Rachael Zenk performed her first water ski routine when she was just 10 years old.
Today, she is known as one of the best swivel water-skiers in the world, winning her second national championship last weekend in Illinois.
Her career has come full circle as well after returning to the Tommy Bartlett Show in Wisconsin Dells, the entertainment venue which helped jump-start her career a few years ago.
"It's like home to me, so much fun," said Zenk between shows one night recently. "The best summers I've ever had are here."
Zenk learned how to ski with her family on Lake Arbutus near Hatfield. She performed with the La Crosse River City Water Ski Team from 2000-07. At 17 years old, she came to the Tommy Bartlett Show for an audition, and impressed water ski show director Jeremy Armstrong enough to earn a place on the elite squad.
"She never stopped learning, still hasn't stopped learning," Armstrong said. "She skis all day, every day. You can tell, the hard work's paid off."
That was especially true earlier this month when Zenk not only won her second national title, but also picked up the Willa Cook Award as the tournament's MVP.
Trying to remain humble, Zenk couldn't help but smile when asked what it was like to perform so well under the pressure of big competition - something she admits she has struggled with at times.
She felt she nailed all four-and-a-half passes though, and said she knew she had won as the judges held up her winning score.
Zenk has excelled abroad as well, winning a world title with the USA National Team in 2012, and more recently performing for audiences in Germany and Japan.
But her home stage is still the Tommy Bartlett Show, and her favorite show is at night, when the lights go down, and the adrenaline goes up.
"It's the most fun. It's cool," she said. "The water is usually calm so you don't have to worry about boat waves or stuff like that."
Waves or no waves, watching Zenk maneuver through the water is exciting in itself. She twists, turns, uses her legs and feet, and displays an artistic showmanship throughout practice and the two performances offered each night on the backwaters of Lake Delton.
When you also consider the fact she's never been seriously injured while being pulled barefoot across the water at 40 miles per hour, weaving between fellow skiers off ramps and jumps, and stacked head-to-toe in a pyramid formation, makes that feat even more incredible.
Rachael's swivel ski is unique compared to the average pair of skis you would typically use on the water. Click here to watch her explain the difference and other aspects of swivel skiing.