Former ski champion brings people of all ages to the water

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Photo Credit: Bill Scotton

Brent Renneke
February 18, 2013
Filed under Features

One Florida resident is doing his part in bringing people to the water through setting an example, which is you do not have to be 21 years old to enjoy the world of watersports.

“If you see me doing it, then you cannot make any excuses,” said 50-year-old Zenon Bilas, a former world-champion barefoot skier who now teaches people of all ages to water-ski.

Already a seasoned water skier at the time, Bilas began his career in the marine industry working at a pro shop for an Illinois dealership on Fox Lake. His talent in barefoot skiing eventually took him around the world as a professional in the sport.

Bilas eventually retired from the water, but remained active in the industry working for various boating magazines until they were sold off during the recession. His career away from the water left him out of shape, and in an effort to improve his current health and trim down from nearly 200 pounds, he once again came back to barefoot skiing.

“I changed, and I wanted to do well again,” Bilas said. “A few things happened by determination, a few by luck, but I started skiing better than I ever imagined.”

And people noticed. In fact, Bilas said many approached him and inquired how he is able to compete at his age, be in such great shape and, finally, if it is possible for them regardless of their age.

“If you see me, you cannot make an excuse [about how you are too old]. They see me and say, ‘If he can do it then I can,’” Bilas said.

Today, Bilas said his customers typically have either no history in water sports or have not water skied since they were much younger and want to get back to the sport. At slow speeds, Bilas’ has pulled water skiers as old as 76.

“You are seeing that demographic that wants to do things like this again, not give up,” Bilas said. “And they can with someone teaching them the right technique.”

Bilas said many feel the sport is too much of a risk, especially at an older age; however, he stressed with the right technique that risk is minimal. Water skiing is also much less demanding physically than other water sports like wakeboarding, according to Bilas.

The sport of water skiing was the primary driver of Bilas getting back in shape, and he is an advocate of it for improving the health for people of all ages. Currently, his main goal is to spread this message to as many as he can.

“I want to take it to a bigger audience; I want to keep taking the idea to more and more people so they can see the sport and what it can do,” he said.

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