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She sits down in the calm water, clutching a rope.
Suddenly, the boat takes off, lifting South Oldham High School senior Elizabeth Fowler out of the water on a slalom ski.
She curves around a series of buoys with ease and grace.
A competitive water skier, Fowler is one of the best in the country. She’s also an instructor and this fall, she’ll be swimming with elite skiers at the University of Alabama.
Water skiing consists of three events: slalom, trick and jump. Slalom is a timed event using one narrow ski to navigate around a series of buoys.
Trick skiing uses a shorter, wider and flatter ski for skiers to perform jumps and twists using the wake created from the boat.
In jump skiing, a skier uses two longer and wider skies to propel off a 5 or 6-foot wooden ramp.
In each event, the boat travels up to 34 mph.
Though most skiers perform in one of the events, Fowler has honed all three, using impeccable skills to move her skis with precision.
“I’m pretty strong and that helps,” Fowler said. “Where you look is also important, because it slows everything down.”
After practicing at Taylorsville Lake, Fowler first competed in Paducah in 2002 after being coached by her father, John Fowler and water skier Gary Sandberg.
Sandberg is also a competitive water-skier and said he saw natural ability in Elizabeth.
“She impressed me the very first time out, how quickly she was able to follow direction and execute what I was trying to get her to do,” Sandberg said. “She’s strong, has the hunger, she’s smart and very athletic.”
Fowler competes in at least six tournaments each summer, including at Paducah, Elizabethtown, Walton and Stillwater Lake in Eminence.
In August, Fowler competed in the American Water Ski Association’s national championships in Wilmington, Ill.
Before the championships, Fowler also used her teaching skills.
She spent the previous three months coaching all three events at Coble Water Ski and Wakeboard Camp in Lillington, NC.
The camp’s head instructor, April Coble-Eller, is a 26-time national champion and former member of the U.S. water ski team.
“Her passion and focus have allowed her to be a good water skier, but also a good teacher,” Coble-Eller said. “Even some of the best water skiers in the world are not good teachers. She’s very caring, especially with the younger kids.”
Fowler said she hopes to become a professional water skier and compete in the Olympics if water skiing becomes an Olympic sport.
But she also wants to be an instructor, in part because of her time at the camp.
“Some skiers are stubborn and just do their own thing,” Fowler said. “If a coach takes the time to tell me how to improve, I’m gonna do my best to do that.”
Fowler will continue her skiing career this fall at the University of Alabama on a full scholarship as a member of the school’s ski team.
This summer, she plans on helping her brothers, Garnet, 12, Wyatt, 6 and Troy, 5, water ski.
John Fowler said he’s enjoyed watching his three sons follow the path Elizabeth set. But he takes the most pride in what his daughter has accomplished.
“She just truly has fun behind the boat,” he said. “She’s consistent, strong and extremely graceful. When Elizabeth skis, people will watch and there’s always someone who says, ‘Man, I wish I could do that like she does.’”
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