CUMMING, Ga. — Jenna Malcolm can do backflips (tantrums) on her wakeboard.
What Malcolm, 15, a competitive wakeboarder, is really working toward is perfecting landing her 360.
“When I’m out there, I feel very strong and independent,” Malcolm said.
It’s something she doesn’t feel a lot.
Malcolm has a rare disorder — postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) — where her autonomic system doesn’t work correctly and her blood pressure will drop, her heart will race really fast to compensate and that can cause her to pass out.
“A lot of times, I’m not very independent with this, so when I’m wakeboarding I feel free,” Malcolm said. “I’m out there doing my thing and I’m free and it’s just me.”
When she was 12, her cardiologist told her to quit wakeboarding. There’s always a possibility that her blood pressure will drop and she will pass out in the water, or she will forget to do something crucial in the middle of a flip.
But instead of fear, Malcolm is energized to keep pushing the limits of women’s wakeboarding.
“Human beings have a fire inside of them that cannot be extinguished,” she said. “We just have to use our setbacks as fuel to this flame. I didn’t want it to stop me from doing what I love.”
Malcolm drinks a lot of fluids and has to undergo weekly intravenous therapy. Other than that, the homeschooled junior doesn’t let anything hold her back from making her dream a reality.
“I would consider myself driven at it. I want to learn it; if I can’t get a trick, I’ll keep going and pushing myself,” she said. “Somebody might fall and they’ll say, ‘that fall hurt, I’m not going to do it again,’ but I’ll be like, I got to land it.”
Malcolm’s persistence has paid off. She competes in the International Novice Tour (INT) League, where she earned the title of women’s state champion for 2013 in Georgia and placed second in the women’s intermediate at the 2013 INT National Championships, held in Bakersfield, California.
Earlier this month, Malcolm defended her title to win the 2014 INT Women’s Intermediate (the highest competing level for women) State Championship held in Acworth, Georgia.
She has qualified to compete in the regional championships in September, which will take place in Florence, Alabama. INT has turned out a couple of female pros nationwide, although the majority are men.
Years ago, Shelby King went pro from Georgia INT.
Malcolm is the youngest in her division in Georgia, with the next in age at 18 years old.
“I feel like it’s just age,” she said.
On a typical weekday morning, she can be found wakeboarding on Lake Lanier.
“We don’t go out on the weekends because it’s absolutely nuts on Lanier,” Malcolm said.
Her goal is to become a professional wakeboarder, like her heroes Amber Wing, Nicola Butler and Tarah Mikicich.
She said she hopes to have a shop sponsor and find more sponsors next year to help take her passion to the next level. She’s sponsored by SheShreds, a sports apparel and gear company that is focused on female athletes.
During competitions, her family cheers from the shoreline. Her dad, Don Malcolm, said his daughter’s INT league has turned out many professionals, all of whom were men.
“To say I’m proud is an understatement,” Don said. “She has faced older people who have been doing this longer than she has and she has really worked hard to get where she is. She’s a strong competitor and doesn’t get rattled.
“I always tell her, when it stops being fun that’s when it’s time not to do it anymore.”