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Charlie will put his best bare foot forward for his country
An Ilkley teenager has been selected to represent Great Britain in an international barefoot water-skiing competition.
Charlie Long, 16, has been working as a lifeguard for Bradford Council at Ilkley Lido to earn the money to cover his air fare to South Africa, for the European and African Nations Barefoot Water-Ski Championships in Kimberley on October 15.
However, he has also been helped to make the trip thanks Ilkley Round Table and Nick Horsfall, managing director of Lister Horsfall, who have both made generous donations to Charlie, to enable him to take part in the competition.
Charlie was invited for a trial for the junior British Barefoot Water-Skiing team in which he had to impress the coach by proving his competence in all of the three disciplines of skiing: trick, jump and slalom.
Following a successful trial he was selected for the team, along with two other junior skiers, and is now looking forward to competing against thousands of other elite skiers from all across Europe and Africa for his place in the world rankings.
He recently won all three disciplines and was overall winner at the Barefoot Nationals in September.
Charlie, of Ilkley, said: “I first got into the sport through my uncle, he used to bring me mono-skiing and wakeboarding and that is where I learned the basics of muscle memory and what it takes to stay upright on water, but I got into barefoot just over a year ago after trying it out for a laugh with some mates.
“One of my friends who urged me to try it was dead keen on the sport, and he could see I was pretty good at it, so he started to teach me a bit.”
Barefoot, as the name suggests is skiing behind a motorboat, at speeds of up to 40 mph, without the use of water skis.
It was one of the first forms of water skiing sports and is one of the most popular with spectators.
“It can be very enjoyable for people to watch. When you see someone doing a jump the equivalent of two stories high it can be a bit surreal, like watching them defy the laws of physics,” said Charlie, a sixth form student at Prince Henry’ School, Otley, Training mostly at a water ski lake in Brighouse, he admits the regime can be long, repetitive, and tough; and finding time to train on water can be hard, as he can only do it when the weather permits.
The teenager said: “Training can be difficult as say for example I’m trying to learn a trick, I could have to attempt it 120 times until it is drilled into me and my muscles remember what to do even when I’m tired.
“I’m going to focus on trying to work and ski through winter though. Most skiers say they’ll still go through winter but not many do. I’m going to try to go until at least December.”
Earlier in the summer he was training in Florida with the GB team but since getting back to England has kept himself grounded, working at the Ilkley Lido as a lifeguard for the outdoor and indoor pools, trying to get the money together to pay for his flights to South Africa in October.
His father, Paul Long, drives Charlie to all his competitions and events and will be cheering on Charlie in South Africa.