As a young man, Graham Barclay played professional rugby league football before a serious knee injury ended his career. Returning to his hometown of Tuncurry, Graham became interested in water skiing and asked his friend Fred Williams, who had started making water skis, to coach him.1
Fred devised a demanding training program, with Graham slalom skiing for 32 kilometres each morning and night. Each training session took three hours while they also worked full time jobs. Graham ingeniously used two Mini Minor inner tubes to support his injured knee.2
In 1959, the pair decided they were ready for competition. Graham entered and won the Sydney Metropolitan Slalom title and then won the NSW title. He entered the Australian Championships and won again – three titles in one year. He was selected for the Australian team for the World Championships in Milan, Italy.
Lake Maggiore was the venue and Graham had won all of his heats. On the day of the final the lake was calm but by the time Graham’s heat was on in the afternoon, the wind had whipped up waves. Graham skied the slalom of his life but the waves beat him on the last few buoys which he hit.3 He finished third in the world giving Australia the first placing ever in world competition!4
It was through skiing that Graham established his successful business ‘Graham Barclay Marine’. Although he gave up competitive skiing to concentrate on his businesses, he continued skiing and coaching and was always highly anticipated at Aquatic Carnivals.5 Graham and Fred were inducted into the Water Skiing Hall of Fame on the Gold Coast in 2017.6 Together they have made a lasting impact on the Australian water skiing scene and created a lifelong friendship.
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Roy Wyndham, A history of Forster Keys & Forster Keys Progress & Ratepayers Associations Inc.
3 Des Tinson, Fred Williams, An Australian Story, Father of Australian waterskiing, the man, the icon; Interview with Graham Barclay and Fred Williams, Tuncurry, 21 November 2018.
4 Australia at the World Water Ski Championships, http://www.seacraftskiboats.com/files/Aust_at_WCs_-_Copy.pdf.
5 Interview with Graham Barclay and Fred Williams, Tuncurry, 21 November 2018.