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Stars of Florida Water Ski Show Visits Lebanon

By Matt Heilman

Don Buffa has been taking water ski shows across the globe for many years now – since 1990, in fact. As a long time Cypress Gardens skier, Buffa took on the role of organizing international shows when Cypress Gardens stopped doing them. He became the founder and show director of Stars of Florida, and recently organized the 75th international trip for the team, this time to Lebanon.

Securing international shows isn’t easy. The connection to the people of Lebanon actually happened in 1998. While doing a Stars of Florida show in Egypt, they met a Lebanese skier named Alain Nohra, who said he’d like to host the team in Lebanon some day. Buffa and Norha unfortunately lost touch and Nohra moved to California. But, some things have a way of working out.

“Fast forward to January of 2011 and I got an email from Alain saying he was now the President of the Lebanese Water Ski Federation,” Buffa explained. “He was finally in a position to make good on his promise and have the Stars of Florida to Lebanon.”

The economy in Lebanon is based on tourism and the Lebanese people are “one of the most friendly and most helpful people you would want to meet,” according to Buffa. Unfortunately they are located in a region that is constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons. “They want nothing more than to live their lives like they once did and get back to the life they once enjoyed.”

This particular trip for the Stars of Florida was a mix of ski shows and education. “We always try to leave whatever country we’re in with a little knowledge of show skiing,” said Buffa. They took over trick releases for the boats, left them swivel skis, and made them a small set of pyramid equipment. “We conducted several clinics in pyramid, doubles, swivel, wakeboard, and jump. In fact, one of the guys was very close to landing a front flip.”

And every international trip is full of good memories, cultural experiences, and hospitality. This trip didn’t lack for any of those. “The hospitality is second to none,” explained Buffa. “They took us to an open air night club on the roof of a four story building. It cost $2000 to reserve a table. All I know is that our friend Woody would have no part in any of us paying for anything whatsoever that night. That’s just the way the Lebanon people are!”


Another successful trip is in the books for the Stars of Florida. They are eagerly anticipating their 76th international trip, which is undetermined at this point. “Most likely Mexico, Oman, Dubai, or Malaysia,” said Buffa. “I never can say where exactly – they come up quickly at times.” Wherever it may be, it’s sure to be another successful international show skiing experience.