While some 2-year-olds are still getting the hang of moving around on land, Ryan Gay was zipping across the water on a pair of skis.
“As far back as I can remember, I have just wanted to ski,” the recent Foundation Academy graduate said. “Everyone I grew up around, my parents always motivated me to keep skiing. It’s always been there.”
Indeed, water skiing runs in the family. His parents, Jane and Russell Gay, had been skiing for many years. His mother grew up in Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, while his father grew up in Virginia. Even his grandfather on his father’s side, Gordon, had a talent for water skiing. His older sister, Anna, 21, also skis, as does his 11-year-old sister, Ella.
And now, that family affair has paved a future for Ryan Gay. This fall, he will take his talents to the University of Alabama Water Ski Team. Although the school is best known for its football program, the water ski team — which began more than 40 years ago — also boasts an impressive résumé. Its accolades include a second-place finish in the Syndicate Waterskis Collegiate Nationals at Bell Acqua in 2019; a third-place finish in the Connelly Skis NCWSA Collegiate Nationals at San Marcos River Ranch in 2018; a third-place finish in the Connelly Skis NCWSA Nationals at TriLakes in 2017; and a fourth-place finish in the NCWSA Collegiate Nationals at Imperial Lakes in 2016. The co-ed team trains at Lymanland USA water skiing club in Duncanville, Alabama, one of the top spots for watersports in the country.
Ryan Gay excels in a style of water skiing known as trick skiing, which focuses more on completing tricks and executing them well.
“I like the fact that with trick skiing, you get to develop your own style and mess around with it,” he said. “I’ve always liked doing flips and stuff like that. That’s why I fell in love with tricking.”
Practice — and plenty of trial-and-error — is key to successful tricking, and he said his favorite is the front flip. When a front flip is mastered, a skier should land super straight and light on the ski for it to be considered a good flip. If it’s a bad one, a skier tends to be off-axis and ends up with a rough landing in the water. In competition, tricks have to meet a certain criteria to be scored.
“Breaking down each part — the start, the finish, where your hands have to be, hips have to be and so on,” Ryan Gay said of the critical components to a successful trick. “You have to land the trick, and it has to be credited.”
Although there are plenty of famous water skiers, he said his favorite — and most influential — is his father.
In addition to water skiing at Foundation, Ryan Gay played on the lacrosse team as a midfielder and an attacker. Some of his hobbies include photography, filmmaking, surfing and other watersports, and skating.
He played almost every sport when younger, but trick skiing always kept him coming back.
“I’ll choose skiing every time,” he said. “I like being out on the water and with my family.”
While at Alabama, Gay plans to pursue a business degree with a minor in real estate. With that, he hopes to get into the marketing side of business so he can further his passions of filmmaking and photography to go along with real estate. Both his grandfather and father have worked in the real-estate industry.
After college, Ryan Gay plans to return to Central Florida and put his newfound skills to use. Before then, he is focused on contributing to the Crimson Tide water-skiing team in any way he can.
His goals at Alabama are to win a national championship with the team, eventually break a world record and win a world title for trick skiing.