Water skier, boat pioneer raced through life
By ANDREW MEACHAM, Times Staff Writer
Published November 13, 2007
In 1961 at Cypress Gardens, with water spraying up shoulder high, Randy Rabe did something no one had seen before: He skied barefoot and backward. Rabe died Friday after suffering a series of strokes. He was 66.
Throughout his life, Randy Rabe found new ways to go fast on the water.
In 1961 at Cypress Gardens, with water spraying up shoulder high, Mr. Rabe did something no one had seen before: He skied barefoot and backward.
And stayed up, according to the American Barefoot Club, a water skiing association.
Mr. Rabe's skiing prowess earned him an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
That same year, he and a pair of teammates took turns skiing behind a tanker, from Tampa to New York.
In 1968, Mr. Rabe launched a boat-building company on First Avenue S.
He helped pioneer the V-hulled "cigarette" boats that bounce over the water up to 100 mph.
As a driver, he holds a world record for racing from Miami to Nassau, his family said.
In the 1990s, he supplied the boats and drove for Hulk Hogan's television show, Thunder in Paradise.
Mr. Rabe also loved fast cars. He outfitted his wife's Cadillac with dual exhaust pipes and mag wheels.
"He ran hard. He was focused on winning," said former professional race driver Gary King, 61, who raced with Mr. Rabe and against him.
Mr. Rabe was gregarious at parties, sometimes showing up in a purple wig and a Speedo, with metal flake slippers.
The party slowed down for a decade while he tried Alcoholics Anonymous.
"He was so depressed for the 10 years he wasn't drinking," said his son, Parker Rabe, 34.
He recalled a family legend from the 1970s, when his father outfitted a 28-foot boat with a jet engine.
"It was so unwieldy it would never work," Parker Rabe said.
His father planned to debut the Spirit of '76 in Fort Lauderdale.
But when he fired up the turbine, flames shot out of the exhaust, and a palm tree caught fire.
Mr. Rabe was not at all embarrassed when firefighters doused the tree, his son said.
"He thought it was great."
Mr. Rabe died Friday after suffering a series of strokes. He was 66. Andrew Meacham can be reached at 813 661-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born: Oct. 15, 1941.
Died: Nov. 8, 2007.
Survivors: wife, Linda; daughter, Caroline; son, Parker.
Service: 1 p.m. today, Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, 2201 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.
[Last modified November 12, 2007, 22:17:08]
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