He may be one of the best skiers in the world, but it’s at his home in Horizon West where Taylor Garcia has truly bettered his craft.
| 11:41 a.m. November 7, 2018
Flying across the white-capping water on long skis, Taylor Garcia grips the handle in his hands a bit tighter as he makes his approach.
He shoots out wide and to the right of the ramp, then cuts sharply left as he rapidly picks up speed.
His skis hit the wide ramp at 70 miles per hour, before he flies off the end and ascends to the heavens. There, he floats for what feels like an eternity.
The cold air whips into the eye hole in his helmet, while water droplets leave a trail following behind him.
“You never know what’s going to happen until you’re off the top,” Garcia said. “When you turn for the ramp, especially when you feel like you’re in a good spot — your timing is right and you feel strong — it’s exciting because you know it can be a big one.”
That jump would send Garcia flying 219 feet to finish in third place in the first round of the men’s open jump at the King of Darkness this past Saturday, Nov. 3. The distance fell just short of breaking his individual record of 226 feet.
The tournament there in Horizon West itself has become the go-to home competition for Garcia, who lives right on Little Lake Hancock. For him, it’s the perfect spot to take on some of the world’s best skiing talent without leaving home, though he has no issue with traveling at all.
As a professional he has been around the world and back, racking up medals and trophies at competitions from here to Australia. Seriously, Garcia’s accomplishments over the last six years are incredible.
At the Collegiate Water Ski Nationals in 2017, Garcia took first in the men’s jumping and was the overall champion. In that very same year he won gold in the slalom, and brought home the silver medal in jumping and team overall at the 2017 World Under 21 Waterski Championships in Dnipro City, Ukraine.
“It’s a really unique opportunity to travel with your friends and family — I’ve been all over the world with my coaches, and parents and my little sister,” Garcia said. “I’ve met people from all over the world, I’ve lived in multiple parts of the world for months at a time, which I don’t think is normally an option for someone my age.”
But Garcia didn’t magically attain this type of talent overnight — it has taken years and years of constant dedication and practice to his sport. Five days a week Garcia is out on the water to take on three different sets — which amounts to four jumps per set.
It doesn’t sound like an awful lot, but Garcia said that he and other skiers are limited to what they can do just because of the physical toll that the sport dishes out on athletes.
“There are only so many times you can hit that ramp before your body eventually quits,” Garcia said. “So you kind of minimize it by doing a lot of onshore training — visualizing, watching video after your set and breaking it down so that next time you go out it can be improved immediately. It’s more quality over quantity.”
That routine is something that Garcia has been woking on since he was first introduced to the sport by his parents — who both water skied — when he was just a 7 year old kid living in California.
He remembers how tough it was back when he first started — he was terrified of the water and just refused to jump in. That was until he was left at a neighbor’s house, and they decided to help “push” Garcia just a little bit, he said.
And by help, Garcia means they strapped a wakeboard to his feet and sent him out on the water.
“When you turn for the ramp, especially when you feel like you’re in a good spot — your timing is right and you feel strong — it’s exciting because you know it can be a big one.”
— Taylor Garcia
“It actually did get me over the hump, and I started skiing everyday and had a good time doing it, but I just needed that one brutal push, I guess,” Garcia said.
From there Garcia made water skiing his passion, which has had more highs than lows. Though there was one moment that almost derailed his career.
Three years ago down in a tournament in West Palm, Garcia took a routine jump — the only issue is he didn’t land on his feet. Around 180 feet from the ramp he hit the water head first, which fractured his neck in four places.
The injury left him in a halo medical device for four months, and required a lot of time to recover — both physically and mentally.
“I was terrified trying to get back, but I was also excited — it takes a special kind of crazy to water ski jump,” Garcia said. “It is the most fun and the biggest thrill that you’ll ever experience. You come into that ramp at 70 miles per hour and when you kick it right, you feel like you’re flying.
“It just wasn’t something that I was ready to give up yet,” he said. “It was terrifying my first couple of sets back — I inched into it — and slowly built into jumping full again.”
Despite that early devastating injury, Garcia would push through and find himself tearing it up on the pro and U21 levels.
And while many would be put off by the possible negatives of the sport, Garcia said that he has no plans of hanging up his skis anytime soon.
“I want to jump until I cant jump anymore,” Garcia said.