Kelowna Water ski event to honour pioneer Wally Giebelhaus

The inaugural Wally Open will take place on Okanagan Lake, in same place Giebelhaus trained for years

The late Wally Giebelhaus will be honoured this weekend with the inaugural Wally Open

The sport of water-skiing is undergoing a renaissance in Kelowna and one of the pioneers of the sport will be honoured this weekend with a recreational slalom event in his name.

The inaugural Wally Open recreational slalom water ski event will honour the late Wally Giebelhaus Saturday morning on Okanagan Lake, near the site where the skiing pioneer did much of his training before becoming a many-time national water ski champion in a variety of age categories.

Gieblhaus passed away last year but his love of skiing has been passed on to generations and is now being continued thanks to water skier Gary Athans along with a group of organizers that include the whiplash cable park just across the bridge heading towards West Kelowna.

It was in that location that Giebelhaus, one of the nation’s most enthusiastic water skiers, would set a course every season to train.

“I decided to put this on to generate more interest in the sport,” said Athans. “Wally loved skiing more than almost anything. He competed till he was almost 80. When my brother was young Wally would take him on ski competitions. It’s really all about having some fun in the lake. The water is still 70 degrees.”

Athans is providing a Friday familiarization event from noon today until dark to help teach those interested in making some passes around water ski buoys.

Entry fee for the event is $20 and funds will go towards junior ski development in the Okanagan.

“I really want to get a core group of junior skiers going but this event is open to all ages and abilities,” said Athans. “Waterskiing is making a comeback as it is really a fun, speed, adrenaline-type sport. Slalom skiers can generate speeds of 60 mph and turning on a dime.”

Inquiries for this weekend’s Wally Open and Friday’s familiarization event can be directed to Gary Athans by text to 250-717-6696 or e-mail to

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