More Young Athletes are Getting into Water Skiing

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RIO LINDA -- When you think of mainstream youth sports, water skiing probably doesn't come to mind.

But more and more kids these days are ditching soccer balls, basketballs and baseballs for thrilling rides on the water.

"You have to see it and understand it to believe it because obviously everyone knows what basketball is, but not many people know about water skiing," said 14-year-old water skier Blaze Grubbs.

Grubbs is one of the top juniors in the world leading the charge.

His generation is getting a big assist in the sport from sponsors, as well as professional's like slalom world record holder Nate Smith. Smith sees the youth movement as the key to bringing water skiing back into the mainstream.

"We're getting a lot of juniors involved right now. They see their friends doing it, so they want to go out there and get involved and I think that's what really has helped," Smith said. "They're dragging their friends along, saying, 'Hey I want to do this too.' And they're going out and enjoying themselves."

"Everyone looks up to these top guys and it's awesome when they can give it back to us," Grubbs said. "I just think it's going to continue to grow. More people are going to get into it, more sponsors are going to come and, I don't know, we'll see where it can go."

Already in the last two years, the Aspen Institute has seen the sport grow by nearly 5 percent in the number of juniors competing nationally at events like the one this weekend in Rio Linda. Some other sports have seen a decline in youth participation.

Grubbs says his attraction to water skiing, besides the adrenaline rush, has to do with the individuality of it.

"It has your name, it doesn't have your team, you know, it's you," Grubbs said. "And obviously when you go to bigger events you compete for the U.S. against other countries and that's a lot of fun too."

"We're getting all these juniors back in there and it's going to start increasing in people getting involved, like parents are staying involved," Smith said. "So all it takes is getting on TV a little bit and getting some more exposure because it's a fun sport. Anybody can do it."

But no matter where you stand on the sport of water skiing, you can come check it out Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Bell Acqua Lake. Admission to the event is free all three days.

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