In this episode of The Ski with Wade Podcast, meet one of greats in the world of adaptive water skiing. Eleisha Nelson came back from a 35-year break to find joy on the water and celebrate championship performances around the world. Learn how she came to competition, what it takes and the excitement she feels about how her world has been transformed since she decided to get back on the water just four years ago. Enjoy this episode, one of Wade’s most anticipated!
I’ve gotta be honest: My interview with adaptive ski champion Eleisha Nelson has been one of my most anticipated ever. I was so excited to talk to this amazing woman, who has not only succeeded beyond her wildest dreams in global competition but has also transformed her life beyond anything she could have imagined. It was only about four years ago that Eleisha was feeling kind of like, “Is this it?” She’d done well in school, launched a great career as an X-ray technician, had a wonderful husband and kids … but something was missing. When she thought back on her childhood and what made her smile the biggest, it was memories of being out on the lake, the wind whipping through her hair.
The fact that Eleisha was born with the lower part of her right arm missing wasn’t stopping her parents from getting her into the water while on vacations. Before long, by only the age of nine, she was slaloming and loving it! Fortunately, when she decided to get back to the sport in her mid-30s, the muscle memory was there. She has gone on to blow away competition on courses around the world. She has also trained in Dallas with incredible Olympic para-athletes and a coaching staff that has strengthened her mind and built up her physical capabilities.
Adaptive water skiing is a three-event competition specifically designed for skiers who are not fully “able,” meaning they have a physical challenge of one kind or another. In Eleisha’s case it requires a huge amount of upper body strength, skill, technique and precision. She has adapted her technique to use a portion of her upper right arm to wrap around a strap that pulls her behind the powerboat – without prosthetic assistance of any kind.
Named 2020 Female Athlete of the Year by USA Water Ski & Wake Sports, Eleisha has been training hard to take on jump competition and this year will be competing for the first time at Regionals, taking on fully able-bodied skiers and giving them a run for their money.
You’ll be inspired by this fun conversation with Eleisha, who has that rare combo of resilience, inspiration and a team of loved ones behind her, helping to drive her on to ever greater things. See you at Nationals, Eleisha!
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Click here to find out more history about Bell Acqua, Eleisha’s home lake.
* A little about Eleisha and her early introduction to vacation skiing. She was up and could slalom by the age of nine.
* Growing up translated into “growing up”: Going to school, getting a job, getting married and having kids. She was on top of her radiology career when a turning point emerged!
* Only four years ago, Eleisha had an epiphany. Her perfectly choreographed life was not truly fulfilling her. She went out in search of capturing something that spoke to her heart.
* After a 35-year break, Eleisha was surprised by how quickly the muscle memory returned when she decided to get back up on skis again.
* All about the freedom: Once Eleisha set her mind to uncovering her bliss, it was easy to recover the sensations she had loved as a child out on the lake.
* How did Eleisha go from rediscovering water skiing to becoming a top competitor? For starters, she googled it! Who knew there were so many venues available to her in California? And once the idea of competition got in her head, the sky was the limit.
* Eleisha has now set her sights on a world championship for jumping and is training hard to make it happen this year.
* What’s on the horizon? In the near future, she plans to go to Regionals for the first time. Because of Covid19, adaptive ski events have been cancelled, but that’s not going to stop Eleisha from competing in this able-bodied event.
* About the kids: Wade and Eleisha give shout-out to her son, Zachary, 14, and Natalia, 12. And BIG kudos to her husband, who holds down the fort when water ski competitions take front and center.
* “My goal this year is to do things that are not just beating my own adaptive records, but also those of people who ski with two hands.”
* “I basically got in the water, my parents threw me a rope and said, ‘Hold on!’ ”
* “I realized I was going to work and die and if I died tomorrow would I be fulfilled?”
* “You think, ‘Okay! What’s going to make you happy.’ But even as adults we don’t know sometimes. You just have to think about it. I went back to early, early childhood.”
* “I just kind of slowly started chipping away at the course, one ball at a time, getting some form down.”
* “I’m learning as a skier that it’s mental; being a water skier is all about your mind and not letting people get into your mind.”
* “I’m blown away. I never expected everything that happened to me this year.”
* “Four years ago, when I was getting back up on that slalom ski, just trying to be happy, I never thought that four years later I’d be here on a podcast, hanging out … and having a great time. It’s more than I could have ever expected.”
* “I’ll be competing (at Regionals) on a whole other level, with skiers with two arms, and hopefully making it to Nationals.”
* “I fly home and then I’ve got to make up work at the children’s hospital, so I’ll be working if I’m not skiing.”
Links for Topics Mentioned:
Bell Acqua Lake Website: www.bellacqualake.com
April Coble Ski School: www.cobleskischool.com
Wades Upcoming Ski Tour: Info Here.
Wade Cox’s legendary professional ski career includes multiple Pro titles and tours. Throughout the 1990’s he was on top as the HO Skis and Pro Tour poster boy. More recently he is spreading his waterski knowledge as a coach, via SkiWithWade tours and through his podcast, “Ski with Wade.”
Links for merchandise, schedules and more about Wade:
Upcoming tour dates can be found here.
Ho Sports Shop: https://skiwithwade.com/ho-sports-shop/