

The drive up to Winlock Waters is nearly an hour for Maitland, but he still manages to practice on the lake every weekend, as well as one or two days throughout the week. When practicing, he skis in rounds of three, which can last up to roughly fifteen minutes each. Maitland said repetition and form are his two main focuses while practicing, but he mostly makes up a practice plan as he goes. “I just go out and ski,” he said. 

Maitland said he plans to water ski as much as he can in the future, especially in college; however, he doesn’t see it as a career path. “I’m not going to try and make a career out of [water skiing], because it’s not a very good career choice,” he said. “But I still love to do it as I get older [and] I love being on the water.”