Clear Lake Competitions Attract Baby Boomers and Beyond
At 82, Earl Smith is the elder statesman of the Clear Lake Waterskiers, a Davidson County ski club with members as young as 12.
There’s no age limit for slicing across the water behind a boat traveling 50 miles an hour – it just takes skill, practice and more than a little moxie. At 82, Earl Smith is the elder statesman of the Clear Lake Waterskiers, a Davidson County ski club with members as young as 12.
The club was formed in 1978 by Smith and boat driver, Charlie Carrick, whose son, Eddie, is now the club’s president. “I first started skiing in 1976, right after I graduated from high school,” Eddie Carrick says. “I had been active in high school basketball and track. Then we lured the first state ski championship into this area, and I really got into skiing.” The Clear Lake Waterskiers aren’t just in it for the fun, however. They train for regional and state competitions and every three years play host to the state championship. In July 2009, about 90 skiers from across North Carolina competed at Clear Lake in categories such as slalom, trick and jump. “Clear Lake is perfect for competitions,” Carrick says of the lake, which is an offshoot of High Rock Lake. “It’s not huge, only about 70 to 80 acres, and it’s a private lake. You can only get to it through private land, so it’s not crowded.”
Wide-open water is an important safety feature in high-performance skiing. “Our ski club used to do shows in the main part of High Rock Lake, and that’s also a place where a lot of people practice. But it can get hairy, like just before a jump when you’re going 50 or 60 miles an hour and somebody cuts in front of you,” Carrick points out. The Clear Lake Waterskiers club has kept membership numbers low due to the private nature of the lake. This year there are only 10 members. However, the local contingent has yielded a number of state champions through the years, including Smith, who still holds the record for slalom – or skiing on a single ski – in men’s divisions 8, 9 and 10. In
vented in the 1920s, water skiing became highly popular in North Carolina during the 1970s, and then interest fell off somewhat in the 1990s, Carrick says. World and national success by several of North Carolina’s competitive skiers, such as 26-time, world-record-setting skier April Coble of Lillington, helped revive interest in the sport during the past decade. “From June until about the time school starts back, you see a lot of activity on our lakes,” Carrick adds. The younger generation is taking the sport in new directions, where some of the older athletes have yet to venture. “There’s a lot of interest in kneeboarding and wakeboarding these days,” the ski club president explains. “And the wakeboarding boats have towers so you can get the rope up high and take advantage of bigger wakes. It’s what a lot of the kids are into.”