Meet the Staff

Our dedicated and professional staff love the sport and bring years of experience to their teaching.

Chuck Blood

Chuck retired from a great career teaching Marketing and DECA at Cherry Creek High School. He has been teaching water skiing since 1971. He has owned the Soda Lake Water Ski School since 1988. Basically, he’s been running a ski school longer than most of us have been alive (that’s old!). Chuck is an AWSA certified instructor as well as a trained driver. He is an accomplished skier, running 3 at 32”off at 34 mph in the slalom course. He has great form and a strong skiing style. In his spare time, Chuck also runs the Soda Lakes Marina and Concession stands. He has a wonderful wife, Valerie, a beautiful daughter, Lauren who graduated from Vanderbilt with her masters and is currently teaching elementary school outside of Nashville. His son, Chase also graduated from Vanderbilt and went on to get his masters at USC in Building Sciences. He works as civil engineer in Seattle.

Gayle Kakac

Gayle’s first time on water skis was at the age of 7. She started working at Soda in 1987 and this is her 32nd year working at the ski school! She became the manager in 1995 and shares responsibilities with her husband Brian. They have two daughters who love to ski, wakeboard and ride in the boat.

As a tournament skier, she ranked 6th at the ‘92 Western Regionals in Greeley and 8th in the ‘94 Western Regionals in Washington. She was voted the “Colorado Female Water Skier of the Year” in 1993.

She skied her personal best, 1/2 @ 35’ off at 34 mph just before retiring her slalom ski to pursue wakeboarding. She placed 2nd next to Andrea Gayton in the Women’s Pro Division at the ‘96 Boardfest Competition and was immediately asked to become a team rider for Hyperlite. Unfortunately, three days later while doing a backroll at the Ski School, she suffered a severe back/hip injury and couldn’t ski or wakeboard again. She now focuses on getting well, driving and coaching. She is a Trained Wakeboard and Slalom Driver and has had her safety and wakeboard judging ratings.

Brian Kakac

Brian owns his own business called Red Rocks Fire Protection. He has worked at Soda since 1995. Brian was a former slalom skier who followed the path of the dark side and became a wakeboarder. He is an outstanding wakeboard coach, the best in the region, and an exellent wakeboarder, having himself been coached by the likes of Shaun Murray, Darin Shapiro, Chet Raley and other big guns.

In his day, he was a team rider for Hyperlite and was sponsored by Oneil, Counter Culture, Nuprin, and Crossroads Family Chiropractic. He took 23rd in the Open Pro Class at the 1997 Wakeboard Nationals in Dallas, Texas, and 20th in the Open Pro Class of the 1998 Wakeboard Nationals in Denver, Colorado. Brian competed on the national level for 3 years, riding competitively in the Open Pro Class.  As age and injury crept in you’d find him on a slalom ski, although he won’t readily admit it. His personal best is 4 @ 32off at 34 mph. Brian also has lurking in his not so distant past a heck of a lot of time cutting up the waters with his bare feet, footen that is!

Troy Mc Cauley

Troy has a family owned business called True Value Hardware. He has been working at Soda since 1989. Troy began skiing since the age of seven and has skied competitively since 1983. He was a member of Laku Landing during its opening years. Troy helped to build the jump ramp and the docks, install the slalom course and build the site. While tournament skiing at Laku Troy became a qualified judge and helped to run the tournaments. Now that he spends most of his time exclusively at Soda, he also helps a great deal to keep the facilities at the ski school in good running order. His personal best slalom run is 5 @ 32’off @ 36 mph. Not only does Troy ski, but he has also tried to expand his horizons by learning to trick ski and wakeboard.

James Lestina

James is a retired spacecraft technician at Lockheed Martin. He is married and has one lovely daughter who is now grown. James began working at Soda in 1997. His general interest is in the mechanical field, so he is often maintains the boat and supporting equipment during the normal wear and tear of it’s extensive use at the ski school. James also maintains the general ski school facilities, so if something looks nice you can most likely thank James for doing such a nice job! He is a trained driver, currently working on driving techniques for both barefooters and wakeboarders. He’s been seen shortening the rope around here. If you have watched his form and seen him ski, you’d have to agree he won the “Most Improved Skier” for the last few years in a row! If you’re interested in improving, James is the guy to talk to! We are really proud of him!

Eric Spitzer

Eric has worked at the Ski School for over ten years.  He is a boat owner himself, so he has spent a ton of time coaching, driving, skiing and surfing.  Eric is a great guy with an amazing style who loves to coach and drive.

Ryan Proctor

Ryan’s been water skiing since he was five, therefore he’s done about everything you can do behind a boat, but his main passion is slalom skiing. He’s been working at Soda Lakes since the summer of 2005; shortly after relocating to Colorado from California. He’s happily married and has 2 wonderful daughters, who both enjoy being around the water.  When not spending his time at the lake, Ryan teaches math at Front Range Community College. Besides water skiing, he enjoys running, hiking, biking, snowboarding, reading, swimming, and almost anything else outdoors. Ryan’s PB in slalom is: Practice- 2 @ 38 off, 36 mph (done here at Soda Lakes!!!) Tournament- 3 @ 35 off, 36 mph. Ryan is also a highly technical skier and a great slalom coach.

Terry Wehnes

Throughout the year, Terry works full-time as a paramedic at Evergreen Fire and Rescue. During the winter he also ski patrols for Loveland Ski Areas. With his training as an EMT he also trains the ski school staff in the latest life saving techniques and safety standards of FIrst Aid and CPR. He’s a good guy to have around should any medical need arise.

In addition to his best slalom at 5 @ 35 off at 34 mph, he surfs and enjoys skiing with his son Brock, who runs 22′ off at 30 mph. He helps with kids classes and has a great time teaching and training the kids.

Terry loves the water and works very hard to give all of our clients the best ski experience possible.

“Soda staff and customers are a big part of an enjoyable summer for me”.

Ellen Bennett

Ellen first learned the slalom course in 2001. She entered her first water ski tournament in 2004 and qualified for Regionals. She moved to Denver (from Ohio) in 2006 and has been a driver/coach at Soda Lakes since 2007. Her personal best in practice is 2 at 32 off (34 mph) and 4 @ 28 off in a tournament. She qualified for Nationals in 2009. She is currently ranked 3rd in Colorado and in the top 40 Nationally in the Women’s 4 division.

Ellen has 2 daughters who are frequently seen with her most days at Soda. Erika, her younger daughter, has finally developed an interest in slalom as well and is learning the course. Andrea, her other daughter, just loves to hang out and answer the phones! Stretch, the family Great Dane, has inadvertently become the lake mascot.

When Ellen is not skiing, she is usually depressed and thinks about skiing. If it is summer and too windy to ski, you may find her on the golf course or on horseback. She enjoys snow skiing during the winter (or waterskiing in Florida when she can get away).

DJ Gratzer

DJ is originally from Tucson, Arizona. He recently graduated from CU Boulder with his degree in Environmental Design, emphasis Architecture. He started skiing when he was six years old, he began knee boarding at two years old, and was 8 when he first ran the course at Willy’s ski school. He started competing at 12 and has medaled in several Regional’s in Jump and Slalom. He attended several National Championships as well but has been just short of the podium. He helped start the CU Waterski Team as Vice President the first year and became the President for the following two years. He started working at Soda Lakes in 2009 and he’s loving it like McDonalds! His short term future plans are unknown, but his long term goals are to work as in architecture. If anyone has a job opening he’s all ears.

Michaela Cooper

Michaela grew up on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia where she learned to waterski at the age of 4! She spent summers working at Coble Waterski School in North Carolina, and traveling to tournaments with her 3 sisters. She was the Captain of the Rollins Waterski Team during college, and then worked and skied in Charleston, SC after graduating. Last summer Michaela made the move to Boulder, and joined the Soda Lakes team. Michaela recently tied the Women’s 2 Colorado State record in the state tournament at Laku skiing 2@38′ at 34mph.  Michaela loves coaching and helps to keep it simple for all levels of skiers.   
Michaela’s slalom ski career highlights include:
Collegiate Career (2007-2011):
·    Captain of the Rollins College Varsity Waterski Team (2009-2011)
·    3 time All-American at the Collegiate Waterski Nationals
·    1st place D2 Collegiate Waterski Nationals (2009)
·    1st place NCWSA All-Stars (2009)
Top Accomplishments:
·    3rd place at the JR Masters (2007)
·    1st place at the JR US Open (2010)
·    Competed in the U21 World Championships (2010)

Adam Campbell

Adam formerly worked for Coble Ski School in North Carolina.  He also has experience working at kids camps in New York teaching water skiing. Adam is a great boat driver and as a skier he can hold his own, frequently running 22′ off.  He has about 10 inverts on a wakeboard as well!