OLDS — Former Olds resident and world champion water ski jump champion Ryan Dodd says he's not ready to stop after decades in the sport.
He loves it too much and figures he’s got many more years of competition in him.
Dodd is setting his sights on winning the world championships this fall In Orlando, Fla., breaking a record jump he himself set, 77.6 metres.
He won the world title in the men’s jump event during the U.S. Masters Ski and Wakeboard Tournament, held May 26-28 in Pine Mountain, Ga. jumping 67.9 metres to clinch the championship.
Dodd actually jumped further in the semifinals of the U.S. Masters, leaping 68.1 metres. He only needed two jumps to win the event so he didn’t need to make a third jump.
The U.S. Masters is one of the most prestigious water sports competitions in the world, attracting the most elite competitors from around the globe.
Dodd has been water skiing since he was about nine years old, starting first on a pond created by his dad on a farm northeast of Olds. He began competing seriously at about age 13. He turned professional and now lives in Florida.
He figures over the decades, he’s won about 50 gold medals or trophies and maybe a couple of hundred awards overall in the sport.
It’s safe to say he’s used to being on the podium.
“It’s in the last 10-12 years, 15 years, I started winning most of them,” he said during an interview with the Albertan. “Probably say 10 podiums a year for 20 years.”
His wife Breanne, 38, has won her fair share as well.
They met when they were teenagers at a camp in the Olds area that Ryan’s dad had set up.
“She was 16, I was 15 and we were trying to make the junior national team,” he said. “We met and we've been together since.”
In the last five years or so though, Breanne has concentrated more on raising their two children: Aria, 4, and Cruz, 1.
"She hasn't decided if she's going to keep skiing professionally yet,” Ryan said. “But she still skis every few days.”
Aria has been doing a little bit of water skiing but Cruz is just too young so far, Dodd said.
It was noted that in some sports, people think about retiring in their late 30s or 40s. Dodd was asked if he’s thinking about doing that.
He said that’s a question “with an unknown answer.”
Dodd admitted sometimes he wonders why he still has that drive to compete.
“I'm doing something, it's very dangerous,” he said. “I've had handful of friends break their neck.”
The sport has banged him up pretty severely too.
“I've balled discs in my neck. I've herniated discs in my back. I broke my ankle a few times,” he said.
Also, years ago, he also got in a bar fight that resulted in a skull fracture and bleeding in three areas of his brain.
He spends a lot of time doing physio, working with a trainer, and attending appointments with a chiropractor.
“Then I come back home to see the kids.”
Dodd said all that work and effort to look after his body has paid off.
“I've been jumping farther than I ever have in my life, so I feel very confident that I can break the world record (which he holds) this year and continue to push the sport,” he said.
“The goal is to completely dominate the kids who are in their 20s trying to catch me.
“I just want to see what I can do because I feel most alive and excited when I'm improving something.
“It’s such a measure of accountability because of the extreme nature of it, and because of, you know, just the physics, you're hitting a jump going 120 kilometers an hour.
“That's literally a wall. You're flying through the air, so you can't mess up, You can't. You have to be hyper-focused. Everything has to be dialed in and tuned into the senses: The wind, the boat, the ramp, the water, all factors.
“It can go quite well and be, you know, a euphoric or almost spiritual experience to utilize all these resources and fly through the air at such a high speed.”
But he admits when things aren’t going well “it just feels absolutely horrible and you can get hurt really bad.”
Dodd loves water skiing and jumping but there’s more to it than that.
“I want to raise the level of the bar in our sport and I want to inspire people -- you know, find their potential, push their boundaries.”
Over the years he’s been able to mentor others, including fellow Olds resident Kevin Spicer.
Spicer followed Dodd into the sport and has had great success. He too moved to the U.S. to pursue water skiing.
When they’re not water skiing, Ryan and Brianne run a property management and remodelling business.