History of the 1969 Hydrodyne Tournament Skier by Richard Ice
A friend and I left Topeka, Kansas around 6:00 AM July 10, 1969 and drove to the Hydrodyne factory in Harlan, Indiana to pick up my new boat. Somewhere around Fort Wayne, Indiana, when looking for Highway 37 to Harlan, I remember we got lost in the fog, which at times was as thick as cream gravy. To make it to the factory before it closed at noon, we finally stopped and got directions. We arrived on July 11, 1969 and I paid off the remaining balance I owed on the boat, around $2,400. I had put a $900 deposit down on it when I special ordered it. The running lights were optional. So the deck would have a clean slick look to it, I ordered it without them. Instead, I put teardrop bow lights just under the gunnel as you see in the picture today. They loaded the fully equipped Hydrodyne Tournament Skier onto my trailer. It was completely tournament ready to pull skiers.
Harlan, Indiana is in Amish country. On the way home we had to make a stop at a car wash to clean the one horse, HorsePower green exhaust picked up from the road, off the bottom and sides of the boat. I didn't need any green stains on a snow white, blue and red trimmed Hydrodyne. Later, down the road, when we stopped for gas, the station attendant asks, "Oh! You have a Jet engine in that boat?'' I replied, ''No, just a 160 MercCruiser IO." We got to St. Louis in time to go up in the arch. From the top of the arch the pickup and boat looked tiny, just like a model! We arrived back in Topeka late that night.
Late the next morning, I got up, put the K numbers on the boat, and took it to Lake Shawnee for it's madden voyage, which was on July 12, 1969. Some friends of mine came out and everyone skied. At that time, Sunday afternoon was busy on the lake, but late that evening when the water smoothed out, one of the guys with a 100 horsepower outboard wanted to race. He lost, and no one on the lake with either an Inboard or Outboard could touch the Hydrodyne that summer. My top end speed was 48 miles per hour. From that first day, the 1969 Hydrodyne was a real eye catcher on the lakes around Topeka as no one had seen anything like it before on the water. One of the ski club members I tournament skied with said it was a "real cat's meow".
In 1970 the Shawnee Boat and Ski Club held their first Capital City Open Tournament. My Hydrodyne got to pull its first tournament that June. After that, it was used to pull part of the ski shows held on the lake from year to year as well. A club member from Cedar Rapids, Iowa heard that I had a new Hydrodyne and called me up, offering to pay my entrance fee and mileage ifl would bring the boat to their tournament. So, I took the boat to Cedar Rapids and had a good time because some friends I knew from Lake Manawa, Iowa where also there. After the tournament was over on Saturday we went up the river to a cove and practiced our tricks. Some of the other tournaments the boat was in include:
• Air Capital Open on Santa Fe Lake in Augusta, Kansas
• MoKan Open at Lake Olathe in Olathe, Kansas
• Omaha Open on Labor Day weekend in 1970
• 1971 Flint Hills Open on a leased lake southwest of Emporia, Kansas (Picture)
• 1972 Rick McCormick Open
• 1973 Midwest Regional Omaha, Nebraska tournament on Carter Lake, where the boat was used as an option for the trick skiers
I also took the boat to a novice slalom tournament on the Lake of the Ozarks one year. After 1974 I quite tournament skiing and the boat was used for pleasure skiing. We changed jobs in 1976 and moved to St. Marys, Kansas. In 1979, the youngest daughter, Heather, was born so the boat wasn't used till she got older. Sometime in the mid 80's we went back to the lake some and water-skied. One year after Heather's softball season was over we took the softball team to the lake and taught them all how to ski. Things got hectic in the late 80's and 90's so the old boat got mothballed. I kept the engine turned over ever month or so for about 10 years while we didn't use it. After Floy, my wife, passed away in July of2000 and I retired January 1, 2001, I decided to go ahead and sell the boat or give it to the Kansas Historical Museum However, to sell it, it needed to be running. So, I rebuilt the carburetor, put new seals in the lower unit, installed a new fuel pump, and put points and plugs in her. And, it wasn't long 'til she came to life again. I cleaned up the haul and deck and took her to the lake. The old Hydrodyne and I were a part of what it used to be like out there on the lake.
I called Heather at Fort Hays State University, told her I had the boat running, and that I was thinking about selling it. She said she would like to ski one more time before I sold it. I had decided to take the grandsons 16, 15, and 12, at the time, to the lake as well. Heather came home one weekend in June and we taught the boys how to ski. After that, it was a good summer for the boys, their dad, and me. We made it to the lake once a week all summer and the boys are becoming quit the water skiers. Maybe I will be able to pull some of the Shawnee Boat and Ski Club's 4th of July Ski Show on Lake Shawnee in 2002. The grandsons are looking forward to skiing in it.
After finding the AB. Crosby Hydrodyne web site and seeing the boats still being used today, the 1969 Hydrodyne is a keeper. I am having the engine overhauled this winter and giving the boat a face-lift. I am looking forward to using it a lot next summer. It is a lot of fun to have people do a double take to look at a boat over 30 years old just like they did when it was brand new and ask how fast it will run? They can hardly believe it when I tell them that it runs just a little over 40 mile per hour with its streamline look. To most it looks like a 100+ miles per hour boat. I tell them it was designed to pull water skiers, not for racing. Although, I have seen a picture of a Hydrodyne at a factory that had dry stacks and a big V8. It looked like it might have been used for a drag boat, however, mine never has been.
As I use the restored 1969 Hydrodyne this summer and have more pictures of the boat in action, I will add them to the web page.