SPORTSPAGE was almost a no show in this year’s race after the team struggled to find skiers just months out of the event.
The boat has raced the Murray River course every year since 1994, but driver and Moama Water Sports Club committee member Dean Johns said this year it was difficult to pin down two skiers.
‘‘It’s a bit tough at the moment out there looking for skiers,’’ he said in December.
‘‘The boats are generally going faster and there aren’t as many skiers moving up through the field who can handle the pace.’’
He has owned Sportspage since 2000 and knows his boat inside and out having built the big block Chevrolet engine himself.
But all his efforts would have meant nothing this year without Darren Stapleton and Troy Evans putting their hands up to ski in the 8 litre expert class behind Sportspage on Sunday.
Johns said wakeboarding had a big influence on the drop in people taking up the sport with a lot choosing to wakeboard instead.
‘‘A lot of the skiers coming through are also from existing families who have been in the sport for a number of years, rather than new people coming in to take up the sport,’’ he said.
He hoped this year’s rebranding of the Southern 80 and Moama Water Sports Club’s social media campaign would go a long way in attracting more people to skiing.
‘‘The build-up this year has been different for me because it’s the first year I’ve been involved from a committee point of few,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re trying to broaden our horizons as far as social media goes and keep up to date with all the changes in technology.’’
Johns still has a big role in the race side of things as a driver and former skier and takes a lot of pride in his work on Sportspage.
He added a good performance is even more special because of the time he had spent towards making the motor run as smoothly as possible.
However, there were still the odd motor problems now and then.
‘‘Running the kind of boat we do and the kind of engine we have means there are definitely issues from time to time,’’ Johns said.
‘‘We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, but the past season we placed fifth or sixth outright which was a good year for us.’’
Sportspage won its class in 2016, breaking the record in the eight litre expert category, and has previously finished as high as third outright.
The team has held the record for seven years in total and Johns said a lot of it comes down to knowing your boat and how it runs.
He and observer Sam Horne were just looking to finish the race in a good-natured fashion.
‘‘We’re just looking to have a nice clean run with a couple of guys who want to do it for fun, not sheep stations,’’ he said.
‘‘We just have fun and if we get a good result then great, we’ll celebrate.’’