Some people may think Tony Klarich is squirrelly and a little bit nuts. Some may call him a big baby. A clown. A grandma’s boy. A showoff. He is – or was – all of those and more during his “California Skier 50 for 50” event at the Long Beach Marine Stadium on August 22.
Known as “the guy who skis on anything,” Tony has been selected to the U.S. Show Ski team that will be participating in the 2016 Show Ski Worlds. Not that that’s anything new for the Canyon Lake legend. Tony has performed on skis and other towed objects all over the United States, as well as at shows in Canada, Ecuador, England, Monaco, Russia and Switzerland, to name a few. He is a 10-time national and world champion on kneeboard, wakeboard and hydrofoil.
As for the Long Beach event on August 22, the spotlight was on Tony as he successfully rode 50 different items in one day to celebrate turning 50 years old. At least two dozen Canyon Lakers and many family members were among the more than 500 spectators on hand to enjoy the show.
But it wasn’t just about Tony. Several Canyon Lake water sports legends contributed to the action, including his uncle Mike Murphy, who at this event broke the world record for riding the tallest hydrofoil at 11 ft. 3 in. This beat the old record by about six inches.
Mike, 67, a legendary waterman, has been hydrofoiling for more than 50 years and has been at the forefront of foil design for several decades. Mike was one of the original patent holders for the first sit-down hydrofoil, the Air Chair. He later went on to found Sky Ski in 1998. He has set world records and been crowned a Big Air World Champion. Years of foiling success have lead to his latest business, Next Foils (NextFoils.com).
Another Canyon Lake legend and former pro wakeboarder, Ron Stack, has been riding with Tony and Mike for more than 20 years on wakeboards, hydrofoils and wake kites. In 1994, Ron created the vertical pylon extension, Air Boom. Today he continues his tradition of innovative creation with his high-end chopper bicycles (AirBoom.com).
Chuck Sacks, owner of California Skier boat dealership in Lake Elsinore, was the title sponsor of the 50 for 50 event. Chuck has been active in all the local water sports clubs for decades, and has partnered up with Tony for several large events, including the “40-40-400” and four “Flight Worlds of Hydrofoiling.” (CaliforniaSkier.com)
John Whitlow was the co-announcer at the 50 for 50 event. He is a longtime resident of Canyon Lake, active in the water sports community and most often heard behind the microphone during the Fiesta Day Ski Shows each year.
Ben Sims has been in the community for several years and is the regional representative for Hyperlite Wake Co., which creates wakeboards, wakeskates and wakesurfers. Ben participated in one of the 50 for 50 rides by flipping his wakeboard over Tony, who took photos from a tube.
The Loney family – Don, Traci, Donica and Destiny – are fairly new to Canyon Lake, but have been extremely active with Canyon Lake’s ShowCal Skiers, of which Tony is a member. Donica and Destiny participated in one of the 50 for 50 rides, the human pyramid.
Canyon Laker Mike Clary has been a professional action sports photographer for years (MikeClaryPhotography.com) and volunteered his time to capture dozens of images from the 50 for 50.
The day was organized into six acts that included a history of water-skiing. It featured vintage rides such as a 1932 aquaplane, a 1958 doubles act from Cypress Gardens, a ride on the first wakeboard and others. Tony and his friends demonstrated almost every aspect of towed water sports through the years, many of them with Tony in costume.
As Mike Clary notes, costumes were a big part of this event, making it even more interesting to photograph. One act Tony performed with Stacy Norred was the recreation of an actual ride from historic Cypress Gardens in the 1950s, right down to the skis, swimsuits and presentation.
And then there were Tony’s just plain fun costumes: clown on a crate, tourist on a suitcase, squirrel on “squirrel skis,” fisherman on a paddle, construction worker on a pallet and baby in a diaper, to name a few.
One of the more inspiring moments of the show, according to Chuck Sacks, was seeing double amputee Dell Miller make a show pass after losing his legs only a few months ago. Riding for Adaptive Athletes (iamadaptive.com), Dell rode a board, flanked by Tony and Mike Mack. Another inspirational rider was blind skier Scott Leason.
One of the historic moments was when Tony impersonated a pioneer of wakeboarding, Liquid Force co-founder Tony Finn – especially since having Tony Finn at the show made it even more entertaining.
Traci Loney appreciated the history represented in the show. She says, “My biggest highlight of the day was seeing the history of water-skiing unfold. It was a special feeling that everyone had when Tony took the history and brought it to the now. Seeing stuff from the past, especially the things related to the Murphy-Klarich family, was moving. Tony rode his grandfather’s step-off skis for one of the acts, and his son’s ski skimmer for another. He even took a ride on his grandmother’s picnic table!”
Many of Tony’s family members attended the event, including his wife and son, Shonna and K2, his mother Mary Klarich, sister Kathy Jessen, plus uncles, nephew and cousins. One family highlight was when Tony and four other family members rode their hydrofoils together and were pictured jumping at the same time.
Tony says of the show, “From classic rides and wacky costumes to extreme action and world records, the California Skier 50 for 50 had something for everyone.”
A professional team of six videographers was on hand to capture the action from land, sea and sky. A professionally produced documentary of the event is in the works. Marcus Brown is heading up the project and his pre-event video can be seen at TonyKlarich.com.
Tony is now in training for the 2016 Show Ski Worlds but, on the side, says he plans to experiment with “riding behind as many things as possible – a horse, plane and dogsled team are all on his list.” Follow his journey on Instagram @WaterSkiersLife.