A Healthy Addiction

Chelsea Mills ’06 finds success as
a competitive water skier
by David Pulizzi ’94
Soon after arriving on the Bucknell campus in 2002 to study psychology, Chelsea Mills ’06 joined a talented tennis team that had become a perennial powerhouse in the Patriot League. Through hard work, she received Intercollegiate Tennis Association Scholar- Athlete recognition in 2005 and 2006 and was the squad’s No. 2 player her senior year. Then a severe case of tendinitis ended her career as a competitive tennis player.

“It felt like my hand was going to shatter every time I hit a forehand,” she recalls. “So I had to step back because it was just plain painful to play at that point. And that was when water skiing started.”

Chelsea Mills Headshot
Photo: Courtesy of Chelsea Mills ’06
During training, Chelsea Mills ’06 says, “You’re on and off the water in 15 minutes, but you feel like you’ve worked every muscle in your whole body 20 times over.”
Mills had dabbled in water skiing while growing up in Wellesley, Mass. She eased back into the sport and, within a few years of graduation, was introduced to professional slalom skiing, in which competitors face forward on a single narrow ski and must zigzag through a series of buoys.

“I have a very adrenaline-seeking personality type, and skiing fed that,” she says. “It’s been a very healthy addiction for me.”

It’s also been rewarding. Today, Mills, who lives in Orlando, Fla., is the world’s fourth-ranked female slalom skier, according to the International Waterski and Wakeboard Federation. A two-time national champion — in 2013 and 2016 — she won her first professional tournament in July at the San Gervasio Pro Am in Italy.

When she’s not training for a few hours a day or competing, Mills works for Winning Mindset Solutions, a company that helps athletes from across the country deal with the mental aspects of playing sports. Via Zoom and FaceTime, she coaches about 20 clients, most of whom are between 13 and 20 years old.

“I always wanted to make an impact on athletes, especially in that age range,” she says.

Mills takes her accomplishments both on and off the water in easy stride. “For me,” she notes, “it’s about the journey. I just want to get a little better every day.”