Most people are probably happiest when their feet are on solid ground.
Denverâ€™s Brian Baldwin is not one of those people.
A professional jet skier, Baldwin has managed to accomplish something most only dream of: making a career out of doing what he loves.
His parents bought the Hendersonville native his first jet ski in 1986, when he was only 8 years old. The family had a place on Lake James and Baldwin took full advantage.
â€œIn the summertime, thatâ€™s all me and my sister wanted to do,â€ said Baldwin.
It didnâ€™t take long for Baldwin to become adept at riding a jet ski, yet he didnâ€™t see it as a career possibility until his parents bought him a video of the jet ski racing world finals, held annually in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
â€œI was hooked from then,â€ said Baldwin.
Baldwin says he got out to the lake whenever he could, practicing alone on a slalom ski course to see how fast he could do it.
After graduating from high school, Baldwin moved to Daytona, Fla. to attend the American Motorcycle Instituteâ€™s water craft division. He competed in his first jet ski race in 2000 and won, beating out plenty of more experienced riders.
Several years later, Baldwin moved back to North Carolina and worked at a car dealership while racing as an amateur on weekends.
That would soon change.
â€œI turned professional three years ago,â€ said Baldwin.
This year, Baldwin has been on a national tour, competing in Arizona in May, South Carolina in June and New York in July. Baldwin most recently competed in Nashville, the last stop before the world finals in October. He came in second in the 800 cc class and third in the 1200 cc class.
â€œThis seasonâ€™s really been a kind of â€˜hey, look at meâ€™ season,â€ Baldwin said. â€œWeâ€™ve really made a name for ourselves.â€
According to Baldwin, he has won over 100 races since 2000. He was the national champion of last yearâ€™s tour.
Baldwin is the national points leader in the 800 cc class and is a close second in the 1200 cc class.
And, considering many of his competitors race more expensive jet skis, heâ€™s a bit of an underdog.
Yet Baldwin knows its not always about the size of the dog in the fight.
â€œIâ€™ve never had the best equipment, but Iâ€™ve always been able to ride faster than anyone,â€ said Baldwin.
Baldwin gets a lot of practice time in on his â€œhome court,â€ Lake Norman. Contributed Photo
by Allyson Levine