History Brief: “Ride the Wake”

Small Home Gazette, Summer 2016

History Brief: Ride the Wake

Ralph Samuelson tries out the first water skis on Lake Pepin in 1922.

In 1922, Ralph Samuelson first tried barrel staves, then snow skis, and finally fashioned the first dedicated water skis from lumber he purchased and shaped. Using his two pine boards, bindings made from leather strips, and a clothesline, the 18-year-old was successfully towed by his brother Ben on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minn.

The brothers experimented for several days until on July 2, 1922, Samuelson discovered that leaning backwards with board tips up led to successful water skiing.

On July 8, 1925, during an exhibition on Lake Pepin, Samuelson made the first water ski jump using a greased 4-by-16-foot ramp.