Ken Nelson was born in Wetaskiwin, Alberta and he started skiing at the age of 15. He skied his first national championships in 1973 where he won a bronze medal in the slalom event. For the next ten years, Ken continued skiing in various lakes around Calgary while searching for the perfect site to use as a controlled water ski environment.
In 1982, he competed in the Nationals in Dartmouth, NS where he won a gold medal in the Senior Men’s event, a standard that he has maintained ever since in his respective age category.
Soon after his first nationals, Ken found the perfect site for his dream of owning a man-made lake. The project was started on December 22nd, 1985 and was complete the following year just in time for the 1986 National Barefoot Championships. Shalom Park became Canada’s first man made, specific water sport facility, that has gone on to become the most prolific host site in Canadian towed water sports history. Ken and Shalom Park’s hosting legacy includes:
A world junior championship in 1996 with 34 participating countries;
- Three international competitions, 1992, 1993 and 1994
- No less than 13 different national championships:
- Canadian Water Ski Championships 6 times (awarded 2009, 2002, 1997, 1994, 1993, 1989);
- Canadian Wakeboard Championships 3 times (2010, 2006, 1997);
- Canadian Barefoot Water Ski Championships 6 times (2007, 2003, 1997, 1992, 1990, 1986);
- Canadian Adaptive (Disabled) Water Ski Championships 1 time (2009);
- 14 Alberta Provincial Championships in the sport’s different disciplines since 1989
- 119 local competitions in the sport’s different disciplines since 1989;
In 1986, Ken started hosting events called “Recreational Water Ski Championships.” By setting a narrower line of buoys, it was possible for a recreational level of skier to succeed in maneuvering around the buoys and become interested in advancing in the sport. This led to a great surge in skiers around the province.
Never forgetting about youth, in 1987, Ken started a program called “New Kids on the Water.” This program was designed for children between the ages of 5 and 12 to learn to ski in a safe and controlled environment. It is still running today and has taught over 1500 children over the years. Being the thoughtful and generous man he is, Ken started another event in 2011 called “Honour Day.” He invited the Military from Namao to come and use the water ski facilities for the day. He also provided a climbing wall, blow up playground, and face painting for the children. He offered them a BBQ lunch as well as a roast beef dinner to show them how much their dedication to serving our country was appreciated.
Ken further helped build the sport of water skiing by developing methods to enhance the ease of the sport. He is the first known person to use cylinders as boat guides in the slalom course, which resulted in a rule change to allow for the smaller diameter guides. He also designed a portable slalom course that uses brace lines to hold the buoys in place. This system proved to be record capable. His design for a ski jump was approved for the IWSF at their congress in 1993.
Ken also developed an automated time of use meter so that skiers could be assured of paying only for the time a boat was in use. He was also a 15 year+ Correct Craft dealer and sponsorship supporter of Water Ski and Wakeboard Canada, as well as the Alberta association.Ken Nelson has been a much-needed dreamer, innovator, giver and supporter and one of this sport’s recognized Pioneers.
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