The Minnesota Water Skiing Hall of Fame has just 23 members, and three of them were produced by one household on the shore of Bald Eagle Lake.
Evelyn Chapin Duvall was inducted July 21, following her father/coach Tom Chapin, a pioneer of the sport, and her older brother Paul Chapin, long known for his showmanship on the waves, both previously inducted. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call them one of the First Families of water skiing in Minnesota.
“I was really surprised. Dad and Paul usually get all the attention,” Evelyn chuckled, during a recent gathering of the three of them for the Press.
She related that people frequently remark to her “I didn’t know Paul had a sister!” at the start of her induction speech at the state tournament. Not that she minds.
“With a brother as outgoing and talented as Paul Chapin, it was somewhat humbling to grow up in his shadow,” she told the audience. “But I held my own, thank you very much, and I am honored to be chosen to follow him and my Dad into the Minnesota Water Ski Hall of Fame.”
The Hall, which was created in 1990 by the Minnesota Water Ski Association (MWSA), and exists only online and on plaques, recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions. The first member was Ralph Samuelson of Lake City, known as the “Father of Water Skiing” as the first person in the world to traverse the water on two skis behind a boat, in 1922 on Lake Pepin.
Tom Chapin and his late wife Anzle, who grew up next door to each other at Bald Eagle, started water skiing in 1949. They were among the founders of the Bald Eagle Water Club in 1953, the year Paul was literally born into the sport. (It was originally formed to promote water safety on the lake and morphed into a skiing club.)
“My parents loved to ski and did lots of different stunts for fun,” Evelyn noted in her induction narrative. In the early '50s, they put on shows at various community festivals, including one where they skied behind an airplane on Howard Lake. Evelyn joined them in the late 1960s with the “little girls ballet” group. By that time, her dad, three brothers and she were competing at such sites as Lake Phalen, Lake of the Isles, Island Lake in Shoreview, Albert Lea, Dubuque, Iowa, and Minocqua, Wisconsin.
Her dad “made me feel as strong as the boys — and told me to growl when I pulled across the wake.”
Tom Chapin, 92, still lives near Bald Eagle Lake with his wife, Ida, and Evelyn and Paul live on the lake, Evelyn and husband Mark in the family home. Two other brothers, Ross, an architect, and Steve, who builds wooden boats, reside on the West Coast. They also water skied competitively, but not as seriously.
“It’s a family sport,” acknowledged Paul. “I learned to ski at age five here on Bald Eagle Lake, right in front of this house.”
Paul assembled a book of photographs and articles commemorating Tom’s — and his late wife’s and kids’ — long history in water skiing, on the occasion of Tom’s 90th birthday, two years ago. The family are also avid alpine skiers, and one black-and-white photo shows Tom airborne on the hilly White Bear Yacht Club golf course. There are photos of Tom as a robust young athlete bursting over the waters, and posed shots of Tom and his blonde spouse on the lake looking like a 1950s movie couple.
“Dad was one of the pioneers in (establishing) competing in the state, which started in 1954, and he’s been a president of the organization and national champ numerous times,” Paul said.
Paul, 65, has competed in 50 national tournaments, starting at age 10 in Long Beach, California. He was national champion in tricks in 1977 (in Berkeley, California) while taking silver in slalom and overall. He has posted numerous other top-five national finishes in all three events, and competed on the pro tour in slalom and jumping from 1974-79.
Paul recently retired as a pilot with American Airlines, where he was a captain on the 787 Dreamliner, flying all over the world. Besides competing, he’s active with the USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Foundation and serves as its president. The national nonprofit is currently constructing the USA Water Sports complex in central Florida which will have a cable wake park, a man-made ski lake and a new headquarters and national Hall of Fame museum building.
Evelyn, 59, started skiing at age seven and competing at age 11. She has competed in 26 national meets, posting 13 top-10 finishes and six top-five finishes. Her best finish was second place in 2012 in slalom. She placed seventh at this year’s nationals in Maize, Kansas.
She holds 10 state and regional records for points in slalom and tricks for her various age-group divisions, and her state record for the Women 2 division lasted from 1990 until this year. In 2005 she earned the Toby Shotwell Award for most points scored in a tournament.
An employee of Press Publications in design and layout, after serving the Star Tribune in the same capacity for many years, she has also served the MWSA as a designer of marketing materials and as secretary.
She couldn’t seem to get away from water skiing, even when she got married in 1990.
“My friends couldn’t believe my new name was Duvall — the biggest name in water skiing at the time,” she said, referring to Sammy and Camille Duvall, brother-sister champions of the day.
Her husband Mark water skied a little, although his favorite use of lakes was fishing, and now sailing, she said. Their kids and grandkids also took up skiing. After all, it’s in their blood.