When you think of sports here on the Gulf Coast, you inevitably are drawn to the kind that take place on water.
Yet there’s just one place for water skiers to congregate — the Sarasota Ski-A-Rees, near the Mote Marine Lab in North Sarasota.
And that’s where you’ll find Lakewood Ranch High rising senior Kirsten Hannabass and State College of Florida rising sophomore Jeff Maglione.
The duo trains and works on routines as part of the adagio doubles team.
Hannabass also competes in the swivel.
Their success at the recent Southern Regional Tournament in Montgomery, Ala., has earned the duo a trip to the 36th Division I Show Ski National Championships.
Hannabass said she didn’t think they would make it because it was the first time they competed in the Open Division.
“There were 11 girls in my division, and I got second,” said Hannabass about qualifying in the swivel. “I wasn’t expecting that. And then me and my partner didn’t think we’d qualify for nationals as third place, but they told us we could.”
Hannabass joined the Water Ski Show Team when she was 13 years old.
Now the 17-year-old is heading to her first national championship, to be held Aug. 13-15 in Janesville, Wis.
Hannabass describes the adagio doubles as similar to pairs figure skating, which means chemistry and trust with a partner are just as important as the tricks in the routine.
And it doesn’t always go as planned.
“I have a few rope burns right now ... and my doubles partner, I gave him a black eye for his prom,” said Hannabass about the injuries that can happen when tricks don’t work out as designed.
“I had to wear a little make up for my senior prom — that was fun,” said Maglione, a Riverview graduate from Sarasota.
Despite the bumps and bruises, Hannabass and Maglione are attempting to become national champs — an incredible feat considering the pair has competed together for just 1 1/2 years.
They’ve developed a knack for excelling in the sport, which requires a large chunk of time and devotion.
Hannabass said they practice two times during the school week right around the two tournaments a year they enter. She said she water skis by herself once or twice a week and the team trains every Saturday and Sunday year-round.
That type of a commitment and the high risk of injuries can dissuade some people, but not Hannabass, Maglione or the other athletes on the Sarasota Ski-A-Rees Water Ski Show Team, including Riverview High’s Justin Pruse, who will join the duo at nationals in the freestyle jumping event.
“Most people I see that drop the sport, or go away is because of the falls,” Hannabass said. “They can be pretty painful. Most people take their first fall and never want to go back to the sport again. It takes a lot of commitment to hurt yourself that much.”
But why water skiing?
“My mom was trying to get me to come out and try it,” Maglione said. “She just basically said, ‘You can either play a sport where you’re going to be with a hundred other sweaty guys all day, or you can be picking up pretty girls and have pretty girls crawling all over you on the water.’ And the second one sounded pretty good to me.”