The History of Water Skiing in Lake City

 In 1922, local teen Ralph Samuelson took a homemade pair of skis and his daredevil determination and got behind a boat on Lake Pepin to make history. After three days of no success, Ralph decided to keep the ski tips above the water and the rest is history. He went from sitting in the water to skiing on top of it.

Ralph started drawing crowds and attention. Town officials started paying for the fuel for his boats and Ralph started adding tricks. Samuelson then went on exhibition tours around Minnesota to showcase his talents, inspiring others to try the water sport.

Ralph Samuelson was pulled by an airplane for some of his performances. The main photo shows him in 1924 with his skis and a WWI seaplane. Ralph gave a pair of his first skis to the Minnesota Historical Society. They are on exhibit at the Minnesota History Center in Saint Paul. Replica skis are in the mini-museum located in the Lake City Marina administration building.

In 1972 Lake City held the first Water Ski Days. A monument dedicated to the invention of water skiing came 4 years later and stands along the shore today.

In 2022 we celebrated 3 big milestones, 150 years of Lake City, 100 years of waterskiing and 50 years of Water Ski Days.
Today, we still celebrate this accomplishment with an annual Water Ski Days festival, always held the last full weekend in June. Be sure to join us!

Thank you to the Lake City Historical Society for the images and the information! Visit them online at