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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Champion’s wake

 
 

Texas A&M loves its sports heroes from football legends to Olympians, A&M celebrates their triumphs with wholehearted enthusiasm. Back inThis August, another Aggie student earned the title of champion, but not in a sport that many
Junior construction science major Landen Ehlers started barefoot water skiing around age five. He grew up close to Lake Travis and Lake Austin and competed in his first nationals competition when he was eight years old. After winning the regional championship three times in a row, he pushed past his competitors this year and claimed the top prize in his division.
Competitions are just for fun, Ehlers said. But Ive always been competing. Its the hobby side. Its not my life.
Barefoot skiing is the fastest competition in water sports. Like traditional waterskiing, there are three portions to the competition: slalom, trick and jump, and according to Ehlers, the boat usually travels about 42 mph.
I really like showing off, Ehlers said. Its a really weird sport that no one does. In my opinion, its one of the hardest sports there is and its one of the most physically challenging things you can do.
Besides the strange factor, Ehlers began barefooting because his father, Blake Ehlers, has been competing for years.
I grew up in the sport 100 percent, Landen said, I grew up going to ski tournaments and watching [my dad] compete.
Over the years, the Blake has taken on the role as coach to his son. Landen goes home to train often, but struggles to balance training with the demands of school.
Its hard work and something that doesnt come easy, Blake said. The difference between success and failure in barefooting is razor thin. I get to ski alongside [Landen] in competitions and its fun to share that with your kid.
Since coming to school at A&M, Landen joined the Texas A&M Waterskiing Team in order to continue practicing while in town. The team, led by Jim Norton, competes in several tournaments per semester mainly in Texas and Louisiana.
I never did any traditional waterskiing, Landen said. I didnt actually ever ski on a ski until two years ago when I joined the waterski team. My main role on the team is to teach people how to barefoot and to be the guy who likes to go really fast.
The teams normal practice spot Lords Lake, 20 miles from the Texas A&M campus is dry, limiting their ability to practice.
Now at A&M, I dont ski at all, Landen said. My freshman year I probably went out about 3 times a week. Now I probably ski about once a month.
Landen recently competed in an endurance race, which involves the boat going as fast as it can and the first skier to the finish line while still holding on to the rope wins. He and his father participated as a team on Lake Austin, despite intense fog, where they hold the course record at 24 minutes. It was the first time in two years that Landen had lost a barefooting competition.
Theres a lot of stress being put on the body while youre barefooting, Ehlers said. Ive fallen a lot, but never gotten seriously hurt. Im lucky.
Ehlers said he has no intention of pursuing professional waterskiing, despite having reached the highest achievement possible for his age group.
There are people who take barefooting as their life and compete at a different level, Ehlers said. But there are only two or three of them. So technically, I guess Im really fourth in the nation.

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