Does it get any better than the Southern 80? Australia’s most iconic water ski race is notorious for its thrills and spills. Every year, you’re guaranteed at least a few heart stopping moments.
We’ve trawled through YouTube and put together this list of 10 must-see clips from the Southern 80. There’s a bit of everything on here – broken records (and broken boats), close calls, supreme skill, nineties nostalgia and even a few laughs.
Before we begin, massive shoutout to water skiing legend Wade Bennett and everyone else who’s videos feature here. Wade’s Youtube channel is a paradise for lovers of Australian water ski racing and has every sort of clip you could ever dream of.
Nothin But Spin
Nothin But (2010)
It doesn’t get any hairier than this. If it wasn’t for the remarkable reaction time of Nothin But driver Stephen Hewitt, this could have been one of the worst accidents in Southern 80 history. Thanks to Geoffrey Hewitt (the observer on-board) for uploading this clip. Geoff held on for dear life but clashed with Stephen during the spin, breaking the drivers forearm. ‘A small price to pay considering what could have eventuated’ says Geoff.
Nice Bit’a Nostalgia
Top Shot, Showdown, The Sting, Cinders (2000)
Ahh, whatta year 2000 was. We’d just entered the new millennium, Sydney was hosting the Olympics and the Australian water ski racing scene was pumping. You only have to watch this clip to see the depth of talent that was running in the Southern 80. Top Shot was in record breaking form, Showdown wasn’t far behind and The Sting was right on their tail. Even Cinders makes an appearance!
If you want to own a rare piece of history, you have to check out our Heritage range. The iconic 2000 Southern 80 race has been immortalized forever in some awesome tees, singlets, stubbies and bar runners. But it won’t be around forever, grab it while you still can!
Too Close for Comfort
Merc Force (2013)
This clip proves that there’s more to racing than just the size of the motor. In 2013, Merc Force skier Jake Teggart came within inches of taking out this spectator at 120mph. Check out the skill and the strength he displays to save the bloke from being wiped out. You can’t tell me that water ski racers aren’t athletes!
If you’re a fan of Jake and the Merc Force team, you have to check out their official teamwear. Who doesn’t love that spiderman design!
Bright and Beautiful
Gods Gift (1993)
Here’s another trip down memory lane. The gorgeous God’s Gift being shown off in the static display before towing skiing legends Jamie Oliver and Wade Bennett over the finish line of the Bakers Blitz at 158.9km/h.
If you’re a fan of this beauty, you need to grab some of the beloved God’s Gift merch, custom-designed to match the retro style of the boat.
Little Man (2013)
Another Southern 80, another close shave. Little Man was leading the SMOC Expert race in 2013 when a spectator on the riverbank came a little too close for comfort. Nearly took out the dog in the water as well. Take a look.
If you’re a fan of the classics, you’ll love this clip! In 1986, the iconic Rolco set a record time of 36:18, knocking a full 2 minutes and 7 seconds off the previous record held by Rolco IV (1982). Rolco was driven by Murray Price, with Gary Price observing. The duo went on to win outright again in 1988 with a new record time of 36:12.
Legends never die! If you want to show your love for the Rolco, take a look at the official merch here. It’s a best seller though, so be quick.
The Syndicate (2010)
Everything was shaping up nicely for the Syndicate in 2010. The team consisting of Garry Rudd (driver), Boyd Edwards (observer), Kevin Vahtrik (skier) and Danny Cooper (skier) had taken several wins that weekend, including the Veterans Over 40s and the Bakers Blitz. Unfortunately, everything came undone in the Superclass race and The Syndicate was totalled when it left the water and took to the bush at 110mph. Amazingly, everyone survived the crash, with the same team coming back to take 2nd place in 2012 (beaten only by the iconic Hellrazor). How legendary!
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be strapped to the back of a twin turbo at 120mph, this might be as close as you ever get. The electrifying clip was filmed by either Daniel Graziano or Daniel Cotton whilst skiing the Bakers Blitz in 2012. Both of them went on to win the Southern 80 outright in 2020, driven by Darren McGuire and observed by Steven Robertson. I’m nervous just watching it!
A Rough Day at Work
Island Cooler (1991)
One more piece of nostalgia for old times’ sake. And this one’s a gooden. In 1991, Island Cooler was coming off of back-to-back record-breaking wins and was looking to make history with a third straight outright. But at 5.30am on the morning of the race, owner and driver Dennis ‘The King of the Murray’ Rowbottom wasn’t happy with the boats speed. He decided to rush it back to Lake Eppalock and transplant the motor. With 5 minutes to go, Island Cooler was nowhere to be seen. Watch what happens.
P.s. This Island Cooler banner is just too cool to ignore.
She Knows What’s Up
99 Psycho Clowns (2016)
I just had to throw this one in for good measure. Wait until the end - some of the best commentary I’ve heard.
She’s not wrong though is she? The lads at 99 Psycho Clowns are killing it at the moment and you can find all of the official Arkham 99 merch right here at Savage Force.