Choreography for skimming across a lake. Balancing partners above their heads. Human pyramids defying wakes and waves. Skiers without skis, barefoot and maneuvering about as if water had the heft of ice. These are the Min-Aqua Bats, and their acrobatic water show is a can’t-miss marvel of the Up North experience.
The Min-Aqua Bats Water Ski Club is one of the oldest amateur water-ski show teams in North America, but it feels wrong to call them amateur merely because they are doing this for the love it. On Sunday afternoons back in 1950, a group of avid water-skiers just having summer fun started drawing a crowd. And that crowd kept getting bigger. In 1952, the ski club made it official, creating a nonprofit organization and building a wooden jump. They sold no tickets, but passed a bucket each Sunday, and by the end of the year they had already earned enough to purchase their first boat. Bleachers, lights, and a clubhouse soon followed, and in 1982, they added a concession stand.
The team has won medals in state and national competition, and some of their original moves and acts have been taken up by other ski show clubs.
“The fun thing is that it’s run by the kids,” says Krystal Westfahl, executive director of the Minocqua Visitors Bureau. A few adults help out, but performers are predominantly local youth plus some returning from college and a few out-of-towners. “Every year, they come up with something new.” The Fourth of July is their biggest event. For high-flying acrobat maneuvers, make time for one of these free shows. “They still pass the bucket – for the love of the sport. And they need money for gas.”