When standing on two, 6-inch planes of fiberglass skimming over the water at 30 mph, balancing is a major concern for waterskiers.
Yet as she's gripping a tow line behind her father's boat, Charlsey Newman, 10, said, she has no problem whipping back and forth between floating buoys on an 860-foot slalom course.
"When you're a beginner, it's not easy to keep your balance, but once you're good, it's not hard," Charlsey said. "It feels faster than it really is. When you're going around 30 mph, it feels like you're going 50."
Charlsey began riding wakes with her father, Tommy Newman, when she was 2 years old. By the time she was 4, she was strapping into her own skis to ride solo.
Charlsey's father became interested in waterskiing through his father, who would take him skiing on Lake Ocoee as a child. When he enrolled at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Newman began competing as a member of the school waterskiing club.
While attending a tournament in 1986 hosted by a Georgia farmer who had dug a private lake on his property, Newman said he became interested in building one of his own. After enrolling in several surveying courses, he plotted out a 16-acre site on his farm in McDonald, Tenn., and dug a 2000-foot long pond he dubbed Lake Pryor.
CLAIM TO FAME
Charlsey Newman, 10, has been waterskiing competitively since she was 5 years old. She has qualified for national competitions every year, and this year she was ranked sixth in her age group in the jump event.
* School: Firth-grader at Black Fox Elementary, McDonald, Tenn.
* Hobbies/other activities: Snow skiing, acting, horse riding, crafting with duct tape, reading, hip-hop dancing and singing.
* Favorite book: "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" by J.K. Rowling.
* Favorite movie: "Secretariat."
* Favorite TV show: "Wizards of Waverly Place."
* Pets: Dog, Wally; cat, Trouble; and two frogs, Thing 1 and Thing 2.
* Best subject in school: Spelling.
* Favorite subject: Social studies.
* Person she'd love to meet: Barack Obama.
* Favorite waterskiing trick: Wake 360 (spin).
* Favorite place to waterski: Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga.
Do you know a child age 13 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show." To nominate a child, email staff writer Casey Phillips at email@example.com or call him at 423-757-6205.
Newman has hosted an annual water skiing tournament there for 17 years. He also provides access to the site for a club of local skiers, including Haley Runion, an nationally ranked collegiate skier who coaches Charlsey.
Growing up with a practice site literally just out the backdoor is a luxury few water skiers have, which has given Charlsey a leg up on the competition since she began entering tournaments at age 5, Newman said.
"She's had the best of the best, learning on a private lake with the best equipment and having a lot of really high-level coaches at our disposal," he said. "I was a self-taught, 'watch this' kind of skier."
Charlsey competes in three events: jump, trick and slalom. She has qualified for national competitions for the last five years and this year took sixth place for jumping in the under-10 age category at the GOODE Water Ski National Championships in Wilmington, Ill.
As a trick skier, Charlsey has had to learn to launch off wakes, spin and ski using just her foot to hold the tow line. Jumping, however, is all about distance and sticking the landing. When you've done it right, there's nothing like it, she said.
"When you go off the ramp, it feels like flying," she said.
Although she has achieved the most success for soaring 60 feet off the ramp, Charlsey said she spends more time practicing the slalom. During the competition season, which lasts from May to September, she spends five days a week on the water.
When the season resumes next April, Charlsey will be moving up to the Girls II age category for skiers ages 11-14.
Charlsey said she isn't worried since she long ago became accustomed to racing against larger, more experienced competitors. The trick, she said, is to concentrate on the event, not her competition.
"You usually don't think about that when you're skiing," she said. "I'm just thinking about getting past the next buoy."
Although he grew up skiing and knows the amount of work Charlsey puts into the sport, Newman said he still feels a sense of bittersweet exhilaration when he sees her approach a ramp.
"Parents naturally worry," he said, laughing. "There's a fine line when you see your daughter going 50 feet off a jump -- whether you're excited for her accomplishment or scared for her health."
Nevertheless, he said, her dedication to the sport and determination to improve her skills make Charlsey a natural on the water.
"It hasn't been a bad thing growing up to learn a little work ethic and that if you work hard enough at something, you'll succeed. ... It beats eating candy and playing video games."
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...