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High flying comes to Gates County

Fast paced and high flying usually doesn’t sound like a weekend spent in the woods and lakes of northeastern North Carolina.

Both descriptions easily fit what will take place on and above Beaver Lake in Gates County Saturday and Sunday at the Beaver Lake Challenge Water Ski Tournament.

A short drive past the state line comes to one of the finest water skiing venues in the region.

The tournament is bringing in the best amateur skiers from the Carolinas north to Maryland and Delaware. Slalom, trick and jump divisions will be on display.

In the slalom, “the skier has to ski around six buoys,” said Beaver Lake Ski Club president Jeff Mitchell.

The boat goes at a consistent speed. On each pass, as the competition progresses, the buoys are placed closer together, increasing the precision and skill needed.

The trick division is designed for any fan of snowboarding, skateboarding or gymnastics to love.

Each trick skier gets two 20-second passes on the course and tries to execute as many tricks, turns, jumps and flips as possible.

Ski jumpers will be going off a five-and-a-half-foot ramp, but off the seemingly small ramp, the best amateurs will soar 150-180 feet says Mitchell.

For the competitors, Mitchell compares what Beaver Lake offers to a first-rate golf course.

“For a golfer, think of a municipal course versus Pinehurst. It’s the same way skiing on a public river versus what we have here at Beaver Lake. It’s definitely a big difference,” Mitchell said.

The reasons for that are part-nature and part-man made improvements. The woods surrounding the lake provide excellent and reliable wind control. The natural shape and calmness of the lake is perfect for world-class water skiing.

Combine that with banks that have been sloped so that no back wash or waves interfere with skiing runs, state-of-the-art technology on the boats, such as GPS speed control, and Beaver Lake is home to amateur, college and pro events. On July 17-18, Beaver Lake is set to host the North Carolina State Championships.

“We are very passionate about having a top-notch facility. At the same time, we make sure we have a fun, family atmosphere so that everyone has a good time,” Mitchell said.

The slalom competition opens the weekend Saturday at 8 a.m. The trick and jump events will start Saturday afternoon. The public is invited to attend and admission is free. Concessions will be available on site.

“We invite everyone to bring a blanket, lawn chairs and just enjoy the day,” Mitchell said.

Beaver Lake is located on Highway 13/158 in Gates County, two miles north of the Chowan River Bridge, between Ahoskie, N.C. and Suffolk.