Freddy Krueger: A real ‘Nightmare’ on the water

Photo by USA Water Ski & Wake Sports
SOARING THROUGH THE AIR off a jump is Freddy Krueger during a Mastercraft Pro Ski competition last year. Krueger is a professional jumper who will be competing in the U.S. Open of Waterskiing at Waters Edge Subdivision in Wilmington on Thursday and Friday.

By: 
Shawn Long
Sports Writer

by shawn long
Sports writer
He’s the world record holder for a waterskiing jump the length of a football field.
While no one has broken that feat since 2015, he personally strives for an extra foot or two during each jump, he’ll get the chance to better his distance starting Thursday in Wilmington.
He’s Decatur, Illinois native Frederick (Freddy) August Krueger IV, who will be competing against 70 or so other professionals in the U.S. Open of Waterskiing held at Waters Edge Subdivision at Peotone Road and Highway 53.
One foot further
Krueger, age 46, is in the Guinness Book of World Records for ski fly jump of 312 feet set during the World of X-Games MasterCraft Throwdown in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“The thing that makes jumping exciting is going one foot further than you ever have,” said Krueger. “As a kid I was trying to jump 56 feet which is what I needed to qualify for the regional championships. I jumped like 52, 53, 54--I could not get that 56. I remember hitting 57 feet which was three feet farther than I’ve ever been. It was the most exhilarating feeling. That’s still the feeling I get today. The stress that came with that jump was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. There was a huge sense of accomplishment when it was done but it was as much a sense of relief as it was accomplishment.”
His record was a ski fly jump, not a traditional jump. The boat (600 horsepower) was moving 15 mph faster (45 mph) with a rope 35 feet longer (100 ft.), and the ramp was two feet longer.
“That’s more like survival. There was so much exhilaration on that and every day in practice--I have a thing where I never go out there and just go through the motions at least not when I hit the ramp. If I put my skis on to go hit the ramp, I’m going. My job is to go out there and jump 235-240 feet. Anything less than that is a waste of time.”
Different approach
He said jumping takes a combination of speed and lift to gain distance.
After graduating from LSU, he moved to Jay Bennett’s Ski School, turned pro and began training with Bennett himself. Bennett knew Krueger had most of it down. He was just mainly there to keep him from killing himself. He also made him realize how he could use science to be better than the competition by adding direction to the equation.
“The idea is the amount of direction that you can create off the second wake going away from the boat. Not only does that create a tremendous amount of momentum and speed, it also creates an energy that makes the ramp impact smoother because you’re not coming around the pendulum and slamming into the ramp, you’re still riding the pendulum out. At a certain level, you plateau. To go further, it comes down to physics. That’s where I think I’ve been able to separate myself from the other skiers.”
He was a smaller guy so that gave him at slight disadvantage over some of the other heavier skiers.
“If you asked people about me, they’d say he’s built perfectly for the sport. I was small, I was compact and my strength-to-weight ratio was great. But when I started on the pro tour, I weighed 119 pounds and I was jumping against guys who weighed 190 pounds so they would tear me into little pieces so I had to think how am I going to use science to create all the energy they are. But I knew I could kick better than they could. So if I could get in the air, I was going to float on the wind and get to float like they couldn’t.”
The other Freddy Krueger
Don’t confuse this Freddy Krueger with the Hollywood villain in “The Nightmare on Elm Street.” He hates when people do but when he was growing up, it was hard to escape his inevitable nickname, ‘Nightmare’.
The ‘nightmare’ nickname stuck for good when he won his first ski tournament in what his opponent described a ‘nightmarish’ fashion.
“I actually won that event and people could overhear my opponent saying, ‘That was a nightmare’,” he said.
He’ll tolerate the nickname as long as everyone knows he was the first Freddy Krueger.
Progressively better
Krueger started skiing when he was three years old on Decatur Lake with his parents. He took to skiing like a duck on water and was soon on one ski doing slaloms and tricks.
“I was barely the best in our region, let alone the nation, let alone the world, so I was getting better but still had a long way to go.”
Things all changed when he attended college at Northeast Louisiana University where he would benefit from the knowledge of the people around him.
“I was surrounded by athletes and skiers who were better than I was. I thought I had a lot of natural talent but I was just kind of scattered. I wasn’t really focused in a single direction and I got around people who understood the sport better and understood the equipment better and for me, I was a kid in the candy store at that time. This was my dream.”
Learn the name
His dream become reality when he showed up at a national tournament in Shreveport, LA in 1995 at age 20.
“Nobody even knew who I was. I won and they barely even seen me at a tournament. I had never won a US Nationals and I came out and beat the best of the best.”
People weren’t going to be swayed by one fluke win so Freddy added more to his portfolio to convince everyone knew he wasn’t a one-hit wonder. He proved that when he won his first professional event which was quite remarkable as he was much younger pros are. Jumpers are usually 23-25.
“By the time you were 30 as a jumper--you were kind of getting used up. At that time, the sport was quite a bit different. We had shorter skis and we skied in conditions that were much more challenging--we crashed a lot more often so if you made it until you were 30 you were ancient.”
Way ahead of pack
Krueger earned his pro card at 20. In order to do that, he had to clear 176 feet on a five foot ramp to move up to the six foot ramp and up in Open Rating to challenge the pros on the Open Division. Nowadays, it’s much higher as young adults now have to do over 200 feet before they can try the six foot ramp.
A veteran jumper in the sport, Bruce Neville, who was 37 at the time, inspired him to keep going for it. He knew he was only one jump away from doing something big.
“Bruce was a legend. He was a competitor. He was a great person. When Bruce retired, I was 26. At that time, I was thinking hey, maybe I could make it until I’m 36 or maybe I could make it until I’m 40. As a jumper we have a saying: ‘You’re always one jump away from doing something else.”
He knew he was part of an elite group of skiers 45-50 as most don’t make it that far. American skier Scot Ellis is 50 and still competing. And Ellis is at the top of the pack.
“I keep looking at him and thinking he’s still holding it together and his body is handling it so I told myself as long as I’m competitive and I’m still winning events why not?”
One durable life
Even bad injuries didn’t slow Freddy down and he suffered a pretty significant injury during the US Masters in 2017.
“I tore a stomach muscle, strained my groin and strained my pubic symphysis which is the tendon that wraps around the horn in the front of your pelvis. When I would walk, I could feel my intestines moving. It was so painful that I couldn’t put my socks on by myself.
“My dad always had a saying, ‘it’s not if, it’s when and how bad’. I’ve had crashes where you did a belly flop off the dock and I’ve also had crashes where you’ve got to be carried out of the water. To say that I have been blessed and durable would be an understatement. I’ve been very fortunate.”
Still, with all the spills he takes on the water, he always makes sure to do his prehab workouts to help his body recover. At 46 years old, Freddy feels better than he ever has.
“I feel amazing and better than I’ve felt in a decade. Part of that is me getting smarter about my training and not landing on my head a lot. My time on the water has decreased and the stuff I have to do off the water has increased. My wife and I work with a group that does functional movement training. Those workouts are like prehab. You do these workouts and movement patterns before you get injured.”
Nightmare 13, Inc.
Events and sponsors don’t pay skiers like they used to so he had to get another job to make a living. And rather than going to find a job, he used his sponsors and his knowledge to his advantage.
“We had sponsors paying us to ski to get on television. We were on ESPN, OLN and the Outdoor Network. A lot of that has changed. The Internet has changed. Attention spans have changed. I saw the writing on the wall pretty early.”
Krueger collaborated with Andy Macklin, another professional skier, by starting a consulting business. Krueger and Macklin skied together when he moved to Florida. That’s when their friendship and the company took off. Andy did well networking for the company.
“Probably the greatest skier in the sport, Andy Macklin was a slalom skier. He was a businessman as much as he was an athlete so he had done an amazing job as far as integrating himself in with different companies of the sport. One of the companies he got involved with was Innovation Controls who introduced the cruise control system that we used for the sport.”
Macklin used his slalom knowledge and Krueger his jumping knowledge.
“Andy had helped them with the slalom program but needed help with the jump program. So not only was I one of the best jumpers in the world but I also understood Perfect Path which was our competitive brand. I learned it inside and out. I was a natural fit to that so he and I started working together on these projects and he helped me understand how to create value to the companies that were sponsoring us as athletes.”
Krueger and his wife Karen Truelove Krueger, a top professional slalom skiers in the world, live in Winter Garden, FL with their sons, Ridge (7) and Dash (12). They work together doing consulting work at Nightmare 13, Inc. when they’re not on the water.
“We’re both still competing professionally but a big bulk of our job is consulting work for MasterCraft boats and D3 skis and Innovation Controls so it’s been a very cool transition to go from the highest level of the sport, from a competition standpoint, to then be a part of the development of the sport and helping push products for it. Whether they’re high end skiers or beginner skiers, our job is to enhance that experience.”
While he loves consulting, he’s glad he never grew up and got that real job his dad told him to get. This sport has taken him to over 50 countries. It’s helped him meet thousands of amazing people. It has given him everything he’s wanted and more.
“At the end of the day for me, what I get to look at is the fact that I chose this path. The fact that this is how I wanted to spend my life. And the fact that I’ve been able to do it for so long and have the success that both Karen and I have had, and we now get to see our kids enjoying it. I don’t see anything I would rather be doing. Nothing would have brought me anymore happiness and anymore joy than what 27 years of this life has brought.”
Inspiring Dash, Ridge
His two sons now love to ski but it wasn’t always like that.
Dash was more interested in tricks he could do on the trampoline and Ridge was glued to the computer seat watching ski jumping videos. But brotherly competition kicked in and once Ridge showed he was getting better than Dash, the two never stop trying to outdo the other.
“It sparked a momentum and they’re just going at it hard.”
They’re getting competitive but he reminds them the goal is to have fun. His advice to an up-and-comer would be not to get caught up in the results and the competition.
Krueger, who is sponsored by MasterCraft, OJ Props, Innovation Controls, D3 Skis, Masterline Ropes and Eagle Wetsuits, is just one of the 70 professional skiers who will be competing in slalom, trick and traditional jumping events at Water’s Edge Thursday and Friday.