Brian Moore, 29, who won the National Water Ski Championships in West Palm Beach, Fla., Aug. 15, skis at Pulligan Pond near White City. - Jamie Lusch

Ski Moore

When it comes to having the right genes for water skiing, America's new national champion, Brian Moore of Medford, is working with a stacked deck.

His father, Steve Moore, and grandfather, Clifford Moore, both of Medford, honed their water-skiing talents over the last half-century, winning a lot of regional competitions and setting Brian on the path that would lead him to gold Aug. 15 at the National Water Ski Championships in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Brian has worked hard getting there. Since 1979, he has drilled to perfection on the slalom course, going at it five or six times a week — about 1,000 times a year — on a man-made course near the Rogue River in White City.

"He skis fast and very strong," says his dad, "and when he gets in trouble, he scraps it out with his strength. He's focused on perfecting himself. It's a lot of pressure, going to the championships. You travel all that way and if you fall once, you're done."

The gold has been a lifelong dream and when he won it, the soft-spoken Brian characteristically said, "When it was over, I laid back and took a little time, without anyone around, and took it in."

Even though Brian fell after the last buoy, he says, "I got five-and-a half with 38 off," which means he made it past the last of six buoys with the ski rope shortened by 38 feet and was the last man standing before he went down. The rope starts at 75 feet in length and is shortened for each run.

Brian, who carries the HO equipment brand and endorsements, has taught his wife, Erin, the tricks of the water-skiing trade and last year she finished sixth in her age group in the women's nationals. This year, she placed fourth in the Western Regional Championships.

Their three-year-old son, Marcus, representing a fourth generation of water skiers, just started in the sport last year.

"Brian and his dad coach me a lot and help work on form," says Erin. "Brian is aggressive and teaches not to give up, even if you don't think you're going to get the next buoy."

The water-skiing blood got going in the Moore family with Clifford, now 88, who took up the sport in mid-life. When he was 42 he started competing in tournaments, specializing in trick skiing on a wide ski — doing rotations, one-legged skiing and, of course, slalom events.

Clifford, a retired iron worker, marvels at today's powerful boats, glassy, man-made lakes and computerized controls that keep the boat at 36 mph, noting that in the old days, you did it on wind-blown lakes with an outboard motor, and if it was choppy, well, you skied the choppy waves.

His son, Steve, 53, started water skiing at 19 on Willow Lake, Lake of the Woods and Modoc Pond, finishing as high as third place in regional competitions, "but never the titles, like Brian has won."

The family competes as the Sunrise Water Skiing Team and most often practices at Sunrise Landing, a man-made lake near Redding. Their man-made lake by White City, called Pulligan Pond, was made last year and is about 2,000 feet long, allowing for one complete run each way.

Brian's style is sleek and breathtaking as he leans low into turns, slowing to 15 mph as he negotiates the buoys, then whipping with startling speed to 70 mph. As the rope is shortened for the runs of those who haven't fallen, speed, difficulty and drama increase.

Although it may look easy, water skiing takes a lot of strength — and Brian builds and tones his muscles three times a week at Superior Athletic Club, leaving him trim and "strong enough to ski well."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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