Water skiing was introduced to the disabled community in 1983 with the development of the sit-ski by Royce Andes.  Royce Andes youngIn 1982, Royce was involved in a bare foot skiing accident that broke his neck and left him paralyzed. He took a whole new look at the sport he loved and how he could adapt and bring the sport of water skiing to the disabled community. 

Within less than a year after his accident Royce had a prototype on the water.  He drew the design with a stick pen in his mouth and his good friend took his design from paper to a working prototype. Old Skis016 Royce’s friend, a high school shop teacher, brought the dream to his students where the first several skis were built as class projects.   Later Royce developed his designs into the KanSki, which was the first composite sit-ski available for the disabled to enjoy the sport of water skiing.  Thanks to his drive and commitment to the sport he loves, adaptive water skiing has exploded into an international sport with people competing in slalom, jump and tricks.

Lee & RoyceThe Royce Andes Award is to honor Royce Andes, who has been and remains an inspiration to new and experienced skiers alike, and a first year Nationals skier who embodies his spirit.  The award, sponsored by the Western Region of WSDA (Water Skiers with Disabilities Association), is presented each year to a promising new National competitor. The award is voted on by the other competitors at the National Championships, and is to honor not necessarily a great performer, but a competitor who is an inspiration to others to try, to learn, and to compete. That doesn’t mean a new skier doesn’t perform well, it just means that their ski performance aside, the newcomer encourages others, teaches/coaches others, brings new skiers to sport and most of all is an inspiration to others, that’s what water skiing is really all about.

Disabled waterskiing was developed and has grown because of Disabled individuals like Royce Andes; LeRoy Monson (deceased) who spent many hours and countless miles traveling to put on clinics, teaching many new skiers, and Anne O’Brine-Satterfield (1949-2015) who was a mainstay of the National and World Teams.

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    1989 TWO DIVISION WINNERS prepare for another event as WILLIAM Furbish, a quadriplegic skier, gives WILLIAM Joyce, who is blind, a helping hand setting up for his next event
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    1989 PREPAIRING FOR THE SLALOM COURSE, Bill Furbish, a quadriplegic skier from Georgia, seems to be enjoying the competition.
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    1989 HOLDING ON TIGHT FOR THE JUMP. Steve Womack of Georgia used a Kan Ski during the competition.
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    1989 WATCHING FROM THE SIDELINES near a display of Kan Skis are: standing, Phil Martin, Chairman of the Disabled Water Skier Committee for the American Ski Association, seated, left to right, Robin Martin, competitor Bill Furbish, developer of the Kan Ski, Royce Andes of Biggs and competitor Ann O’Beine of Washington.
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    1989 THE FIRST DISABLED SKIER TO USE a newly-developed remote control boat. Steve Hornsey of Chico had no problem controlling the craft with a small panel of buttons on the ski rope handle.
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    Ann O’Brine, Granit Falls, Washington, sails over the jump during disabled Nationals competition at Camp Dearborn, Michigan, in July. She won Gold Medal in Slalom and Jump for paraplegics.
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    USA Disabled Team
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    1994 Ann O’Brine carves a turn on the C-54 canal in South Brevard County, Florida, using a Sit Ski, made by Don Kierstead and Leon Hester at the Kierstead Ski School and Longboard Manufacturing plant in Melbourne. The special ski is designed to help disabled persons.
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    Ann O’Brine, who has polio, skis off a jump Thursday during a live segment of the syndicated show “Fox After Breakfast” in Lakeland.

Pictures provided by:        Mary Andes,  Rik Jesse, Florida Today, David Mills, Ledger Photos

1997, Royce Andes with the Kan Ski and the next generation skies by Liquid Access and BMF

Today, there is a variety of adaptive equipment for water skiing available, allowing individuals with physical disabilities to enjoy the sport.

Individuals with a disability of a single leg  typically ski standing up on one ski.  There are some single leg amputees that use a prosthetic “ski leg” and ski on two skis or a single ski using both legs.

Delgar Sling

For individuals that have an impairment to one arm there is a variety of slings and harnesses that help compensate for the lack of pulling on one side of the body. 

Individuals that are unable to stand (spinal cord injuries, some types of cerebral palsy and muscular diseases) will ski using a “sit ski”.   These come in an a verity of  sizes from wide, very stable skis which incorporate a “starting block” (to assist the skier with weak or poor grip strength), to very narrow competitive skis designed for running the slalom course.

Skiers with vision impairments ski with minimal adaptations.  Using whistle signals, the skier with a vision impairment can be advised when the water is clear of obstacles and freely ski without any assistance.

Lee & Royce



1987 – The first World Trophy, a non-record event, took place outside London in England with officials from the European, African, Middle Eastern (EAME) Region and one from the Pan Am Region.   There were 40 participants from 7 countries.  Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA & Australia.

1989 – The second World Trophy, a national record capability event, took place outside Perth, Australia with officials from the Asia-Australasian Region and one each from the Pan Am and EAME Regions.  There were 55 participants from 9 countries.  Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA & Australia.

1989 Nationals #3020

1991 – The third and final World Trophy, a world record capability event, took place in Michigan, in the USA with at least two officials from each Region. There were 65 participants from 12 countries. Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA & Australia.


1993 – The inaugural world championships, a world record capability event, was held in Roquebrune, France, with at least three officials from each Region as per the new rules. There were a record 84 participants from 15 countries. The USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Australia.

1995 – The second world championships was held in Mulwala, Australia with 56 athletes from 12 countries. Nineteen world records were set. The USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Australia.

1997 – The third world championships was held in Florida in the USA with 66 athletes from a record 16 countries. Sixteen world records were set and one equaled. Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA and Australia.

1999 – The fourth world championships was held outside London, at the site of the first World Trophy. There were 75 athletes from 15 countries. Eleven world records were set.  The USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Australia.

2001 – The fifth world championships was held near Melbourne, Australia. There were 57 athletes from 15 countries, the best attendance to date both in athlete and country numbers in the AA Region. Eight world records were set. Great Britain won the team title ahead of the USA and Australia.

2003 – The sixth world championships, and the sport’s 10th anniversary, took place in Florida, USA. There were 68 athletes from 15 countries. Eight world records were set and one tied. USA won the team title ahead of Great Britain and Italy.

2005 – The seventh world championships was held in Schoten, Belgium, in September with 60 athletes from 17 countries, the latter a record with two new ones participating, Brazil and South Africa.  There were 10 world records, and the team title was won by Great Britain, ahead of the USA and Australia.

2007 – The eighth world championships took place in Townsville, Australia, in May with 52 athletes from 15 countries, the number of countries tying an AA record for attendance. Eight world records were set; and Great Britain won the team title again, ahead of Australia, second for the first time ever, and the USA. The USA and Great Britain have now each won four world titles.

2009 – The ninth world championships was held Sept. 3-6 in Vichy, France, with 47 competitors from a record 18 countries, the newest country being Austria. There were four world records set, one of them (a jump) having stood for 20 years. The United States broke its 4-4 team-title tie with Great Britain in garnering the prestigious team title, ahead of Italy and France, both on the podium for the first time ever.

2011 – The 10th world championships was held Aug. 25-28 in West Chester, Ohio, with 38 competitors from 13 countries. The United States won its second consecutive team title; and Italy anf France repeated their podium finishes of two years earlier in France. There were four world records set and one tied by four different skiers from three confederations. For the first time, medals were awarded in only three categories: seated, standing and vision impaired.

2013 – The 11th World Championships was held Aug. 29-Sept. 1, in Milan, Italy, with 45 skiers from 12 countries. The United States won its third team title in a row with Italy second for the third time straight and Australia third, back on the team podium for the first time since 2007.  The United States is the first country to ever win three consecutive team titles. There were five world records set by three different skiers from two confederations. Nine of the twelve countries in attendance won medals.

2015 – The 12th World Championships were held in Elk Grove, Calif., in September with 49 skiers from 11 countries. The United States won its fourth consecutive world team title with Australia second, one spot up from 2013 (second time on podium sicne 2007) and Italy third for its fourth consecutive podium placement. The United States is the first country to ever win four consecutive team titles. There were three world records set by Great Britain’s Claire Ellis, and eight of the 11 countries in attendance won medals.


1986 – In Norway, the original commission of three persons was formed.

1987 – At the time of the first World Trophy, there was one member from each Region, all disabled, and a president, Peter Felix.   It was a commission, reflecting a lack of participating countries, hence a world trophy instead of a world championships.

1989 – At the second World Trophy, an additional member was chosen to the commission from each Region, all able-bodied.

1991 – After the IWSF Executive Board encouraged the disabled commission to move toward council status (the status of all other major sports disciplines such as tournament, barefoot and racing, a third member was selected to the commission from each Region, and in some cases an alternate.

1992 – The IWSF Executive Board approved council status for the disabled in July, due to an increase in participating countries, established rules, etc. The Disabled Council is now on equal footing with tournament, barefoot and water ski racing.


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