Stunts on the water
West Linn fixture Portland Water Spectacular celebrating 30th anniversary
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 hed 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.
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.
Its 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 Spectaculars 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. Weve 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; its kind of a family-oriented place, so weve got some dads skiing with their daughters.
So what has kept Anderson coming back over the course of his 27 years?
I guess Im kind of a hot dog, he said with a smile. I like being in front of crowds, although thats changed a bit since I was younger. Ive just been doing it all my life.
Of course, there are inherent dangers when youre 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 didnt 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 theres 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 teams announcer.
You just kind of figure out which skiers can do what, Anderson said.
To find out when the Portland Water Spectacular is performing a the West Linn Old Time Fair July 16-17, go to