Grace and Ryan Warner, 14 and 11. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Two of the world’s best junior water skiers happen to live in our neighborhood. Hillcrest Forest residents Grace and Ryan Warner, 14 and 11, have been skiing with their parents since before they can remember and naturally became competitive. “It’s much easier when you start out young,” says their mom, Suzanne Warner, but she never pushed them in the sport. “We only wanted to do it as much as they wanted to do it.” By the time they reached ages 9 and 12, USA Water Ski had ranked them no. 1 in their age groups. In November 2010, Grace’s team took the gold medal at the Pan American Water Skiing Championship in San Bernardo, Chile. “It’s really different than any other sport,” says Grace, a freshman at The Hockaday School. Skiers compete in three categories: slalom, which is like downhill skiing but instead of hitting flags, they must hit the buoys in the water; trick, which involves stunts such as 360s; and jump, in which skiers fly off a 5- to 6-foot ramp and try for the longest distance (the record is 240 feet). Ryan, who attends St. Marks, took first place overall in his age group the past two years at regionals and headed to nationals in West Palm Beach, Fla., in August. Grace placed second overall at regionals, but she had a back injury, she says, which is the only reason she didn’t easily take first. Grace and Ryan practice most weekends at the family’s lake house about two hours from the city. Practice often involves cook-outs and family get-togethers, which makes it a little less stressful. “They can be outdoors and enjoy the world God gave us,” Warner says. The kids aren’t sure where the sport will take them, but Grace is sure she can’t water ski for a living. “Even the top pro water skiers have to have other jobs,” she says. It will be a while before Grace and Ryan decide on careers. After all, they’re only 14 and 11, and they’ve got competitions to win.

Read about the Warners’ water skiing dog, Peaches.

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