ALEXANDRIA - When Frankie Jost was just 8 years old, she participated in her first wakesurfing competition. Though it was her first competition, Frankie was intent on competing in the toughest division possible.
"She was like, 'Well I want to be in the women's division,'" recalled Mike Jost, Frankie's father. "And we're like, 'No, honey, why don't you just compete in the kid's division and get a couple trophies and experience under your belt.'"
But Frankie was adamant that she was only going to compete if she could go up against the women.
"I remember my mom saying 'no' like five times about moving up in the division," Frankie said. "So I just went and did it. I talked to the directors and was like, 'Well my mom said no, but I really want to do it.'"
Frankie's parents gave in and decided to let her compete against the women.
"We were like, 'OK, but if you don't get on the podium, don't be sad,'" Mike said. "And then she took first."
That competition set the tone for Frankie's wakesurfing career. Now 16 years old, she ranked fourth in the world in the semi-pro division last year and is currently ranked 12th in the world in the professional division.
When wakesurfing, an athlete is pulled up onto a board by a tow rope behind the boat. Once in the correct position, the rider lets go of the rope and rides the wake.
Frankie's father says she was a natural from the very beginning.
"She's been doing it since she was 3 or 4," he said. "She could instantly get the hang of it and start turning. She really was born with a surfer's soul I guess."
In competitions, a surfer is scored by three judges on a system called DIVE, which stands for difficulty, intensity, variety and execution. Each category is worth up to 10 points, for a total of 40.
Frankie enjoys wakesurfing because of the relaxed vibe that accompanies it.
"It's low impact, so when you fall it doesn't usually hurt," she said. "It's like surfing in the ocean kind of, so it can translate when you do that."
When traveling to competitions, Frankie competes against many people from other countries. Since they end up at many of the same competitions, she has formed friendships with them.
"You both know how to surf so that's something you can share," she said. "It doesn't matter if you really speak the same language."
Among Frankie's many competitions, the 2016 Centurion World Wake Surfing Championship in Florida stands out.
"Last year at worlds, I had the best run of my life," she said. "I didn't fall once and landed all the tricks I wanted to land."
During the summer, Frankie is out on the water every day, sometimes more than once. Her parents own Lake Carlos Marina, and she offers wakesurfing lessons there.
"Sometimes we take a bunch of little kids out, and I can get them up on the board between my legs and that is really fun for them," she said. "I love kids so that's probably my favorite part. I can carve with them so it feels like they're doing tricks."
Mike and his wife, Jaime, are very supportive of and involved in Frankie's wakesurfing career, often traveling out of state with her for competitions.
"What I like the most is that it gives her some drive and something to work toward," Mike said. "We try to keep it fun for her and not take it too seriously."
For those attempting to learn to wakesurf, Frankie says repetition is key.
"Be persistent," she said. "It can seem really frustrating. Some kids get it the first try and for some it takes four days."