Freetime: Slalom Skiing With Richard Rones, Americo Manufacturing
Richard Rones competes at the 2014 national waterskiing tournament

Richard Rones routinely travels 850 feet in 17 seconds on a single waterski pulled behind a boat cruising at 34 miles per hour. Whew.

When not on a slalom ski, Richard is the president of Americo Manufacturing Company of Acworth, Georgia. He is also the 2017 president of ISSA.

Richard learned how to waterski at age 10 and began skiing competitively in his 30s. After taking a break from the sport while in his 40s, Richard returned to it when he turned 50 and decided to take it up a notch.

“I went to a ski school in Florida that a former world record holder in competitive skiing was running,” he says. “It was then that I had an epiphany. I realized that there were far more competitive skiers at my age than in their 30s. And I’m happy to note that I have been able to compete at a higher level in my 50s than ever before.”

The ski season in Georgia lasts about six months. If he’s not traveling, Richard tries to ski a couple of times a week. There are local and state tournaments on the weekends, during which most people who ski competitively strive to obtain a score that qualifies them for the regional and national tournaments run by USA Water Ski. Only the top waterskiers are able to qualify.

Competitive skiing is a lot different than recreational skiing, says Richard. As a slalom competitor, Richard skis around each of six buoys in a 850-foot course — at a steady speed of 34 miles per hour — without falling. If he’s successful, the boat will stop and the 75-foot ski rope is shortened by 15 feet. After each successful run, the rope gets shorter. Eventually, the rope is shorter than the distance from the boat to the buoy.

“Many of the top skiers in the world — but not me — can get around all six buoys with a rope that is only 34 feet long. That means that they have to extend their body four feet to get around the buoy,” says Richard. “My personal best is getting around three buoys at a rope length of 37 feet.”

Richard competes at the national level. He won the Georgia State Water Ski Championship in the slalom division in 2014, and qualified and skied in the 2001 and 2014 Nationals. He also qualified for the 2017 Nationals.

“While I have virtually no chance of winning the tournament in my division, it is a distinction and a pleasure to qualify and ski among the best of the best in the United States,” he says.
One of the things Richard really enjoys about waterskiing is that it’s one of the most physically and mentally difficult sports he’s ever done.

“It’s the ultimate ‘grace under pressure,’” says Richard. “The best skiers have the most finesse and balance, but not necessarily brute strength.”

There are people well into their 70s that still ski. Richard hopes to be among them one day.

“Every year as ski season approaches, I always say to myself ‘I’m getting too old to do this.’ And then I say, ‘One day I’m going to be too old to ski, but it’s not today,’” he says. “As long as I’m enjoying it and feel like I can ski competitively, I will.”

Gretchen Roufs, a 25-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in “Freetime,” contact her at