Particular thanks to Peter Buckingham for making this history available.
Contributions from: Peter Buckingham, Sue Thompson, Rod Bell, Tony Kirkhope, Doug Roydhouse, Sally Forrester (nee Halkyard), Deb Leonard and Susan Morris (nee Milligan)
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In the early years The club trained at Fynns St on the Barwon River in Geelong with enthusiastic members like Ed Rooms, Peter Morris, Doug, Rohan, Chris Buckley, Jenny Glass, Janny and Bruce Callander, Bruce Stewart, among others. There was a hard crew of keen skiers who would go down most weekends even in winter, all staying in the one room at the Roydhouse home in Belmont. They skied without wetsuits in those days but always lit a large bonfire on the bank and huge army coats to keep warm .
The Seacraft continued running well and the University continued to compete in Intervarsity competitions as well as regional competitions at Bridgewater, Latrobe Valley , Denniliquin, Geelong (Wilsons Road) and others. The team continued to be enthusiastic and not only competed but tried their hand at Speed racing comps and Marathons ( where you skied for as long as possible starting on two, then one, then two tricks, then one trick, then paddles until last man standing…4 – 5 hrs in winter). The Melbourne Uni team were successful in many intervarsities and a number of riders performed well in regional competitions, including Tony Kirkhope who made the Victorian team.
Involvement with the VWSA began around that time and culminated in assisting at Moomba; helping Lionel Duffy set up the coarse and Jump on the river and putting on the pre Moomba “university “ tournament was a highlight. Many of the group also became waterski judges and often assisted when they were not capable of skiing.
After Geelong, Bridgewater became the major training ground and many great things were learnt from the locals, Kaye and Glen Thurlow and the Faulkners. Many weekends were started with pub crawls on the way to Bridgewater and for a number of years accommodation was all together in “Elly Smelly” the park shed. Eventually the Uni set up camp near the boat ramp, and between the Bridgewater Pub and the Loddon River there was a permanent path.
If you wanted to ski you started by putting your name on the chalkboard tied to a tree. It could only be done after midnight and then again after your next ski. The boat was warmed up before first light and virtually didn’t stop until dark . It wasn’t unusual to have 40 drums of fuel delivered for the annual 2 week camp. Late nights were common but skiing was a passion regardless. Some events are better forgotten like late night slalom runs and jump events or the infamous “Bridgewater Belles” that ended up in the Melbourne Newspapers.
At the end of the 60’s, early 70’s Deniliquin became an alternative to Bridgewater and over the years the camp moved away from Bridgewater to the Paringa Caravan Park at Deni and it all started again…
The Victorian Water Ski Association (VWSA) were now running tournaments, and B Grade Men’s was made up mostly of the University skiers from Melbourne and Monash, all hung over and most times not fit to drive or ski. Tournaments always started at 8AM with B Grade Men’s Slalom.
In 1972 Rod Bell joined the Club after having been a good junior skier from Geelong. Rod specialised in slalom, and could trick and jump well also.
The 1972 Intervarsity (IV) was run by Melbourne at Deniliquin in May. This was Rod’s first year, and our Monash friends already knew he was a good skier, so naturally tried to ‘nobble’ him. Despite some other Melbourne people trying to assist Rod, they were relatively successful! Rod however remembered his training and went on to win his first IV.
At the end of 1972, there was an IV at Barham, and despite Rod leading the men’s team, the Ecker brothers, both Moomba skiers from WA came over and cleaned up the event.
Through the 70’s, Melbourne University Skiiers were involved in Moomba, primarily being the labour force that put in the slalom course and the jump. This started as an honorary role, and part of the payoff was that we would run the Moomba Intervarsity Tournament on the Yarra. Normally held on the Wednesday before Moomba, all the University skiers would be invited and participate. The tournament ranged from trick scores of 2 side slides to skiers jumping over 30m (100ft). A great time was always had, dreaming of what it would be like to be in the “real” Moomba, and was inevitably followed by a BBQ, presentation dinner and drinks.
In 1973, Tony ‘Moff’ Moffatt became President and Peter Buckingham and Julian Way joined the club, influenced by Rod as their skiing coach. Bill Tickner who was President of the Sports Union was always only interested in sports where MU had success, so when we were asking for a new boat, it was put to us that we needed to win the IV.
Deniliquin was our home base and Melbourne University skied from Paringa Caravan Park, run by Bruce and Gwen Mason. Bruce was quite famous for having a few beers and then going right off if people sped thru the caravan park. With the Clubs in Deniliquin a constant attraction, this occurred often, and we would be regularly pleading someone’s case for them not being “banned for life” when Bruce woke up the next morning.
At the beginning of each year in O-Week, we would bring the boat into the quadrangle at Melbourne University and take turns to try and sign people up, naturally concentrating on the great looking girls. Julian Way was an expert and had all the right lines.
The beginner’s camp was held at Deniliquin, and MUWSC would ski every weekend through to Easter, with the better skiers going to the Tournaments, and all the social skiers up to Deni. Easter camp was always a highlight of the year, as normally Monash (who mainly stayed at Bridgewater) would also come to Deniliquin, creating a crazy number of University skiers.
The IV at Manly Dam in February 1974 saw Rod Bell take a clean sweep of the men’s events, and we were starting to have some of our girls improving, lead by Janie Bennett, and they were skiing out of the jumps and putting together 2 ski trick runs. Melbourne University won the Men’s and Teams overall, and we finally convinced the University to purchase our first fibreglass boat; a HiRyder with a 5 litre (308 cu inch) Holden motor. To save the risk of damaging the dog clutch, we just had a straight drive from engine to propellor, so you turned the engine off to stop, with no neutral or reverse.
Later in 1974 at Lake Kurwombah in Brisbane in December Rod Bell won overall and all events, Peter Buckingham tied with him in slalom and came 2nd overall with Julian Way and Tony Moffatt also strong competitors. and Melbourne University again won the Men’s and Overall trophy’s. Tony Moffatt, Rod Bell and Julian Way drove all the way back from Queensland, through the boom gates at the Uni as they told the guards: they “had to personally deliver” the trophies to Bill Tickner.
Around 1974-75 the club bought our first Gilflite boat, a great improvement on the HyRyder. It even had a dog clutch, but again, to remove the risk of someone dropping it in with the engine revving, the handle was up under the engine cover, so it was still driven with the boat permanently in gear.
The 1975 IV was held in Adelaide on Lake Pattawolonga (The Pat) where Melbourne dominated in the Men’s events and came second in the Women’s. It helped that we were the only team with a full contingent of 6 men and 5 women – all who could ski! Belly and Bucko again came 1 – 2 in a very close tussle for the Men’s Title winning all events between them.
We then convinced the University of our need to upgrade the boat every 2 years, and David Gill of Gilflite saw it as a great opportunity to do the equivalent of 10 years of engine hours in 2 years. After 2 years we would have around 1,000 engine hours on the boat, often doing 8 – 10 engine hours in a day at Deniliquin, running from 7.30 AM till dusk.
1976 was the Intervarsity in Albany WA, and Melbourne were not victorious despite Rod Bell’s best efforts: Jeff Ecker skied again and won the day. The Melbourne girls had good depth and won their events. This was Sue Thompson’s first IV and combining her with Robyn McLeod and Sonya Bettanay, the Melbourne girls were truly dangerous!
In 1977 it was Melbourne’s responsibility to run the IV and we did so in January 1978 at Deniliquin. This was truly the skier’s IV: we had the trick training up stream by the boat ramp, the slalom training in front of Paringa Caravan Park and the jump training in front of the Deniliquin Boat Club, where we actually held the event. We nearly wore most of the skiers out over the practice days, as 3 boats running continuously meant more skiing than most of the teams had in any other time through the year.
The IV started with the cook failing to turn up, so Melbourne’s Sonya Bettanay who was going to be an assistant cook, stepped up and with some help from others, ran the food for 110 people for 7 days.
Some of the highlights emerged from the pub crawl around Deniliquin: we lost one person in jail and one girl in hospital with alcohol poisoning.
Melbourne dominated the ’77 IV skiing with Rod Bell and Peter Buckingham coming 1 -2 and winning all the individual events. In the girls, Sally Halkyard (Forrester )was skiing in her first Intervarsity and upset favourite Chris Stewart to also complete a 1 – 2 for Melbourne University. This was the first time we recall MU winning the Men’s, Women’s and Overall trophies in the same Intervarsity.
In 1978 the Intervarsity was held in Adelaide. This was the first IV for years without Rod Bell leading the skiing, however MUWSC had good depth and won again in all events. Peter Buckingham won Men’s Overall (finally), and Sally Halkyard again won the women’s overall.
Most riders can remember getting up in the morning and looking at Colonel Light’s statue overlooking Adelaide – with a VB can stuck on his finger. Our culprit, who had climbed up and attached the beer can on his digit did not recall doing so – around 5 meters off the ground.
By ’78 David Grant had joined the team and had done only a little jumping. He was told to go the maximum speed (36 MPH) and just “pop”; which he did so well he went about 60 feet and beat most of the others who were double cutting at 30 MPH.
This IV meant MUWSC had won the Men’s and Overall Trophy 5 out of 6 years, and the Women’s trophy 3 times
Sydney held the IV in 1979 on Manly Dam. It was a wierd IV as they ran it at the Narrabeen Fitness Camp, which was supposed to be no alcohol. The Manager wanted the whole IV to leave after the first night, so difficult negotiations evolved allowing us to stay under strict conditions, and the final night we had a bonfire and drinks by the Narrabeen Lakes; off their property.
They have never had another Waterski IV back at Narrabeen fitness camp.
Peter Buckingham finished at MU and was working by ’79, and skied for Deakin University (where he did one subject) – as a 1 man team. He won the Men’s Overall for his second time, but unfortunately not for Melbourne Uni. He remains the only Waterski Club member at Deakin – ever. Lisa Shultz from Brisbane won the overall. She was a masters skier, well ahead of the pack and did a clean sweep of all events. Lucky for us she only ever competed once!
The 1980 IV was in Brisbane. Sally Halkyard won the woman’s overall. Sally also took home the woman’s overall for the 1981 and 1982 intervarsities.
Through the 80’s membership sat steadily around 60 people each year, with a few members hugely active and of particular note: Michael Croxford, Andrew Reynoldson, Ken Houghton, Mike Versteegen, Amanda Leck, Sue Milligan, Debbie Woodhouse, Charles Smitheram, David Fraser, Sarah Land and Richard Stringer.
1984 was a big year as the Melbourne University hosted the 20th Intervarsity at Deniliquin NSW. Michael Croxford was the president and from his experience at Seaworld he trained us all to perform ‘entertaining waterskiing’ to bring the locals from Deniliquin to watch the competition events and entertainment. The entertainment included show jumping right through to pyramids.
We also did a lot of partying, with four big parties in Melbourne in 1984; Chicken & Champagne, a ‘Lebanese’ party with complete with belly dancing, Freaks and Deviants party and a Casino night. Not to mention every night we were up at Deniliquin skiing.
1987 was a good year for Melbourne at the IV’s, and may even have won the overall. Sue Milligan won woman’s overallThe event was hosted by LaTrobe University at Deniliquin.
Through the 80’s we tricked, slalomed, jumped, barefooted but there was still no wakeboarding (yet).
The Mice (Twins, Rob and Fionn) let them camp down at the beach for the week for payment of 1 slab of VB Cans. By the Wednesday, after living on bbq sausages for 3 days, the Mice invited the group up to the homestead for dinner. They put on a massive roast, with lamb from the farm, and more food than any respective uni student could dream of. The friendship was immediately cemented and the Mice said we were welcome to come and stay any time. 14 years later they’re still two of Deb’s best friends and the clubs had now all found a second home on their farm, Warbreccan.
We ran New Members Camp at the Mice’s in 2001, and it was a huge relief not to have to worry about noise/nudity or anything else that usually get university students in trouble at the caravan park. Pud however was unimpressed, and word came through that we were no longer welcome at Paringa. We were ok with that.
Come to think of it, maybe some of this stuff isn’t appropriate for the website.
Deb competed at AUC in 2001 in Mildura, but: “I don’t think I did very well and can’t for the life of me think how anyone else did.”
In 2002 AUC was held at Mulwala, 2003 was cancelled and 2004 was at Port Macquarie. We think Melbourne did ok, but no one can remember any details. What they do remember is Melbourne were the unbeaten winners of the Friday night Boat Races: for several years running.
Presidency Roll of Honour
with plenty of gaps
1966 to 1969 – Doug Roydhouse
1970 – Tony Kirkhope
1972 – Steve Rogers Wilson
1973 to 1974 – Tony Moffatt
1975 to 1976 – Rod Bell
1977 – Peter Buckinham
1978 – Sue Thompson
1979 to 1980 – Sally Halkyard
1981 to 1984 – Michael Croxford
1996 – Dean Godfey (aka Yoda)
1997 – Cam Darragh
1998 – Dave Kaynes
1999- Ashley Waters
2000 to 2001 – Deb Leonard
2002 Melissa Strain & Andrew Merritt (Joint presidents)
2003 – Melissa Strain
2004 – Jean Stewart
2007 to 2009 – Mark Chernoff
2010 to 2011 – Breanne Cross
2012 – Sean Taaffe
2013 to 2015 – Hannah Dunn
2016 to 2017 – Lincoln Reeves
2017 to 2018 – Geoff Creber
2018 to Present – Peter Waldrop
IV’s Rider Roll Call
Peter Buckingham (Bucko) – skied in IV’s 1974 – 1979. He won 2 Men’s Overall titles and around 8 individual titles. President 1977. Awarded Full Blue 4 times
Tony Moffatt (Moff) – skied in 5 IV’s and always a strong contender. President 1974. Full Blue Football and Waterskiing
Steve Rogers Wilson (Stevie)– President 1973 Skied in 3 IV’s
Julian Way (Jules) – strong skier – skied in IV’s 1974 – 1978. Half Blue
Michael Cooke (Cookie)– skied in IV’s 1976 -1978
Roger Malouf (Roger the Dodger)
Sue Thomson (Thommo) – Skied in 3 IV’s. President 1978
Sonya Bettanay – Skiied 5 IV’s. Full Blue.