Ralph Armstrong, 1938-2020
Ralph Armstrong, a longtime member of the American Water Ski Association and USA Water Ski & Wake Sports, and one of the sport’s most decorated tournament drivers, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 4, with his family by his side in Destin, Fla. He was 82. His involvement in water skiing spanned more than 50 years. He started his career as an accomplished water skier and driver in the 1950s, taking part in one of the first Tommy Bartlett Water Ski Shows in Wisconsin Dells. He later stopped skiing and shifted his focus to becoming a great boat driver. He built his own ski boat in the 1960s and took it to every local tournament to pull skiers and traveled the region pulling skiers at tournaments in Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas. With the advent of the professional towboat program, Armstrong sold his man-made boat, purchased a MasterCraft and entered the promotional boat program. For the next half century, he dedicated his driving talents, advice and expertise to the sport. His competitive career includes many distinguished years as a driver in major water ski events. He was selected as a driver for numerous world and national events, including Junior World Championships, World Games, Elite World Championships, Pan American Games, U.S. National Championships and the U.S. Open. He was Chief Driver at Elite World Championships and numerous Pan American Championships. He was heavily involved in the adaptive water ski program, serving as a driver at the Disabled World Championships in Australia and numerous U.S. Disabled Water Ski National Championships. He was a four-time recipient of the Fred Wiley Award for Most Outstanding Driver at the U.S. Water Ski National Championships. In 2008, upon his retirement from driving, he was awarded Senior Driver Emeritus status by the American Water Ski Association board of directors. He was inducted into the USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Foundation’s Water Ski Hall of Fame as an Award of Distinction recipient in 2017.