Nestled conveniently next to Badin Lake in northern Stanly County is a large pond where the water is almost always calm and glass-like. The large pond features a ski slalom course and ski jump ramp and most afternoons from March until November, four local skiers can be found practicing their ski jumps, running the slalom course or doing tricks. The four skiers are members of the Tommy Gun Water Ski Speed Suits team.
The members are Tommy Gun Water Ski Speed Suit founder Tommy James, along with Jamie Harris, Bill Barringer and Treece Barringer. All four skiers have been competing in skiing competitions most of their lives and hold a long list of state, regional and national titles.
Bill Barringer, who owns a house on the pond, is the elder skier, having competed for more than 35 years and holding numerous state, regional and national titles and is the national holder for seniors for ski jumping, with a jump of 115 feet. He was the founding member of the Badin Lake Ski Club and is water safety director for state, regional and national championships.
James, who grew up in Richmond County and first started skiing on Lake Tillery, has been competing for more than 20 years and was a member and captain of the North Carolina State University ski team from 1996-99 and still holds the school record for jumps. He was also the ski coach at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He is in the top-10 in the world for jumps in age 35-up. He placed third in the 2001 Skifly Nationals placed fifth in the 2010 U.S. Water Ski Nationals. James also placed seventh in the 2010 Rocketman Pro Night Jump Tournament.
Harris, the lone woman of the group, is from Virginia and holds more than 10 state titles in both North Carolina and Virginia. She has won 12 regional championships and was the women’s U.S. Water Ski National Champion in 2007. She was the captain of the Clemson University ski team from 2001-05 and won numerous collegiate titles. She is in the top 70 for women’s jumping competition.
Barringer’s son, Treece, is the fourth member of the team and has been competing for more than 20 years and currently holds the state record for longest jump at 184 feet. He won the 2007 U.S. National Jump Championship with a jump of 197 feet. He is among the top 50 in the world for men’s jumps. He was an alternate for the U.S. Water Ski Team in 1999 and holds the junior state record for jumps.
With nearly 100 years of combined experience and numerous championships, James founded Tommy Gun Water Ski Speed Suits in 2010, doing research and developing suits for water ski jumping. The suits were developed to increase jumping distances, cutting down on wind resistance and drag, while being comfortable, colorful and flexible. With their vast knowledge of the sport, the team can run tests for quality control and usefulness.
The company is also branching of into the board shorts industry that is used in trick skiing and slalom competition. The shorts are very stylish and made of quick dry materials and also aid with wind resistance.