Barefoot waterskiing is more than just waterskiing without skis. For enthusiasts,
it also involves taking jumps and performing a series of spectacular tricks!
One of the most popular tricks is the tumble turn, where skiers drop to
their backs, do a 360-degree turn, pop back on to their feet and ski away.
Then there are barefoot starts and wake crossings.
Other tricks involve holding the tow rope with your toe, neck or teeth
while turning backwards and forwards on the skis. Then there are flips --
usually done only by those at the top of the sport.
Barefoot water skiers say they love the feeling of water on the bottom
of their feet. And they love the exhilarating feeling that they are doing
"It's walking on water," says two-time world champion Mike Seipels of Florida.
"And they say stimulating all those nerves in the feet slows down the aging
process. I know a guy who's 80 and he's still doing it. It's great"
Barefoot waterskiing is a summer sport in some parts of the U.S. In warmer
states like Florida and California, it's a year-round activity.
The first barefoot skier of all time was Dick Pope. He stepped off his
water skis and into sports history in 1947.
Since then, barefoot skiers have learned to start in deep water and literally
stand up when the boat pulls the line taut. One of the most dramatic starts
is the flying dock, in which the skier begins from a dock and jumps into the
water as the boat pulls away.
The first barefoot competition was held in 1950 at Cypress Gardens, Florida.
Judges at the waterskiing event had to hold a separate competition for barefooting
because the rules of trick competition required skis.
The sport continued to grow. Nearly 30 years later in 1978, skiers from
10 countries competed in the first World Barefoot Championships on the Molongo
River in Canberra, Australia. By the 1990s, over 20 countries were competing
at the event.
It's difficult to get a precise estimate on the number people who do this
sport. The American Barefoot Club has estimated that one million North Americans
enjoy barefoot waterskiing.
The popularity of barefoot waterskiing took a hit with the invention of
wakeboards. The boards are a sort of snowboard on water. They are so popular,
they may be attracting the efforts of people who previously might have tried
barefooting, says Richard Gray.
"It's a crossover. For young kids who love snowboarding in the winter,
they'll throw a wakeboard in the boat in the summer and start pulling moves,"
says Gray. He says barefoot waterskiing takes a little more work to master
You have to be pretty strong to do this sport. Yet experts say physically,
almost anyone can do it. Seven-time Canadian barefoot champion Karyn Scarpa
says it helps to have a good weight-to-strength ratio. You really do need
a fair bit of strength.
Most injuries are caused by hard falls into the water. Skiers have to go
over 35 miles an hour to stay up. But the experts say you can avoid falls
and bad habits with good instruction.
Making a career of barefoot waterskiing is tough, but some people have
done it. Gray says teaching barefoot waterskiing for five summers put him
through university. He now runs his own barefoot instruction school and equipment
Only the top five to 10 percent of barefoot water skiers can make a career
out of the sport, says Scarpa. She says sponsors are hard to come by and the
prize money isn't that good. Top competitors can go on to run successful barefoot
schools, but there is a lot of competition.
Seipels now runs a barefoot ski school in West Palm Beach, Florida. He
agrees there's very little money in barefoot skiing. But he says people with
talent can find at least part-time work through barefoot skiing. "I always
need help at the ski school," he jokes.
|Barefoot waterskiing puts you in touch with the water like no other
sport! People of all ages can participate.|
|Courtesy of: Barefoot Media Page|
Want to start barefoot waterskiing? You'll need a boat capable of pulling
a skier between 30 and 40 miles an hour.
You'll also need a special tow rope which is less elastic than a typical
water ski rope. Dress yourself in a padded wetsuit and shorts. The outfit
will take the sting out of the falls you will make while learning!
If you want to buy your own equipment, it will cost you between $350 and
$550. That doesn't include the cost of a boat and trailer, which these days
can run up to $40,000.
Most barefoot water ski schools offer a package rate which includes boat
rental, equipment and group instruction for about $100 a day.
It's really important to have good equipment for barefoot waterskiing in
order to avoid injury. The padded shorts and wetsuit are the only things between
you and a wall of water. The wrong tow line can snap from the weight and extra
drag of a barefoot skier.
Before you spend several hundred dollars on gear, take a couple lessons.
This way, you'll find out whether you like the sport well enough to invest
in your own equipment. Equipment rental is usually included in the cost of
barefoot ski lessons.
If you're looking to get competitive, look for a name in the industry,
says Scarpa. You should note that just because someone was a top competitor,
it does not mean he or she is a good teacher.
"Cottage skiers might pick a different school than someone interested in
competing. But if you're serious about competition, you'll want to pick your
Scarpa says word of mouth is often the best way to choose the school that's
right for you.
Check out local water ski shops for school information, says Gray. The
shops will know what's happening with barefoot waterskiing in your area.
American Barefoot Club
1251 Holy Cow Rd.
USA Water Ski
Learn more about the history of barefoot waterskiing
Banana George Blair
Over 90 years old and a fabulous barefoot water skier!
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