For most IU students, mornings don’t start with a trip to Lake Lemon to waterski.
But junior Sonja Popovich said sunrise is the best time to practice. The finance major practices in the early morning, when the water is smoothest for water skiing, and then hurries back to campus.
Last year, she said she showed up for her 9:30 a.m. class still in her swimsuit.
“I mean, I had a cover-up on, but I had a towel, in my bathing suit, like wet hair and everything,” Popovich said.
Popovich is a member of IU’s competitive Waterski and Wakeboarding Club Team. Members compete in tournaments against other schools using either two skis, one ski or a wakeboard.
Tournaments have three events: jumps, tricks and slalom, the last of which involves skiers or boarders weaving between buoys as the boat towing them speeds up and the rope they are holding gets shorter to increase difficulty.
IU’s team recently qualified for the USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Midwestern Regionals for the first time, placing 11th in the overall competition.
Team members come from a variety of backgrounds in water sports, from rookies to life-long skiers. Popovich said people drawn to the sport are typically very outgoing, adventurous and nature-loving.
“Water skiing and wakeboarding and water sports brings together a pretty unique group of people,” Popovich said.
Popovich began water skiing when she was 5 years old and after her older sister took up the sport. She said she competed in show skiing events as a teenager, where skiers perform choreographed routines to music. After joining the IU team, she became interested in jump skiing last year and quickly excelled.
Other members came to the team with little-to-no competitive experience.
Sophomore Mariah Rivera said she had wakeboarded for fun at lakes around her hometown Warsaw, Indiana, but had never competed until she joined the team this year. She said she likes getting to know and hanging out with her teammates.
“I think it’s kind of a double whammy there." Rivera said. "I get to meet people and also do something that I love to do."
Rivera said her favorite memory is the team making its own campfire on the shoreline during a chilly competition in Ohio.
“We all just cuddled by the fire and hung out, played games and chilled,” Rivera said. “That was probably one of the best moments that I’ve had.”
Team president Jon Postweiler said his best moment competing was during a slalom ski in May. The boat pulling him reached 36 miles per hour, the highest speed allowed for male competitors.
Although it was the best he ever did in competition, the moment ended in misfortune. Postweiler crashed into the sixth buoy on the course and broke his left ankle.
Even though his injury still hasn’t completely healed, he said he has continued to ski in tournaments.
“I still do what I can to help support the team and get them through the next tournament, get them to regionals,” Postweiler said.
Postweiler started water skiing off the back of a family friend’s boat as a child. He became involved with the team after he helped fix the team boat and leaders created a position for him to help manage it.
“I could get up on one ski, but I wasn’t any good, nor did I even know there was a competition aspect to it,” Postweiler said.
He said he wants to continue competing after college because he has a passion for it. He said he finds water skiing and wakeboarding peaceful.
“It’s just you and the wind and calm water in a lake in an early sunrise or late sunset and it’s peaceful,” Postweiler said. “It’s a break from reality.”
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