If making new friends, hot tubbing, waterskiing and tanning sounds like a good time, then the UC Davis WaterSki Team is the place for you.
For members of this sport club, it’s all about fun and friendly competition in a welcoming environment, said team captain Scott Normandin, a junior from San Jose, Calif.
“It’s just really fun to get out there and get away from school every now and then. To come out to the lake … and hang out with your friends,” Normandin said.
Putting schoolwork to the back of your mind isn’t very difficult once at the team’s private lake.
The complex, Bell Aqua Lake, is located in Rio Linda, Calif. — twenty minutes up the highway from Davis. The five-foot deep man-made water ski lake serves as the team’s headquarters and practice facility. Complete with a jumping ramp, a slalom course, a hot tub and a brand new Malibu ski boat, Bell Aqua Lake is the perfect water ski environment.
“We have the best set up of all the universities in California,” said Max Roland, publicity chair and self-described “fun-raising officer.” “It’s an epic set up,” he said.
During the week, members of the team head to the lake whenever they have a free moment – be it before, between or after classes, but never during, they say with a laugh and wink.
Despite the emphasis on fun, team members often shift into high gear as they train for tournaments.
“In practice we’re all about … improving, working on skills and working on how to ski better,” Roland said.
Taking place just as the cold weather starts to roll in, the fall tournament season is the most competitive. Schools from around the country arrive at these collegiate water ski tournaments, creating a unique sporting atmosphere.
“We jump-start it in tournaments,” Roland said. “We know how to flip the switch between having a great time and turning the competitive nature on.”
At each of these tournaments, teams receives a cumulative score based on the individual performances of their skiers in the three events – slalom, jump and trick.
Slalom scores are based on the time it takes a skier to complete the course without falling. In the trick event, competitors are scored on the difficulty of maneuvers completed on single, wide, fin-less water ski.
In jump, scores are based on distance traveled in the air. The skier straps into two 90-inch skis and launches off of a ramp that is over five feet tall.
Sophomore Brad Mitchell, renowned for his poor music choices during team carpools and jumping prowess, explained the fundamentals of jump skiing.
“The key to jumping is cutting hard at the ramp while maintaining a strong body position, allowing you to properly boost off the ramp,” Mitchell said.
For sophomore Arielle Patton, this event is clearly her favorite.
“[The thrill of] jumping is the reason I get up every morning,” Patton added.
The fall season culminates at the National Collegiate Water Ski Association Western Regionals, held every year at a different location. UC Davis placed seventh this year, leaving them one spot short of advancing to nationals. Despite the disappointment of not qualifying for the final tournament, the team is confident that they will do so next year.
“Based on the way our team is doing … we should have a great shot of making it next year,” Roland said.
Unfortunately for the team, waterskiing is not a year-round sport. An extended winter break leaves members dying to return to the water.
To kick off the spring season UC Davis hosts its own tournament, the Spring Opener, at the lake in Rio Linda.
Because it is the first tournament of the year and Davis is centrally located, the Spring Opener is one of the biggest tournaments of the year. This event, which took place the first week of April, drew competitors from Arizona to Washington and all across California.
“Davis always hosts really good tournaments,” said sophomore Ariel Hagen, a member of the Cal Poly water ski team. “They have good officials … and it’s a beautiful site. [The Spring Opener] is an all around kick ass tournament.”
After the day’s water skiing, competitors spend the evenings and nights camping and enjoying the water.
“Everyone just hangs out,” Normandin said. “Big dinners are provided and there’s always campfires.”
The competitive fun never stops, with traditional games such as horseshoes and bocce ball always present. There are also more obscure games, such as “rescue the greased watermelon from the bottom of the lake,” which is a water ski tournament classic.
Regardless of previous experience, class schedule or any other factors, members of the UC Davis WaterSki Team are confident that if you’re up for new experiences, you’ll love the sport.
“We just work with people to get them out here to enjoy our awesome lake,” Roland said. “Come check us out.”
If you would like more information on the UC Davis WaterSki Team, contact Scott Normandin at email@example.com.
CAELUM SHOVE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.