Alliance: We want some good Cajun food. Who’s the best cook at the shop?
Bennett’s Boat and Ski: Angela Washington, but it’s not a fair competition. She’s the cook in the wake school and she’s from Louisiana. So, we pretty much leave all the cooking to her. It doesn’t matter if it’s jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, or seafood gumbo, she’s the best.
A: Bennett’s has some real roots in this industry. How and when did everything get started?
BBS: We started as a traditional water ski school back in 1979, working out of a lake house on False River. Since then, we moved to our current location just north of Baton Rouge where we are one of the top water ski schools in the world. As wakeboarding found its own legs as a completely separate sport, we adapted our water ski school program to include wakeboarding. Now wakeboarding represents nearly all of our growth and new customers across the board.
A: When did the boats become a significant part of the business and why did you pick MasterCraft?
BBS: The boat dealership has always been an integral part of our “one-stop shop” approach. We have always sought out the best products so we naturally chose MasterCraft. Their commitment to customer service, product innovation, and dealer support are congruent with our own business practices. Plus, have you seen the new X-Star? It’s badass!
A: Your store is connected to three private lakes. What came first, the lakes or the store?
BBS: Is this like the chicken or the egg debate? Without getting too metaphysical, the two are dependent on each other. Jay and Anne Bennett built the lakes first, and then the store started as a 10′x10′ trailer full of slalom skis. Later, we moved to our current site lakeside with 2,000 square feet of retail space.
A: What are the benefits of having the boat dealer and pro shop attached to the lakes?
BBS: It really allows us to be a one-stop shop for everything our customers need. Having everything in one place really allows us to focus on customer service. Naturally, a lake can’t really be on Main Street, and you can’t have a shop or a boat dealership way out of town. It only works because we have all of it.
A: You have a very robust inventory in the pro shop. What brands can a customer expect to see when they walk into the shop?
BBS: Liquid Force, Ronix, Hyperlite, Slingshot, O’Brien, CWB, Shred Ready, Militia Clothing, Reef, 69 Slam Swimwear, Oakley, Spy, Skull Candy, Contour, and too many others to print. We are constantly shifting inventory and looking for new products.
A: When people think of Louisiana, they think of swamps and gumbo. Why is the state such a great place for wakeboarding?
BBS: Mainly because of the swamps. They are everywhere you look and it really opens up the options for wakeboarding. You have everything including traditional boat riding, winching, two-way cables, and wakeskating behind flat bottom aluminum “Swamp People” fishing boats. Louisianans will literally ride behind anything that has a motor.
A: Besides the three lakes on your property, where do you guys ride?
BBS: Louisiana is covered in rivers and bayous. Most of the time, we ride on the Tickfaw, False River, the Amite, Diversion Canal, Tchefuncte River and Henderson Swamp. And there’s a whole bunch of lakes and rivers we haven’t even had a chance to explore yet.
A: Any chance we’ll see a two-way cable system at your lakes someday?
BBS: Not in the immediate future, but we have looked into it. We have made it this long in the industry by making calculated decisions and not just doing it mediocre. I think it’s definitely possible in the future though.
A: Your wakeboard and ski school has become one of the best in the nation. What’s the key to coaching?
BBS: Our key to coaching is to keep it simple and build confidence. It’s really easy to overwhelm someone with too many technical explanations, to try to adjust equipment or blame it on the boat wake, etc. We really try to have our students leave here with not just a new invert, but how they landed that invert and what it will take to learn the next one. It’s all about passing on the knowledge to make your own decisions.
A: Bennett’s is extremely active in the collegiate community. Which schools do you support and why?
BBS: We are located just outside of Baton Rouge, so we bleed purple and gold. The collegiate wake team at LSU is a great bunch of guys and gals. These guys are the future of wakeboarding, so we do our best to establish a long-term, working relationship with them.
A: You’ve hosted a few tournaments on your property as well. Tell us about those.
BBS: Lately, we have been involved with the Louisiana Collegiate Wake Tour and Bennett’s will be the site for the LCWT final stop next year. All the teams camp on site, so it turns into a pretty rowdy time. They are a great group of guys who are pushing collegiate wakeboarding not in just Louisiana, but Mississippi and Texas as well.
A: Catfish, crawfish, or shrimp?
BBS: No contest. There’s only two seasons in Louisiana, football season and crawfish season.
Bennett’s Boat and Ski
18605 Barnett Road
Zachary, LA 70791