Zenon Bilas’ varied career as competitor, coach and journalist has come full-circle, with the 55-year-old athlete securing a silver medal at the recent barefoot water skiing national championship. It’s been 18 years since Bilas competed at this level; a sport he first learned 40 years ago and in which he earned national champion status seven times. Bilas is also known in the recreational boating industry worldwide for his editorial articles and photography.
Bilas won the silver medal at the 2017 USA Barefoot National Championship in the trick event in the Men’s A division. Held August 1-5 on Lake Grew in Polk City, Florida, it draws competitors from all over the world. Just two days earlier at the Jim Boyette Southern Regional Barefoot Championship, also held on Lake Grew, Bilas took first place in the trick event in the Men’s B division and in the Open Men’s division slalom event.
In slalom barefoot water skiing, athletes cross the tow boat wake as many times as possible in two 15-second passes, one each facing forward and backward. In trick events, competitors perform as many maneuvers as possible in two 15-second passes.
“Slalom is my strong event. I had the highest score in the world in 1985. My goal is to get back to that level,” Bilas said. He’s already qualified for the slalom event at the 2018 world barefoot waterski championship, and is confident he’ll also earn a spot in the trick event. It will be held August 11-18 in Napanee, Ontario, Canada.
During his career, Bilas has also coached barefoot water skiing, and held clinics throughout the US and in locations as varied as China, Brazil and Western Europe. His editorial work has been published in recreational boating and mainstream media outlets in nearly a dozen countries.