Globe-trotting professional water skier takes on medical school

By Haley Reardon Oct 17, 2023
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Before she began chasing her dream of becoming a physician, second-year medical student Bailey Austin rose to prominence as one of the top water skiers in the world. Her love for the sport developed long before she was old enough to fit into a pair of skis. “My first exposure to water skiing happened when I was a baby,” Austin said. “My parents secured my infant seat inside our ski boat when I was just a few weeks old.”

A move from Pennsylvania to Texas when Austin was 7 gave her regular access to lakes and hot summers conducive to long seasons of skiing–and the opportunity to hone her craft to a world class level. At 14, Austin skied her first professional slalom event and continued to ascend in the pro ranks from there. During her Juniors career, she racked up titles at two of the world’s most prestigious tournaments–The Moomba Masters and Malibu Open. At the age of 18, she earned a silver medal at Under 21 worlds in 2017 in Dnipro, Ukraine.

Austin spent much of her high school career living and skiing in South Africa attending class remotely at California-based Laurel Springs School. By her junior year of high school, she caught the attention of coaches at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette)--one of the top collegiate water skiing programs in the country–where she attended on a full ride scholarship. As captain of the Ragin’ Cajuns Water Ski team, she not only helped guide the program to the 2019 National Championships, but also helped secure UL Lafayette’s eighth title in school history during the 2021 National Championships. During her time in college, Austin broke into the top 20 of the world–ultimately reaching a ranking of 14th– while managing to graduate with honors at the top of her class and earn her undergraduate degree in exercise physiology.

After completing her education at UL Lafayette, Austin took a break from the professional circuit to shift her focus toward earning a spot in medical school. After being accepted at schools across the country, Austin chose Kansas City University in part for its focus on osteopathic manipulative medicine. Before returning for her second year at KCU’s Farber-McIntire Campus in Joplin, Austin jumped back into the professional circuit where she competed in Italy at the San Gervasio ProAm, one of the top events on the 2023 Water Ski Pro Tour. Despite less than optimal preparation time in the spring due to the demands of medical school, she made the final cut in a crowded field, finishing in an impressive 6th place.

Austin draws a comparison between the mental preparation it takes to become a world-class athlete and what it takes to become a physician. “Water skiing at the professional level has taught me that I will never get where I want to be in one day,” she remarked. “It takes an incredible amount of discipline and focus. As a medical student, I have to be intentional and methodical in my studies, making sure my efforts always bring me closer to the end goal of becoming a doctor.”

What’s next for this world-class water skier? While she may not have a medical specialty determined yet, Austin knows her love for the sport will likely be a factor in where she eventually resides. She has dreams of practicing medicine with a collegiate or professional sports team one day. As for her career on the water? She has no plans to hang up the skis anytime soon.

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