He was Introduced to Water Skiing in Miami
Racecar driver, actor, model, aircraft pilot, movie producer, writer, and TV announcer.
Stew McDonald has been all of these, and more, but they recede into the background in favor of water skiing as the focus of his adult lifetime.
For more than 40 years, the primary attention of this energetic enthusiastic, imaginative man has been directed at some aspect of water skiing. Competition, show skiing, barefooting, intercollegiate skiing, judging, driving, scoring, rules-making, tournament organizing, teaching, kite flying. You name it. Stew McDonald identifies with it all.
And he came about it purely by accident.
Born Henry Stewart McDonald, III in Brooklyn, N.Y., February 20, 1925, Stew grew up in Washington, D.C., and after a stint in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, he turned to stock car racing. This interest ended at a North Carolina dirt track with an end-over-end crash that left him with a back injury and a yen to move to Florida for his recuperative therapy. In Miami he was introduced to water skiing.
A couple of lessons at Bruce Parker's Miami Beach Water ski school led within a week to the opening of his own ski school, along with his partner Dave Craig, on Biscayne Bay.
Taking advantage of the GI Bill, Stew enrolled at the nearby University of Miami where he and his friends formed a water ski club that eventually grew to nearly 400 members.
Stew's affair with water skiing really blossomed when he and an eight-car motorcade of fellow university club members visited Cypress Gardens on Thanksgiving weekend in 1948. The Gardens soon became a regular weekend destination, and it wasn't long before Stew was invited to ski in the Show. This began his identification with show skiing that has lasted in one form or another or most of his career.
Stew's Cypress Gardens exposure also lured him into ski competition. He entered the Dixie Championships in 1949, and later enjoyed moderate success at the national level, mainly in mixed doubles competition. His skill in the three disciplines was not of championship caliber; his own estimate: slalom, "my best," jumping "within a foot and a half of the Century Club," and tricks, "terrible".
So he turned to officiating, and for years he was a familiar figure in his striped shirt at all of the major tournaments. He became the first rated Senior Judge in 1959 under the new ASWA rating system. And he also became a rated driver and scoter. His numerous credits as chief Judge of three-event tournaments include the 1961 Nationals. He also was appointed judge at three world championships.
In 1957, Stew was elected executive vice president of the Southern Region of the American Water Ski Association and continued to serve on the AWSA board for eight years, including one year as vice president. He continues in the role of Honorary Vice President. Stew also is a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Water Ski Educational Foundation.
Stew was the Co-author of the AWSA Judges Manual and has written many other manuals and booklets for the Association.
Known for years as "Barefoot McDonald" and the name stuck. Barefoot skiing came as a natural extension. Organized barefooting has been his passion for many years. He has helped write the rules of competition. He has organized and served as Chief Judge at countless barefoot tournaments, including one world meet and four nationals, all the while assuming a leadership role in the American Barefoot Club.
Stew has been the chief announcer at many major tournaments and his expertise has made him a popular color commentator for the television networks broadcasting water ski competition.
On a more personal note, Stew figures water skiing has improved his physical well being immeasurably (he was sickly as a youngster). And has helped open doors for him as an actor and model and a TV and picture producer.
His continued active interest in the sport he sees as "my way of a modest return for all the things that water skiing has done for me."