Bumpass may not be well known by a lot of people outside of Louisa County, but one professional athlete who calls the area home is making sure it gets on the map.
Corey Vaughn has been a professional water skier for 10 years and has competed in a number of national and international competitions.
“Part of my mission is to grow the sport,” he said. “It’s a very niche sport. There’s a small number of people who do it. But those who do are very passionate about it.”
Vaughn competes as a slalom skier. In the slalom event, skiers have to go around six buoys to complete the course. The first is to the skier’s right, the second to their left and so-on.
It may sound easy, but even completing the course requires a lot of practice and skill.
“It’s a huge athletic accomplishment,” Vaughn said. “It’s one of those feats that goes up there with dunking a basketball.”
Skiers begin with 75 feet of rope behind a boat traveling at 25 miles per hour to learn the course and work up to the maximum speed (36 miles per hour for men, 34 for women).
Once they achieve that, sections of the rope are removed, moving the skier closer to the boat and increasing the challenge. First, 15 feet of rope are removed, (referred to as 15 feet off), giving the skier 60 feet to work with. Rope is removed in various increments until the skier is no longer able to complete the course.
“It’s a very unforgiving sport,” Vaughn said. “If you have a bad shot in golf, you may go a stroke down on that hole, but you still have 18 holes. In waterskiing, if you miss a buoy, that’s it. You’re done for that day or that round.”
Vaughn has completed the slalom course at 41 feet off, meaning he was only using 34 feet of rope, less than half of the original length. Only 11 skiers in the world have completed the course at that level. Vaughn was the ninth.
“That’s probably my biggest claim in the waterskiing world, that I was one of the first 10 people to [complete the course at] 41,” he said.
No one has completed the course at the next level, 43 feet off (32 feet of rope). The world record in slalom skiing is 2.5 buoys at that level.
“I’ve been able to run one buoy at 43 off,” Vaughn said. “I’ve got my eye set on that, but it’s awfully darn hard, and it’s going to take a lot more training and practice.”
Nearly all professional athletes develop a passion for their chosen sport early in life. Though his sport of choice may not be as popular as football or baseball, Vaughn is no exception. His love for water skiing began when he was three years old.
In some ways, it was inevitable. Vaughn’s grandfather developed a deep affection for the sport while stationed in Florida, and he passed it down to his four children. It was during one of the family’s summer gatherings at his grandparents’ home at Lake Gaston in North Carolina that Vaughn got his first taste of the sport.
“I don’t really remember starting. What I’m told is that I was basically like, ‘I want a turn,’” he said. “They got me a set of training skis and off we went.”
His fascination for the sport grew with each passing year as Vaughn’s family gathered each summer at Lake Gaston. That tradition continued until 2006 when his grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“We knew that was our last summer getting together because at the end of that summer she would be transitioning into a [nursing] home,” he said.
Without the family get-together, Vaughn, who was by then a junior at Clemson University, began searching for other things to do over the summer. He started by volunteering at a junior water skiing clinic he’d competed in as a kid.
“Some of my fondest memories of childhood took place at this camp, and I was excited to be invited back as a coach,” he said.
While coaching there, Vaughn met several families of water skiers. Some of them approached him at a tournament asking if he would continue to coach their kids the following summer.
(Article by Joseph Haney)
This is a partial article. Read the full story in The Central Virginian’s 2019 Lure of Lake Anna guide.