Beautiful lakes, bountiful opportunities, and gorgeous weather are a big reason why Polk County is the Water Ski Capital of the World. But that isn’t all.
If you’re a resident of Winter Haven or just visiting, you may have noticed the new artwork on the city’s Downtown Water Tower. So what’s the story?
The USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Foundation Hall of Fame features historic memorabilia and equipment that runs the gamut from its earliest days to today. How early? How about a pair of the earliest water skis known – made from a barrel.
Visiting the USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Foundation Hall of Fame in Davenport
Featuring all 9 disciplines of the sport, the Museum features memorabilia from the 100-year-long history of the sport, including:
- A pair of sport inventor Ralph Wilford Samuelson’s original water skis
- A hydrofoil from long-time fan favorite Banana George
While historic items and plaques serve as the core of the Museum, other items will rotate in the future. The Museum is inside of our Visitor Information Center at 101 Adventure Court, Davenport. If you want more inform information about USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Foundation, then go to usa-wwf.org.
Polk County is the Water Sports Center of the United States
Did you know that water skiing was invented by Ralph Samuelson in 1922 on Lake Pepin in Minnesota? While this is true, Dick Pope, Sr. transformed it into a global sport and entertainment phenomenon when he opened Cypress Gardens in 1936. No other destination on the planet has the history, inventions, world firsts, world records and visibility than Florida’s first theme park, Cypress Gardens, and Polk County.
Cypress Gardens – the Epicenter of Water Skiing
Water skiing gained notoriety during the 1920s in Polk County, and in the early 1930 Winter Haven had become known as the “water sports center of the United States.” Pope’s vision and work resulted in thousands of newsreels, commercials, photo shoots, television shows and movies featuring Cypress Gardens, including the movie “Easy to Love,” a 1953 Esther Williams ode to the sport. Through Pope’s efforts – and Hollywood’s embrace of them – visitors from all over the world flocked to the Sunshine State.
As the sport grew, so did the legend of Cypress Gardens which, in turn, drew more elite athletes as well as state, national and world championships events. Records were broken on Polk County waters thanks to the steady stream of ambitious skiers drawn to the sport’s biggest stage. Willa McGuire Cook co-created the swivel ski and rocketed to fame as the prima ballerina of the sport. Cypress Gardens skiers continued to set world records and world firsts in multiple disciplines, including the first 3-, 4- and 5-tier human pyramids. Hundreds of firsts and records were documented in all USA Water Ski and Wake Sports disciplines.
More recently, in 2015 and again in 2017, the Chain of Records events set numerous records that were documented by USA Water Ski and Wake Sports officials as well as the Guinness Book of World Records.
If you’re looking for water activities in Central Florida, consider visiting Winter Haven and its surrounding cities. This “Chain of Lakes” city, has lakes spread across 4,000+ acres and many are connected through a canal system by what locals call “The Chain.” These lakes bring great outdoor fun for families and friends year-round and they are one of the reasons why Winter Haven is considered the “Waterski Capital of the World.”
Things To Do On The Water in Central Florida
With over 550 lakes located in Polk County, there is endless potential for water fun! Here is our guide to a few awesome water activities on Winter Haven’s Chain of Lakes and beyond.
Learn to Water Ski & Wakeboard at Elite Cable Park
There’s no need to rent a boat, buy fuel and gear if you want to wakeboard while you are in town. You can get right on the water at Elite Cable Park in Auburndale since riders are pulled by an electric cable track rather than a boat. Guests can learn to water ski or wakeboard with a Get Up Guarantee Package that’s perfect for those who have never tried wakeboarding, waterskiing, wakeskating or kneeboarding. The Get Up Guarantee is the best way to learn how to ride.
The Living Water Boat Cruise
Paddleboard Winter Haven offers private paddleboard parties, corporate “board” meetings, paddleboard adventure trips, and Paddlefit workouts. Enjoy unique options like paddleboard yoga or a paddleboard sunset tour which is the perfect evening activity before eating at one of Winter Haven’s many waterfront dining options.
Winter Haven Watersports
Learn to water ski, tube with friends, ride jet skis, rent a pontoon boat, or go paddle boarding at Winter Haven WaterSports. All of these activities can be done on Winter Haven’s southern Chain of Lakes.
Fly over the Florida waterways while strapped to a giant V8 powered propeller. Florida is known for exhilarating airboat tours, and Central Florida has a wide selection of great tours, with some boats reaching up to 600 horsepower. Some of our favorite tours are with Guy Harvey’s Camp Mack, Alligators Unlimited Airboat Tours, and Westgate River Ranch.
Rent kayaks from Off the Chain Kayak Company and explore Winter Haven’s Chain of Lakes. OTC offers drop off and pick kayak service, so you can kayak on the lake closest to your hotel or vacation rental home.
For other fun things to do on the water, check out our post on Waterfront Dining or follow us on Instagram.
The 3 hour beginner group lesson starts in our classroom located in the centre. We chose to have a maximum ratio of 6 students to 1 instructor, this this means we’re able to offer you plenty of personalised tips. Our theory session…