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Stunts on the water

West Linn fixture Portland Water Spectacular celebrating 30th anniversary


TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - 11-year old Rachel DeLande tops the pyramid. In 2014, when Taylor Anderson was preparing to move to Oregon from the Midwest, he felt a pang of disappointment when he realized his show waterskiing career was likely over.

Save for a 5-year hiatus while attending college, Anderson had been show waterskiing for practically his entire life. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and spent many of his summers up north in Wisconsin — known as the “Mecca of show waterskiing.”

There was no Lake Michigan in Portland, and Anderson assumed he’d never find a group that shared his obscure hobby.

A quick Google search proved him wrong.

Two years later, Anderson is the president of Portland Water Spectacular, a nonprofit show waterski club that has performed around the Portland metropolitan area since 1986. In West Linn, the club is best known for its performance at the annual Old Time Fair, and it also holds its twice-weekly practices at Willamette Park.

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - From left, Taylor Anderson, Bob Wright and Jim Boland get ready for practice.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Anderson said of discovering the club. “I thought, ‘It must be gone now.’ When I actually got a response from (club member) Jim (Boland), I was stoked.”

Portland Water Spectacular currently boasts about 40 members, with ages ranging from five to above 80. According to Anderson, show waterskiing consists of around 20 different “acts,” from jumps off a water ramp to human pyramids and flag formations.

“It’s kind of like a play on the water,” Anderson said. “Our theme this year is our 30-year anniversary, so we will go over what was happening in 1986 when we were founded, do a throwback, and play on some of the events that happened that year.”

Portland Water Spectacular’s season generally runs from April to mid-October, or whenever it becomes too cold for in-water activities. And though show waterskiing is generally thought of as an “old school” sport, Anderson said the team has grown since he joined in 2014.

“When I showed up, they maybe had 28 people on the team,” he said. “We’ve had some people return ... maybe 10 people came back, and we had maybe 10 join, and a few dropped off.

“Everyone is welcome to come out; it’s kind of a family-oriented place, so we’ve got some dads skiing with their daughters.”

So what has kept Anderson coming back over the course of his 27 years?

“I guess I’m kind of a hot dog,” he said with a smile. “I like being in front of crowds, although that’s changed a bit since I was younger. I’ve just been doing it all my life.”

Of course, there are inherent dangers when you’re performing tricks on the water behind a speeding motorboat.

“I learned jumping when I was 13, in Wisconsin, and the first time I landed on my head,” Anderson said. “I didn’t jump for years after that, until I was about 18.”

Another memorable incident took place when Anderson was “barefooting” without skis on.

“I took a couple of gnarly spills, and popped both eardrums once,” Anderson said.

But there’s something for everyone to do in the club, which explains why the group has such a wide age range. Younger kids, for example, might be in charge of simply holding flags or interacting with the team’s announcer.

“You just kind of figure out which skiers can do what,” Anderson said.

Stay informed

To find out when the Portland Water Spectacular is performing a the West Linn Old Time Fair July 16-17, go to

westlinnoregon.gov/oldtimefair.

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - From left, Diane Cairns, Shaylyn Cairns and Ruthie White rotate 180 degrees on their skis.