When BSSC Year 11 student, Chelsea Hall, was three years old she learnt to water ski by hanging onto a bar attached to her dad’s old tinny.
How far she has come!
Recently, at Melbourne’s spectacular Moomba Festival, Chelsea was the smiling young woman balancing at the top of a human pyramid skiing along the Yarra River.
“Despite starting at three, I didn’t really begin to love it until I was older,” she says. “We’d spent two years in Broome and came back to Bendigo when I was eight.
“From then on we spent our summers at Lake Eppalock with other families who were into skiing. The best water—especially on a lake—is always at dawn and dusk when no-one else is out. That’s when I began to learn slalom.”
It was when Chelsea was ten years old that one of the show-skiing families suggested they try a pyramid. The rest, as they say, is history.
Chelsea continued to develop both her slalom and show-skiing tricks. But her dad decided it was time to try barefoot.
“I learnt the hard way,” Chelsea says, “Now they’ve developed a technique where your body is basically in the position you use to sit in a chair. Back then the technique was straight legs and mostly skiing on your heels.
“I had fall after fall. It took me about a year. We would wait until last thing to get the good water and then practice.”
The family who’d suggested Chelsea join the human pyramid invited her, and her twin sister Chloe, to join their show-skiing team training in Melton.
“We said ‘yes’, of course. In 2015 we were still not good enough to participate, but Melton hosted the Nationals. Just watching was really inspiring.
“We all bought the swivel skis and began developing our skills.”
Just before the Barefoot Nationals, Chelsea dislocated her shoulder ‘doing a one-foot’ at the end of a training session.
“I missed that season, but had great seasons for 2016 and most of 2017,” she says. “At the beginning of 2017 we did a show-skiing display in New Zealand and then we went to China to compete against the Chinese and the USA.”
It was a huge leap for Chelsea, and in order to prepare, she and the other girls trained all through the winter with the Australian Junior Girls coach. Late in 2017, her shoulder became painful again.
“They scanned it and said I needed surgery,” she remembers only too well. “So I missed out on the 2018 Worlds and all the events of last year. I didn’t barefoot for 15 months and was just craving to have a go. By the end of 2018 I had missed three of the previous five years of Nationals.”
As soon as she was strong enough, Chelsea was back on the water, but there was still trouble around the corner.
“The day before Moomba this year I tore my calf muscle,” she says. “At first I couldn’t even walk, but my physio said if I could walk, he’d let me ski. We did Moomba and then on the Tuesday after Moomba, I went up to Barefoot Nationals.
“I came third overall—second in the slalom—and I did a limited program because I was really guarding my calf injury.”
Chelsea is grateful for the support she’s had from “so many fantastic people”.
“There is one coach I deeply admire called Brendan Page,” she says. “He has really helped develop our sport and is totally approachable and down to earth. At Moomba there were so many kids coming up to talk to him and he was so great with them.”
So, how does Chelsea balance elite sport with her school commitments?
“School is really hard for me to manage,” she says, “I try to get as much done in class as I can and most of my teachers are trying to support me. I dropped Biology so my subjects are: PE 3/4, VET Allied Health, General Maths and English.
“I feel like I haven’t been here much… I’ve had four weeks away in Term One.”
But despite the challenges, Chelsea feels lucky to be doing what she loves.
“I know so many people who seem unhappy with where they’re at. I just think people should do what they really enjoy,” she advises with a grin. “I’m happy to keep juggling school and skiing because I love what I do.”
It also means she can set her sights on the next big goal—the 2020 World Championships.