First, baby Zyla St. Onge tried her trick on cushy, beige carpet.
With reassuring adult hands hovering just in case, the 6-month-old in a bright pink dress planted her tiny feet atop the planks, bright white and bolted together for safety. Her eager hands gripped the bar before her.
When someone tugged the bungee attached to the boards, sending Zyla gliding across the floor, she beamed.
Another St. Onge skier was born.
Zyla’s parents, both professional barefoot water skiers and co-owners of the World Barefoot Center in Winter Haven, Fla., decided to take their daughter’s trick up a notch.
So last week, the baby traded her pink dress for a pink life jacket and the carpet for gleaming water.
And she skied — 686 feet across Lake Silver, her father told the Associated Press.
They filmed her feat and posted the video on YouTube, earning her titles like “World’s Cutest Water Skier.”
“I’d say that’s pretty much the youngest water skier in the world, hands down,” father Keith St. Onge said at the end of the video.
Standing 30 inches tall and weighing 20 pounds, Zyla isn’t even walking yet, reports AP, but she has had plenty of exposure to the water.
On social media, family have posted photos of the girl floating on her back in a pool, wading into waves at the beach and cruising in a boat on the lake. In one photo, captioned as the family Christmas card shot, mom and dad are skiing behind a boat, wearing Santa hats and holding between them a car seat carrier with Zyla inside.
Commenters on the video of Zyla water-skiing last week criticized the St. Onges for putting the baby in danger. “Why would you do this to such a wee baby?” one person wrote. Another commented: “Child endangerment?”
“A sick publicity stunt that put an infant at risk,” another criticized. “I hope the child welfare authorities come down hard on these ‘parents.’ ”
But in an interview with the AP, St. Onge defended the stunt.
“People don’t realize that it was done properly,” he said. “It was planned and she was ready for it.”
Zyla launched from a shallow, beached area near the shore, about a dozen adults standing nearby and treading water along her route across the lake. Video footage shows her smiling as her spotters wave her on. The boat was traveling 7 miles per hour, according to the AP, and tugged Zyla behind a 30-foot rope.
But eventually her spotters disappeared as the boat cruised further from shore. She frowned and let out some cries, the video shows, then the boat slowed and St. Onge told the AP he towed his daughter within reach. When her skis sank and she plopped into the water, St. Onge was with her in seconds.
“She barely, barely got her head wet,” he told AP.
Though Zyla’s parents claim the 6-month old broke a youth record and became the world’s youngest skier, USA Water Ski spokesman Scott Atkinson told AP the association doesn’t track any such record.
“I am presuming this is something that the folks at Guinness World Records may track,” Atkinson said in an email.
The folks at Guinness don’t track anything involving people younger than 16, officials told the family, according to AP.
Keith St. Onge has won the U.S. national barefoot championship more than a dozen times and has claimed the world championship twice. He has been named the International Water Ski Federation’s Male Athlete of the Year, and broke the world slalom record and the world trick record multiple times.
At the age of 10, he competed in his first water ski tournament.