In 2004 I rode 40 different things in 1 day to celebrate turning 40. As it was my first time on an endeavor of this type (in fact probably a first time for anyone), I was guided mostly by my own thoughts and ideas. When it came time to ride a pair of combo skis during the 40 for 40, I simply strapped on a pair and whizzed around the lake. No big deal.


VIDEO: 40 for 40 Highlights


Fast forward 10 years to the 50 for 50. This time I wanted to create as many stories as possible, not just another ride to check off a box. So this time when it came to riding a pair of combos. I wanted to find something special. In the months leading up to the 50 for 50 I ran across a Cypress Gardens video of a guy and girl doing classic doubles.


VIDEO: Ski Champs in Action


Upon watching this video, I instantly knew this was perfect for the combo skis ride! I was a longtime fan of Cypress Gardens, and had a hope of retiring in the area to carry on some of the traditions of Dick Pope.


This first challenge was to find a pair of the yellow skis used in the video. Thanks to eBay it was just a couple of weeks before I located a pair of Cypress Gardens Acapulco skis in good condition.


It was fun to cruise around on those Acapulcos. I even recreated a trick from a Cypress Gardens picture book showing a skier using one foot and one arm. Managing the selfie stick on top of that made it even more difficult!


hand foot water skiing tony klarich cypress gardens acapulco

Recreating a Classic Cypress Gardens Move


Next it was time to find a doubles partner, and it was an easy choice. Stacy Norred is an amazing show skier who I knew from our local show ski team. She immediately agreed to join me in recreating this act.


stacy norred swivel skiing photo mike clary water ski cypress gardens

Stacy Norred performing a graceful swivel exhibition at the 50 for 50. Photo Mike Clary




Our first step was to get the skis and ropes together. I already had another pair of Cypress Gardens skis for Stacy to use, given to me as a gift by Dr. Terry Weyman.


Read the incredible story of the Aqua King skis Here: “A Love Letter to Cypress Gardens”


Fortunately, I am pretty handy with rope making, so was able to easily make this special pair of “double handles” with a super deep V.


cypress gardens water skis aqua king Acapulco



tony klarich learn the ropes playlist water ski wakeboard how to make your own ropes

Learn the Ropes Playlist by Tony Klarich. How to make and handle waterski / wakeboard lines


Stacy found a yellow suit online, and her sleeves were custom made by Kate Draeger at Water Wear Custom Costumes. The long gloves and triangular sleeves were a typical Gardens accessory piece for the ladies, greatly promoted by their appearance on the original logo


 Original Artwork for the Cypress Gardens Logo



It only took a few rounds of practice to get ready for our performance. The classic moves in the original video are considered fairly basic for today’s show skiers. It did however, take some time for me to get used to riding in the super short shorts!


On the day of the 50 for 50 we had a great run. It was exactly what I was hoping for. The big surprise came after the landing. We did the standard show landing for doubles, with Stacy in my arms as we skied up the beach. The response was incredible. The welcome applause was just the beginning! I am intentional about making eye contact during the “payoff.” It was apparent that our doubles run touched many people, especially those over 50. That faraway misty-eyed look was written on the faces of many. Our run had touched a nerve, and transported people back to a simpler time – the Good Old Days. Stacy and I walked the beach for a few minutes, taking the time to say hello to many in the crowd and to take a few photos with them. Many spoke of how good it made them feel to see us on the water!


stacy norred tony klarich doubles water ski cypress gardens 50 for 50


I have been often asked which of my 50 different rides that day was my favorite, and this was one of the top 5 for sure. It was such a surprise that such a “simple” act on a pair of skis could have such an impact. I call this “Smoke and Mirrors.”





God speaks to me through coincidences, and I have had many that defy logic. I have since learned that when a big coincidence occurs in my life it means that I am on the right track, and that I need to pay attention to the people and actions involved with the coincidence. I did not know that at the time, but have recently discovered the meaning of this crazy event.


The 50 for 50 was in the books, and THAT SAME NIGHT I was in the supermarket looking at greeting cards. This is what I found:



Same color skis, same suit, but where is the guy? It was enough of a coincidence with the same day timing, suit, and skis; but the guy on the card was depicted as a hot dog losing his bun! A little strange yes, but even stranger is the fact that I am well known as a hot dog slalom skier! It could not have been a more perfect representation of me as a skier!


hot dog with tony klarich book cover water ski

The 1988 Instructional Book (above) & Video (below)



I have only recently deciphered the meaning of the coincidence. The classic doubles act that Stacy and I performed revolved around Cypress Gardens. That was years before my wife Tanya purchased me a retirement home on Lake Eloise, just 5 doors down from the old Gardens. The appearance of the greeting card did not make sense at the time. But now, knowing that coincidences are God’s way of letting me know I am on the right track, it’s all so clear. Purchasing our Cypress Gardens Lake House on Lake Eloise was a leap of faith. It was meant for retirement in 5-10 years, so the only way to make it happen was for us was to do short term rentals. It has been a year of ups and downs, with higher highs and lower lows than we ever expected!


I am convinced now that God has put me and my wife Tanya in this place not only to preserve and honor the legacy of Dick Pope and Cypress Gardens, but to extend it in to the future. We want to make our home a gathering place for skiers, to build community, and to do important missionary work to give back as we are able.


Both pairs of skis used for the classic doubles act made their way from Cypress Gardens all the way to the Long Beach Marine Stadium in California and back again to the Ski Room in our Cypress Gardens Lake House on Lake Eloise.

The Cypress Gardens Lake House

cypress gardens lake house winter haven lake eloise

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VIDEO: Prepping for the 50 for 50


Last Ride of the 50 for 50