Seriously Fun

A Touch of Glory

Chip Debus & Richard Cowell at Palm Beach Water Sports

Richard Cowell is a man of many stories, some which are almost unlikely to believe.  He has led an exciting life described in his book “A Touch of Glory”.  This autobiography shares his experiences with Wall Street, a romance with Ava Gardner, living in Paris, France, dinner with Howard Hughes, and travels around the world. His extraordinary journey gave him three quotes to live by in life. “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” – Vince Lombardi. ” It isn’t how you play the game that counts; it’s the score at the end of the game.” – Vince Lombardi. “The end justifies the means.” – Nicolo Machiavelli.

When you first meet Richard, you are greeted by a warm and friendly soul dressed in his water ski flair; a blue suit jacket with patches of history from past water ski tournaments. Many years ago, when you skied in competitions, you were presented with patches to sew onto your clothing, the more patches, the more super human you were in the sport. 

Richard “Dick” Cowell is 85 years young, lives in Palm Beach, Florida and continues to have a passion for water skiing.  He skis with Chip Debus at Palm Beach Water Sports several times a week. His discipline of choice is tricks since he gave up slalom one year ago due to a knee injury.  He has been skiing with Chip for over 15 years and when asked why he enjoys it so much he replies “Chip gives positive reinforcement, is a good boat driver, and helps me put on my skis on those bad days!”

Water skiing has enriched his life and he feels it contributes to his good health and water skiing gives him great pleasure to have met people all over the world. Dick began his on the water journey in 1946. He was in the Bahamas with friend Hunt Hartford and decided to take a water ski lesson from Bruce Parker.  Since Parker was busy and could only take one student for the day, a coin toss decided that the winner would ride in the boat with the beautiful driver Evelyn Woolford, and the loser would get the lesson. Dick lost the coin toss and got the lesson, from then on, he was hooked on water skiing.

At the IOC in Lusanne, Switzerland

In his later years, he had to undergo open heart surgery. The doctor told him water skiing saved his life by forming new blood vessels because he had blocked arteries; a phenomenon that a high level cardiovascular workout can sometimes create new pathways of veins. In 1946, water skiing was in its infancy and that year the World Water Ski Union was formed by André Coutou and is now called the International Water Ski and Wakeboard Federation IWWF. In 1949 the first world championships were held at Jaun-Les-Pins on the French Riviera.  Dick was lucky to be one of the six to be chosen to represent the United States, and the U.S. had a string of victories until 1991. To add to his list of accomplishments, he has attended every World Championship since its inception and participated in one way or another as competitor, judge, driver, member of the executive board, and President of the Federation.

In 1949 Dick water skied a distance run from Italy to France across the open Mediterranean.  His boat driver was Gianni Fustinoni and he took off at 10 a.m on September 1st, 1950, and six hours, fourteen minutes, and 161 miles later, he skied onto the beach at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, France to be greeted by a cheering crowd!  His run was recognized in the Guinness Book of Records until Bruce Parker and Evelyn Wolford made the 200-mile run from Nassau to Miami.

Dicks dream will be fulfilled when water skiing is part of the Olympics. He has lobbied in the past to get it approved and water skiing qualifies in every category except it uses a motor boat to pull skiers and motors are not permitted in the Olympics. 

The Euro Seniors in 1969 in Geneva

From Morocco to Canada and Germany to Hong Kong, he comments “What an experience to travel all over the world and see your friends, the heads of national delegations and executive committees. It is an honor to have known them over the years.”

Dick’s last competition was the European Seniors in Geneva, Switzerland in 1969, the same day Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. In 1996 he was the 29th inductee into the International Water Ski Hall of Fame.

What is Dick’s secret for staying young “Never quit” he says.

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