Harry Luther Bio

Harry Mark Luther was born on 27 December, 1932 in Sydney, Australia. Harry was the youngest of four children born to parents Harry Lutherborrow and Lillian Margeurite Monk, who raised the family in their Weldon Street, Burwood home.

In April 1952, at the age of 19, Harry already showed signs of his determination to achieve. With a view to competing in a local cycling race in another state, Harry set off on his bicycle from Ballina on the north coast of New South Wales (NSW), bound for Bendigo in Victoria: a 987-mile (1,590 km) trip. After competing, he cycled 93 miles (151km) further to Melbourne, then 996 miles (1,604 km) back to Lismore in NSW to compete in the local 10-mile (16 km) championship race.

Harry was also a motor enthusiast, becoming a mechanic and enjoying tinkering under the bonnet of his MG. He took his MG and passion of motorsports to the track and was a competitive racecar driver prior to his passion for boats emerging.

Harry met Margaret Rose Potter in the mid 1950s. They had been living in the same street, Shaftsbury Road, Burwood. They were married in 1956 and daughter Chondelle was born in 1958. Harry and Margaret raised their family in Green Valley, a suburb west of Sydney, up until 1970.

Harry was then a delivery driver for Pepsi, and it was a well-known sight to see him in Kings Cross carrying multiple timber 24-bottle Pepsi crates in each hand – a nonchalant demonstration of the immense strength of his grip. This would later come in handy, not only for crushing Pepsi bottle caps between his little finger and thumb with Bruno Cassa in Italy, but for his future water-skiing feats.

Harry was always cycling; he took every opportunity he could to ride. Instead of driving the 49-mile (80km) round trip each day to work, Harry preferred to ride his bike and was known to race people who drove home – and beat them!

It was in his mid-thirties that Harry first tried water-skiing on a camping trip. He had early aptitude and fell in love with the sport in no time. His assistant, Jan Lawler, would later comment, ‘he was born to ski’. His competitive nature led him to continue improving his skills as a water-skier, naturally transitioning into Australia’s water-ski racing scene in 1967.

In 1969, Harry entered the Bridge to Bridge race, which would become Australia’s most iconic water-skiing event, with his boat, Miss Pepsi. Harry entered the twin rig class with the smallest boat, starting in 76th position. On that day, not only did Harry and his team win the event for their class, but they created a new course record, having passed 68 other boats and competitors.

After this, Harry and Miss Pepsi began placing first regularly in the races they entered. These early successes spurred Harry to take to the sport in his typical fashion, fierce and fast, and it was not long before he emerged as a true legend of the sport.

Harry was the first to take Australian water-skiing off shore, completing long distance marathons from Windsor to Wollongong, and Sydney to Newcastle.

In 1970, Harry entered the Pola – Cervia race that was Europe’s most popular water skiing event, spanning 80 miles (128 km) across the Adriatic Sea. He skied the Mediterranean as a warm up. This ‘warm up’ was to become the world record 3,144-mile (5,010 km) marathon water-ski from Tangiers to Cervia. Fresh off the elation of this achievement, Harry went on to win the Pola – Cervia race on 24 July 1970, becoming a world champion title holder and setting a record time of 1 hour 51 min 15.12 sec.

Harry would spend the next 4 years racing in Europe and breaking multiple records. One such took place on Lake Como, being towed by a Molinari-designed hydroplane drag boat, driven by Eugenio Molinari himself – the much-celebrated and world-record-holding shipbuilder and driver. That boat towed Harry to become the first water-skier in history to break 100 miles per hour (mph), reaching 107.116 mph.

Miss Pepsi was retired in 1974 and Harry entered the Italian cycling scene, spending the next 4 years competing throughout Europe. The ‘Canguro’, as he was known to his Italian fans, continued to shine even off the water. His superior endurance on the water naturally translated onto his bike, where Harry was an expert climber.

His final race was to take place in March 1988 in Perth, Australia. Harry was sprinting in the final stretch of a road race when he crashed heavily. The fall and severe head injuries he sustained left him unconscious and in a serious condition; he was placed on life support in hospital. After days of waiting, they found that, while Harry’s body was intact, he had suffered massive brain damage. Half of his brain hemorrhaging and the other half was not receiving blood. The result was that his mind would never be the same. The decision was made to let Harry go in peace.

Even after the life support system was switched off and Harry’s body began to shut down, the great Canguro’s heart at the age of 56, still beat strong, never easily giving up even after everything else had stopped functioning. This was the heart of a champion.

Harry’s death was a devastating loss to many; his daughter Chondelle, his second wife, Lynn, who gave birth to their son Mark just weeks after Harry’s untimely death. The loss was also keenly felt throughout the Perth cycling fraternity, who had embraced Harry on his return from abroad.

The first Harry Luther Memorial road race was held in May 1992 in Mandogalup, Perth, attracting 184 entrants. It was a fitting tribute to Harry Luther, the champion, the legend, the powerhouse, who never gave up.

Harry’s ashes were later scattered into the ocean in 1994, where he belonged and where he had originally discovered a sporting passion that took him far beyond what many dream of accomplishing. Chondelle let Harry drift back into the same waters that he used to water-ski in many years ago. The Canguro returned to the place from which he was created.

'Luther, in my estimation is not a skier, he is some sort of machine, he sees nothing but smooth water, even in seas like this.'  Bruno Cassa, Italian water-skier.

View Harry's Gallery here