Wake Rider

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In 1967, Fred Johnston, then a Sarasota High sophomore, watched the Ski-a-Rees water ski show and told his father, "That looks like fun." The amateur water ski show, now held off Ken Thompson Park, had already been a Sunday-afternoon local tradition for close to a decade then. Johnston joined the troupe; then his younger brother […]


In 1967, Fred Johnston, then a Sarasota High sophomore, watched the Ski-a-Rees water ski show and told his father, "That looks like fun." The amateur water ski show, now held off Ken Thompson Park, had already been a Sunday-afternoon local tradition for close to a decade then. Johnston joined the troupe; then his younger brother and sister became Ski-a-Rees; their father drove a ski boat and their mother was a spotter. Ten years ago, Fred and his wife Lydia’s then-five-year-old daughter Erica skied doubles in a tournament at Cypress Gardens. His nephew, Bobby, performed in the show this spring at the age of four.

"That’s what’s best about it," says Johnston. "What other thing can the whole family go out and enjoy together all day long?"

These days, the show features about 45 young jumpers, barefooters, wake boarders and pyramids-including 14 skiers in a double-top four-tier heart-stopper. The team has won a boatload of awards in competitions; and Fred-now 53 and a phys-ed teacher at Nolan Middle School in Bradenton-has won five Southern Regional doubles tournaments. "I’ve just had a lot of fun," he says. "That’s the bottom line."

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