Club History

For more than 60 years, The Rock Aqua Jays Water Ski Club (RAJ) has been thrilling audiences in Janesville, WI with high-flying, jaw-dropping water ski stunts on the banks of the Rock River. The 22-time national champion show ski team hosts free water ski shows at RAJ Stadium in Janesville every Wednesday and Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.


About 30 Janesville area residents gathered at Parker Pen to form the Rock River Boat Association (RRBA) for the purpose of improving the Rock River channel, promoting water safety, helping eliminate pollution, and promoting boating as a healthy, safe sport. Ernest W. Rost, Charles Davis, and Ted Eickemeyer were elected president, vice president, and secretary/treasurer, respectively.


The RRBA cleared, dredged, and marked a channel 37 miles long from Janesville to Jefferson and constructed a boat lift bypassing the Indianford dam.


The City of Janesville allowed the RRBA to use the clubhouse at Traxler Park (once called Goose Island). The Janesville Gazette and WCLO sponsored the “Aquacade,” an event that consisted of swimming races, boat races, a boat parade, and a ski show performed by members of the RRBA and Star Zenith Club skiers. “Aquacade” drew over 15,000 spectators in each of the five years it was held.


Tom Kuhlow, Billy Manthey, Wayne Manthey, and Roger Sterk formed a ski club and purchased a kit boat, which they named “4 Aces.” They named the ski club the “Rock Aqua Jays,” Rock coming from Rock River, Aqua being the Latin term for water, and Jays from the Janesville High School’s blue jay mascot. The RRBA gave permission for the Rock Aqua Jays to use the clubhouse in Traxler Park. The club consisted of 25 skiers and focused mainly on 3-event skiing but also performed a few ski shows.


The Rock Aqua Jays, along with three other ski clubs, formed the Wisconsin Water Ski Federation.


Hosted the Wisconsin State 3-Event Tournament and the Blackhawk Open 3-Event Tournament the following year.


As the 1960s drew to a close, the Rock Aqua Jays gradually began performing more ski shows each summer and by 1971 were performing every Wednesday evening and on three summer holidays.


Began performing shows on Sunday nights in addition to Wednesday nights and holidays. Built the first-ever amateur 3-tier pyramid on the water.


First tournament victory earned at the Lamb’s Farm Invitational in Libertyville, Illinois. Club members Duane Snow and J. R. Wilson developed a concept for a national tournament. The Rock Aqua Jays hosted the inaugural National Tournament at Traxler Park in Janesville. Nine teams competed.


Transitioned from a 3-event club to a show ski club. Purchased first public address system. Began improving the site by developing the beach and erecting four sets of bleachers. Upgraded to a professional sound system just two years later.


Won the National Tournament for the first time! Started another tournament, the Blackhawk Division II Tournament. Secured two industry sponsors: Correct Craft Boats and Connelly Skis.


Built the first amateur 4-tier pyramid on the water. Became the first team ever to sweep the three major tournaments to become what has been coined “Triple Crown Champions.”


Established a scholarship fund in memory of Kevin Freund for graduating high school members. Developed a junior program for new and younger members. Themed shows began to prevail.


Yamaha Motors and SkiWarm Wetsuits became sponsors. Began unprecedented string of success wining National Championship from 1985-1990!


The Janesville Gazette, WCLO, and WJVL signed on as sponsors.


Became the first amateur team to successfully build a 5-tier pyramid on the water and at the National Tournament.


Mercury Marine signed on as outboard motor sponsor.


Originated the Jewel of June Tournament (now called the Mercury Open Tournament). Malibu Boats became the inboard boat sponsor.


Became the first amateur American show ski team to perform in the Peoples Republic of China. Won 6th Triple Crown Championship.


Members performed in China for the second time. Hosted the inaugural American Wakeboard Association National Tournament.


Purchased the team’s first-ever triple rig boat, mounting three 150-hp Mercury Motors!


Won 13th National Tournament. Membership topped 170.


Purchased second triple rig boat; first boat in show skiing to have more than 600 Hp. The new boat was rigged with triple 250 Hp Mercury motors. Established new world record by successfully completing a 44-person triple 4-tier pyramid at the National Tournament. The world-record pyramid was, of course, towed by the new triple rig boat. Won 7th Triple Crown Championship.


Flooding prevented start of shows until the middle of July.


Members returned to China for the fourth time. Won 8th Triple Crown Championship.


Performed three shows at the Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. Established another horsepower mark with triple 300 Hp Mercury motors.


Spring flooding prevented start of practices and shows until after Memorial Day. Ten days later, unprecedented flooding forced cancelation of entire season. Flood waters reached 18 inches deep inside clubhouse and caused extensive damage to the stage, docks, beach, and grounds. Delegation of 16 members performed during the Formula One boat race in the United Arab Emirates in December.


Late Spring flooding resulted in the cancelation of seven shows, bringing the total number of canceled shows to 38 since the National Tournament in 2007. New paved stage and beachfront retaining wall installed. New roof installed on clubhouse facility.


Signed new 20-year lease at Traxler Park with option to renew for additional 20 years.


50th Anniversary events and special water ski show performance by past and present members. Invited to the Peoples Republic of China for the first ever International Water Ski Show Competition. Team represented USA in competition versus teams from Australia and China. RAJ delegation won overall international championship. Won 9th Triple Crown Championship.


Won National Water Ski Show Tournament for 17th time. Hosted the inaugural World Water Ski Show Tournament in September. Delegation of 40 members traveled to the Peoples Republic of China. Established Guinness World Record 48-person quadruple 4-tier pyramid with delegation of Chinese water skiers. Also became first-ever water skiers to perform on Kunming


Earned a Triple Crown Championship for the 10th time.


Earned 11th Triple Crown Championship! Added Nautique boats back as major sponsor. Hosted 2nd World Water Ski Show Tournament. Donated, with community help, a LED sign for Traxler Park. Also expanded seating capacity with new 20 row bleacher.


Hosted the final stop of the Pro Wakeboard Tour in August.


Won our 17th Wisconsin State Tournament. Started Food Truck Social Events at select ski shows.


Gerry and Cathy Luiting were inducted into the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame. Working with D&S Marine, created new vessel named Legacy for show skiing.


Won National Water Ski Show Tournament for 20th time, Attended City of Lakes Tournament for the first time and won 1st place. Set a new Guinness World Record for an 80 person pyramid.


Set an NSSA record for 8 Barefoot Pyramids with new Mercury V8 engines on the Legacy towboat.


Season was cancelled due to COVID-19, Hosted a National Individual Tournament in Janesville, WI


Won 21st National title


Won 22nd National Title and 13th Triple Crown


Tom Cullen inducted into the Wisconsin Water Ski Hall of Fame