Jared Sharkey to make pro trick water ski debut in the Netherlands

Jared Sharkey won his first national title as a trick water skiing athlete in 2013. That earned him an invitation to his first pro event in the Netherlands.

Posted on July 3, 2014 at 3:52 p.m.

MISHAWAKA — Jared Sharkey has carved out a name for himself as a trick water skier.

The Mishawaka athlete set records in Indiana, then won his first national title in 2013 — taking the Men 1 division in West Palm, Beach, Fla.

Now Sharkey, who trains nights and weekends on a stretch of the St. Joseph River near Penn High School, looks to make a major splash on the professional circuit.

The 23-year-old has accepted an invitation to his first pro event — the Dutch Masters Shortboard — and will travel to Rotterdam in the Netherlands for a shot at the prize money on Saturday, July 12.

Sharkey is responsible for the cost of his airfare to the Netherlands, but all other costs are covered for his eight-day trip.

As many as 17 shortboard skiers will take part with the winner taking $8,000. Slalom and jump skiers typically make almost twice that much.

"I enjoying slaloming, but have just a passion for tricks. The money would be nice, but I'm not doing it for my living," says Sharkey, who works in outside sales at Augusta RV in Bristol after receiving a business/marketing degree at Indiana University South Bend. "I just want to do it to be a professional athlete more than anything."

The Dutch Masters Shortboard, staged on a river near the world's biggest windmill, will have three rounds. The top 10 qualifiers will take part in the semifinals with the five best in the finals.

At each stage, skiers will take two 20-second passes. The idea is to do as many tricks as possible. Each trick only counts once and only six flips are allowed per run.

While a few tricksters have actually packed 20 tricks into their run, most do 14 to 18 in 20 seconds.

Including flips, hand passes and toe passes, Sharkey's repertoire includes almost three dozen tricks.

Tricksters once had to turn in a "pink sheet" with the tricks they planned to do on their run and could not deviate from that. Now all the judging is done with video and there is more room for improvisation.

"It's a little more freestyle and that's good," says Sharkey. "You implement and adapt."

The competitors will have a few days to practice and get acclimated to their surroundings, but on the day of the competition, it will be "go time" for Sharkey and the other tricksters with no practice and no warm-ups.

"If you fall on a trick, you go to the next pass," says Sharkey. "If you fall on that pass, you're done."

Sharkey is the son of former Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team member and long-time tournament skier, driver, judge and Indiana Water Ski Association board of directors member Randy Sharkey. The younger Sharkey calls himself a "ski nerd" and is very precise in the way he lays out his maneuvers.

Skiers in the slalom divisions do runs with boat speeds from 30 mph to 36 mph, but tricksters can run at any speed they desire.

But they must take into consideration the many factors that can change the wake, including current, wind speed, wind direction, weight in the boat and water depth.

The shallower the water, the smaller the wake. In competitive waterskiing, there are three people in the boat — the professionally qualified driver, the spotter and the videographer.

Electronics and a global positioning system keep the boat at a constant speed and path, all but taking human error out of the equation.

Under perfect conditions, Sharkey does toe tricks at around 19.5 mph and hand tricks around 20.5 mph.

If Sharkey impresses in the Netherlands, he should get other invitations to pro trick ski tournaments. He will shoot for a top-three placing in the open division of the 2014 U.S. National Water Ski Championships Aug. 11-16 in San Marcos, Texas.

Many of the top tricksters in the world are in the 28 to 34 range with the few in their late teens or early 20s so the way Sharkey sees it, he is just getting started.

"I look at my 30s as my prime, which gives me a lot of time," Sharkey.

So now's the time to head to Netherlands to make waves as a pro.

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