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2018 WSIA Summit Recap: Story & Photos

Over 200 industry professionals returned to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the annual WSIA Summit on February 27-28 to collaborate and focus on topics including safety, risk management, advocacy and growing participation, to promote and protect the future of all towed water sports.

Now in its twelfth year, the 2018 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. Chairlifts have always been a great place for friends and competitors to bond and get in the right mindset to work together for the greater good of the industry.

After a morning of First Tracks, sponsored by the NMMA, the 2018 Summit kicked off with lunch courtesy of Surf Expo, a top tier Summit sponsor. During the kickoff lunch, Summit attendees sat among fellow industry leaders and colleagues while hearing personal accounts from keynote speaker and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Reed about success and resilience through a life of sports.

NFL Hall of Fame WR Andre Reed


“Things are not always going to go your way. There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Reed said. “But everybody you meet is going to help you get there. In life, I most value the people I’ve come in contact with and the relationships I’ve made. We all need help from others to reach our goals.”

Larry Meddock educates attendees about managing conflicts on waterways, and more importantly, how to avoid them.


Tuesday afternoon’s schedule was packed full of engaging workshops and committee meetings, including a first-ever livestream of the Waterway Protection Seminar. Strong attendance of over 80 people, along with excellent participation and discussion, made this seminar memorable. Led by WSIA Chairman Larry Meddock, the meeting provoked new ideas and a plan for how to better prevent and resolve future waterway issues.

The day wrapped up with Dinner on the Mountain, including a private gondola service, Western barbeque, cocktails, raffle prizes and surprises. This year, the WSIA was thrilled to present Matt Manzari as the special guest. Manzari was a professional wakeskater for nine years, until he ran into a pair of unfortunate accidents that changed his life. Despite his hardships, Matt has remained positive through it all. Hearing his story first hand left attendees in awe, speechless and inspired. For more on Manzari’s story, visit Beyond The Burn.

Matt Manzari captivates the crowd with a compelling motivational story of overcoming hardships.


“One thing that was really evident to me through this process is that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional,” said Matt Manzari. “As an industry, we’ve faced a lot of challenges in the past few years. As we’ve learned to adapt, there have been some uphill battles, but it’s been amazing to watch everyone come together.” Matt continued, “I feel forever indebted to this industry. It’s an industry that I built my life and my career on, and then when tragedy struck, an industry that came together and supported me.”

Bryant Thomas scores “Shot of the Summit” during First Tracks with photographer Rodrigo Donoso.


On Wednesday morning, most attendees hit the slopes for a morning of riding before the afternoon’s workshops. Back at base elevation, several groups, including the Water Sports Foundation board, the WSIA Executive Committee, and the WSIA Board of Directors, individually met to reconnect and discuss agendas and action items for the coming year.

Tom Crichton of delivers a Speed Round.


Wednesday afternoon began with a first for the WSIA Summit: Speed Rounds. These quick, but powerful 10-minute presentations were delivered by a handful of industry leaders on various topics, including partnerships, leadership, core values, adapting to change, and more.

CPR Associates of Orlando instructed a four hour class, delivering certification cards to 20 Summit attendees.


The day followed with useful workshops and meetings, and back by popular demand, CPR Certification provided by USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Foundation as well as a Water Rescue Seminar in the pool with 15-year Pro Wakebaord Tour lieutenant paramedic, Dan Power.

Lieutenant paramedic Dan Power demonstrates proper spine alignment while rescuing an injured participant in the water.


For the second year in a row, 20 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.

After missing last year due to knee replacement surgery, Pass The Handle co-founder Zane Schwenk demonstrates industry icon status once again.


Wednesday’s seminars were highlighted by a compelling strategic online marketing breakout hosted by Wendy Taylor, a #PassTheHandle roundtable discussion with Zane Schwenk, and a second Waterway Protection webinar.

WSIA Executive Director, Kevin Michael, applauds attendees for working together as a group and focusing on the big picture.


The Summit wrapped up on Wednesday night with a cocktail reception, dinner, and the 2018 WSIA Leadership Awards, a ceremony that recognizes industry leaders and top performers for the year. WSIA Executive Director Kevin Michael opened the show with touching words and gratitude to all attendees for their continued passion and love for the towed water sports industry. With “Dano the Mano” presenting, the Leadership Awards were nothing short of amazing, and there were several highlights of the night that won’t soon be forgotten.

(L-R) Kenneth Andres of Surf Expo, Glenn Sandridge of Bonnier and Steven Fisher of Surf Expo enjoy cocktail hour on the mountain.


Words: Emily Dale
Photography: Rodrigo Donoso






WSIA Summit is a gathering of likeminded industry leaders who are willing to work together to promote and protect towed water sports long term. Attendees are encouraged to leave their ‘brand competition weapons’ at the door to focus on issues where they do not compete, including safety, risk management, advocacy and growing participation. Summit will be held in an environment that fosters positive experiences, unity and creativity to help attendees contribute to the greater good of our industry.

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