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."