Zack Worden, pro waterskier, brother and friend, suffered severe injury during a jump crash on September 11, 2021. During a practice jump while training for the Water Ski World Championships one of his ski tips was swept behind him and there was not sufficient time to recover the ski or commit to an OTF crash. Zack attempted to roll but was able only to tuck his head, spearing his body into the water and taking the full energy of the crash on his torso. The force broke his sternum and crushed his T6 vertebrae in every direction, something called a burst fracture which can easily cause permanent paralysis if it impinges the spinal cord. Fortunately the nerves of Zack’s spinal cord remained intact during the crash and a talented team of surgeons stabilized the thoracic spine, eliminating the risk he would lose feeling or movement of his limbs. They also confirmed that he wouldn’t suffer any life-threatening effects in his lungs or heart from the broken sternum. Zack’s friends, his family and the waterski world breathed a collective sigh of relief that he managed to avoid those outcomes.
For those not yet acquainted, an account of Zack’s waterski accomplishments reads like a comprehensive list of major junior, college, and pro events from the last two decades. Twenty years ago he won Boys 1 slalom at U.S. Nationals (then, like now, there was no Boys 1 jump event). The next year he won Boys 2 jump, starting a long streak of jump wins throughout the rest of his junior years and sweeping up gold medals at Pan Ams, Worlds, Masters, and the U.S. Open, sometimes in all three events, setting the Boys 2 (131’) and Boys 3 (191’) jump records as well as the Jr. Masters (188’), Jr. Worlds (190’) and Jr. U.S. Open (191’) records. In 2009 he graduated to pro and college skiing, dominating collegiate nationals every time he competed and setting the record there, too (195’). His first pro win came soon after, at the King of Darkness in 2010, spurring further wins in subsequent years at IWWF World Cup, Malibu Open, Madrid Pro, and U.S. Open, and countless podium finishes at Moomba, America’s Cup, Pan Ams, Masters, and Worlds. Zack set the National Mens 1 jump record (219’), the longest jump off of a 5-1/2 ft jump (228’) and sports a personal best of 234 feet, making him one of the top ten furthest jumpers since the birth of the sport nearly 100 years ago.
His proudest moment wasn’t even at a traditional pro event but rather something called the Twin Lakes CornFest where, in the fall of 2019 in Wisconsin, thousands of hungry mouths munching corn cobs were suddenly agape at the sight of a human being cutting a long arc through the sky. That human projectile was Zack, smiling from ear to ear, at the top of his game. When the event concluded Zack had won the “LD Jump” event and earned the infinitely unique and awesome title “Ramp Master Superstar”. Those in the ski world lucky enough to know the person behind the oversized checks, who can see past the charred remains of jump records from generations past, know a person who always keeps things positive. Of course his friends and fellow skiers, when asked, speak of Zack in superlatives: “legend”, “greatest of all time”, “Boy Wonder”, “Waterski Daredevil”. Yet the stories of his prowess on the ramp soon give way and are overshadowed by his stand-out attitude off the water. The man we know as Ramp Master Superstar has never failed to keep enjoyment of the sport his top priority. Less than two weeks after his surgery to repair multiple major vertebral fractures he briefly graced a group of his friends and amateur jumpers with his presence at a tournament at Fluid Water Sports. Superstar indeed.
Such unwavering dedication to the sport has shone throughout Zack’s career. Indeed anyone who hadn’t yet seen him ski would be forgiven for thinking he was simply a friendly and supportive fan of the sport who loves to be around people and help them have fun on the water. Among other things he has followed in his father John Worden’s footsteps serving as a technical controller, arriving weeks early to tournament sites to set them up and ensure skiers will have the best conditions.
With mounting bills and modest means Zack could use our support to make ends meet on his long road to recovery. We at Militia Clothing consider Zack to be one of us, and we are doing what we can to help him back on his feet. This special edition #flyforzack shirt is soft, comfortable, and it’s full of good feels for giving back to someone who has given our sport so much. All profits and any additional funds donated through this effort will go directly to Zack to support his recovery. Thank you.
This Fly For Zack shirt design features Zack's legendary 195' Jump from the 2011 NCWSA Collegiate Water Ski Nationals.