U.S. National Team member Noah Leach is a now seasoned veteran in the water skiing world and widely known around the sport. After speaking with him about the growing sport, there are a few things he wants us amateurs to know. Mostly, there are so many aspects to water skiing – and no matter the tricks you master, there is always room for improvement. That is something the nationally recognized athlete had to learn over the years.
Rewind to the summer of 2006. Coach Todd Thorson, an Ipswich high school teacher and track and cross-country coach, offered a special opportunity during the summer months to those brave enough to try on a pair of water skis. While he recruited his runners for his Aqua Addicts water skiing team, he didn’t limit his students to only those in high school.
Leach’s parents decided to sign their energetic eight year old up for a lesson, and after watching him on the water, they knew he had found his calling. From there, his water skiing career took off.
Over the next 12 years, Leach not only put Aberdeen water skiing on the map – he also went on to represent his country on the sport’s biggest stage. Just three weeks ago, he returned home from the 2018 World Water Skiing Championships held in Huntsville, Ontario, passing through customs with some gold-plated hardware.
“This has to be one of my favorite memories from my entire career,” said Leach. “Other countries train together year-round, but the U.S. athletes are named to the team, practice with their own teams, report the week before, and that is oftentimes the first time we ever practice together. The team clicks pretty quickly, and we count on everyone to do their job. We tell each other to try to do things that are on the top of the scoring scale, and when we nail it, the feeling is indescribable.”
Another indescribable moment for Leach was when he secured his spot on the U.S. national team in 2015 at the age of seventeen.
“When I was competing with the Aqua Addicts, I placed at a competition in Illinois," Leach said. “The awards were given out on a Sunday, and I had finished on Friday. As we were driving back to South Dakota, I got a call from the Director of USA Water Skiing. I didn’t have his number, but I knew exactly who it was. He said, ‘I would like to offer you a spot on the national team.’”
“I froze and didn’t say anything for a minute, but of course I agreed, and then got back to work,” Leach said.
He described 2015 as his breakout year when things just began to click on the water, and he put his fear of trying new things behind him. After spending the next year training for the 2016 World Championships, competing and taking first, Leach secured his roster spot for the upcoming years as well.
“Being a part of that national team has not only helped me grow considerably as an athlete, but I’ve gained some best friends along the way, too,” Leach said. “What I love about being a part of this team and sport is that we are all over the United States. We compete against each other – but really, we are competing with each other at the same time. We push each other in this sport to try new things and see what works, and combine that work when the World Team gets together.”
Each time he returns from his World Championship runs, Leach comes back to where it all began. He trains with the Aberdeen Addicts over the summer, and relies heavily on his coach –who has been a main supporter since his first time putting on skis. Over the last twelve years, his relationship with Coach Thorson has grown to be something irreplaceable.
“He always tells me, any time I need to be spotted or pulled, he’s on speed dial,” Leach said. “I credit most of my success to what he has taught me. He’s always pushing me to try new things, take some falls, but when I end up making it, the feeling of making something new is like nothing else. We’re family. He’s like a second dad to me.”
While the Addicts look to Coach Thorson for direction, they also hold Leach in high regard and look to him for motivation.
“I tell them to keep trying new stuff, and push them to hit the ‘no fear’ stage,” Leach said. “They have it in them to get over the fear of falling, and try something new. I also tell them to soak up all of the experiences, because it all goes so quick.”
Leach has made a life out of these experiences, and will continue to compete in the annual regional and national tournaments, and focus in on his skills for the biennial World Championships. This offseason, he will continue to work out with his family at their local gym, and come spring, he will hit the lake with the Aqua Addicts – and, of course, Coach Thorson.