As the grandson of Captain Peter Williams1 and son of Frederick Williams, Forster marine engineer,2 it is no surprise that Fred Williams has had a lifetime’s association with water. His achievements in the world of water-skiing and boating are phenomenal, with humble beginnings in Forster to international acclaim.
Born in 1931, Fred was a carpenter joiner by trade. His first water ski project came when he made an aquaplane out of an old garage door. He convinced local man, Bert Tickner, to tow him behind his old power boat. It was a success and Fred’s passion for skiing began. He next used hot water to bend two old verandah palings into shape and nailed on sandshoes to create bindings – his first water skis.3 Fred improved the design and soon set up ‘Ski-Ace’, Australia’s first water ski manufacturing business started in an old bakehouse in Little Street, Forster.4
He moved to Sydney and in 1970 to Newcastle where his business expanded. Dozens of champion skiers used his product and he became the largest ski producer in Australia and third largest in the world. He trained Graham Barclay who went on to become Australian Champion and third in the World. Even Prince Charles used Fred’s ‘Black Max’ skis.5
In 1981, Fred was awarded the prestigious ‘Vapor Trail’ Award for top Water Ski Manufacturer internationally. Simultaneously he won design awards for his development of neo-rubber vests and wetsuits.6
In 2014 Fred Williams was inducted into the Australian Water Ski and Wakeboard Federation’s Hall of Fame.7 While Fred is now retired in Forster, his business name continues through the work of his son and granddaughter.
Author: Janine Roberts
Further information: Des Tinson, An Australian Story, Fred Williams, Father of Australian Waterskiing, the man, the icon.
1 Well-known and respected Captain in the Forster area. Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 11 August 1900, 5. https://midcoaststories.com/2018/06/the-wrecking-of-the-empress-of-india/
2 Ancestry.com.au, Electoral Rolls 1930, Forster, NSW.
3 Roy Wyndham, A history of Forster Keys & Forster Keys Progress & Ratepayers Assoc. Inc.
4 Des Tinson, An Australian Story, Fred Williams, Father of Australian Waterskiing, the man, the icon.