Ethics Quiz: The World’s Cutest Water-skier

waterskiing baby

Keith St. Onge and his wife are professional barefoot water skiers and co-owners of the World Barefoot Center in Winter Haven, Florida. Last week, they had their six-month old daughter Zyla strap on little tiny skis and finally attempt what her parents had spent weeks training her for–water-skiing. She did it, too, for 686 feet across Lake Silver.  The proud parents filmed her feat and posted the video on YouTube (of course).

The Washington Post notes that many are criticizing the St. Onges for the stunt, claiming child endangerment.  Papa St. Onge defended the unusual pre-toddler (the girl can’t walk yet) activity, saying, “People don’t realize that it was done properly. It was planned and she was ready for it.”


Your strange Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is this ethical parenting?

I was considering leaving this alone until everyone had waved in, but I feel a rant coming on.

Ethical parenting?

Are you kidding me?

This is using a baby as a prop while simultaneously putting her at risk, just for some cheap publicity. You know what the difference is between a waterskiing squirrel..

…and Zyla? NOTHING, except the squirrel probably understands what is happening more, and is at less risk. What does the father mean, “it was planned” and “she was ready”? How do they know how ready she was? No baby has ever done this before. She can’t consent to it; she can’t even say “waterski” or “GET ME THE HELL OFF OF THESE THINGS!!!” If it’s OK to use a baby for this, what isn’t it OK to use a baby for? Setting the record for the youngest solo ski diver? The cutest human cannon ball? The tiniest jockey?

Ethics Alarms has previously visited the sick American practice of parents jeopardizing their children’s health and welfare for their own selfish needs or vicarious passions. There was Abby Sunderland…but she was 16.  There were the sailing Kaufmans, who endangered an infant and a toddler, but at least they didn’t have the children steering the boat. Paul Romero sent his son Jordan, then 13, out to be the youngest to climb Mount Everest.   Babar Suleman wanted his 17-year-old son, Haris Suleman, to be the youngest pilot to fly around the world in a single-engine aircraft. The boy was prepared too, and he just missed, becoming instead  the youngest pilot to die trying to fly around the world.  And, of course, there are my favorites, the Biking Vogels.

All of these, however, are likely to pale in comparison to what the St. Onges are capable of inflicting on their daughter, if this is what they think is responsible parenting of an infant.



12 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The World’s Cutest Water-skier

  1. My slant on this? It’s tricky to put this in a coherent thought….

    We’re getting to a point in our society where, if you weren’t a child prodigy who survived these early experiences, then you felt you were starting too late in life. 5 year olds who can no longer pursue their dreams because they didn’t start at 2, or 1, or 6 months.

    If a 6 month old can survive this then yes, she’ll have that experience. She’s on her way to better balance and an innate sense about water skiing. Basically hard coding it into her DNA. Good for her, but that comes at a risk. If you survive something, it becomes an experience, but everyone else who didn’t take that risk because they had responsible parents is not going to be the elite anymore.

    With that said, I’ve got a photo of my daughter balancing on my hand when she was about a year old, over my head. There’s a sense of balance that young ones have that gets lost very quickly because fear sets in. If you can harness that balance before fear sets in, you can give them opportunities they might not have otherwise had….

    I don’t know the answer to this, but I feel bad for those who always feel behind because they weren’t the youngest to start doing it.

  2. I’ve witnessed 5 or 6 year old kids with snow skis and helmets go down bunny slopes in the local mountains and if they are properly trained I’m ok with that. However, a baby on water skis who probably can’t swim. This is stupidity beyond all bounds!

  3. 6 months!? Are they out of their minds!? My grandson was 6 months old not so long ago, so I remember what a 6 month old is capable of understanding, and it isn’t something like this. How do they know she wasn’t terrified?

  4. Idiots. The parents should be prosecuted for child abuse, reckless endangerment, or whatever is the appropriate charge under the applicable Florida statutes.

    A six month old in the middle of the lake? Are life preservers even rated for six month olds? Will it keep her head above water? Can she keep her head above water? Attempted murder might be in the ball park.

    • When does the pate harden? Wiping out is bad enough for a helmeted teen who has experience in cannonballs and other crashes, but I really think it would be worse for a baby. I hate ‘parents’ like this because they refuse to see how they endanger their kids’ health or social development to vilify them for TV laughs.

      • As I recall from having infants forty years ago, the hole in the middle of the skull finally fills in around twelve months, I think?

  5. Only time I ever broke my nose was falling off of a water ski and falling ONTO one of the ski’s. Obviously, nose first. Glad I was twenty-something when it happened and not 6 months.

  6. A person has to get a license to have a dog as a pet. One isn’t needed to become a parent. People abuse dogs and are prosecuted, or at least have the poor animals taken away from them. Who’s going to do something with these parents? Any dog is more sentient than a six-month old baby. Using an infant as a publicity stunt means not just poor parenting, but criminal negligence. The Florida state attorney’s office has to do something about this.

    And of course it’s on YouTube. What better way to advertise your business these days? But e-discovery in the legal profession is growing: go Florida! Get those parents and save that child.

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