2017 WSIA Summit Recap: Story & Photos

Nearly 200 top professionals returned to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the annual WSIA Summit on March 2-3 to collaborate, share best practices and navigate through key issues to preserve the future of towed water sports.

Now in its eleventh year, the 2017 Summit was widely regarded as a huge success after two days of seminars, workshops, committee meetings and networking opportunities, including cocktail hours and time on the slopes, which has always been a signature Summit experience.

The Board of Directors dinner on Wednesday night kicked off the event, where board members reconnected and discussed their mission for the upcoming days. Unfortunately, Chairman of the Board and Former WSIA executive director, Larry Meddock, was unable to attend this year’s event, and his passion, leadership and presence were greatly missed.

“We used technology to make sure our Chairman’s presence was felt this year,” WSIA’s executive director Kevin Michael said. “Larry hosted two breakouts on a large monitor through video chat and many of us took a run down the mountain in his honor.”

After a year in his new position, the current executive director was more than pleased with the event. “There was a real special dynamic amongst the attendees, from the great turnout at seminars, to the lively chatter at cocktail hours and sponsor activation like we’ve never seen. I’m beyond excited to help the industry follow through and watch our new ideas grow.”

Thursday afternoon’s schedule was packed full of engaging workshops and committee meetings, which left the mornings free for “First Tracks” on the slopes of Steamboat Ski Resort, sponsored for the Board of Directors by Belter Insurance. Time on the mountain is an excellent opportunity for likeminded industry professionals to share knowledge and establish connections in a unique environment.

Back at base elevation, the Waterway Protection Campaign Workshop was a standout of the day, where Meddock and Bonnier’s Glenn Sandridge addressed the new methods of protecting our waterways from threats, while presenting a new, multi-level proactive strategy.

The day wrapped up with a spectacular dinner on the mountain, including a private gondola service, Western barbecue, cocktails, and live band. Prizes were raffled off and Peter Rietz was honored with a special tribute. For years, Mr. Rietz has served the WSIA including its members through priceless legal counsel. Being a high-level water skier, Peter was pleasantly surprised when presented with his new, custom “Rietz Signature Series” slalom ski.

Kevin Michael was thrilled to introduce special guest Sean Smith, executive director of Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA). Smith gave his insight on today’s “surf-inspired” market, shared stories of the SIMA Surf Summit and also articulated the benefits of spending time with passionate and likeminded individuals through events like this. Smith came highly recommended by Surf Expo, who are the single most supportive group of the WSIA as well as top tier Summit sponsor.

On Friday, attendees were treated to a couple of firsts for the WSIA Summit: CPR Certification provided by USA Water Ski Foundation as well as a Water Rescue Seminar in the pool with 15-year Pro Wakeboard Tour lieutenant paramedic, Dan Power.

Twenty attendees left with their CPR Certification card and many more left with the ability to save an injured participant from laying face down in the water while supporting the spinal cord and not exacerbating any existing injuries.

Strong attendance and enthusiasm made the #PassTheHandle workshop memorable. Now in its fourth year, this worldwide initiative inspires new participants to get on the water, and there’s no better place to brainstorm participation growth than at the WSIA Summit. Led by Bonnier’s Rhonda Mock and Garrett Cortese, the meeting provoked new ideas and a more-refined plan for the 2017’s #PassTheHandle days on July 23 (U.S. and Northern Hemisphere) and December 10 (Southern Hemisphere). Anyone who teaches a first timer is encouraged to share social media posts using #PassTheHandle throughout the year.

Friday’s seminars were also highlighted by compelling social media and digital marketing breakouts hosted by Bonnier’s Amanda Jones and Shawn Bean. Bonnier Corp. is another top tier Summit sponsor, known in our segment as the publisher of Wakeboarding, Water Ski and Boating as well as event organizers of the Pro Wakeboard Tour.

The Summit wrapped up on Friday night with the 2017 WSIA Leadership Awards, a ceremony that recognizes industry leaders and top performers for the year. Kevin Michael opened the show with touching words and thanks to all attendees for their continued passion and love for the towed water sports industry, and welcomed WSIA President John Archer onto the stage. Archer gave his praise to Kevin Michael, Diana Dobbins, and James Krawczyk of the WSIA for their relentless work put into making the Summit a success. With media veteran and emcee guru Jeff Barton presenting, the Leadership Awards were nothing short of amazing, highlighted by a recorded FaceTime video of Zane Schwenk upon realization that he earned the right to be this year’s recipient of the Larry Meddock award.

More on the 2017 Leadership Awards HERE. Photo gallery below.

Words: Emily Dale Photos: Rodrigo Donoso