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Barefoot skiing

Barefoot skiing is water skiing behind a motorboat without the use of water skis, commonly referred to as "barefooting". Barefooting requires the skier to travel at higher speeds than conventional water skiing.


History of barefooting

Barefoot water skiing originated in Cypress Gardens, Florida. Dick Pope Jr., on March 6, 1947, was the first recorded person to ever barefoot.[1]. By 1950, the first barefoot competition was held in Cypress Gardens. Throughout the 1950s, many other start techniques were invented including the two-ski jump out, the beach start and the deep water start. By 1961, a whole new aspect of the sport, backwards barefooting, was added by Randy Rabe by stepping off a trick ski backwards [2].

Meanwhile, the Australians were developing the sport further. In April 1963, the first national competition was held in Australia, complete with 38 competitors[3]. The Australians were the first to develop barefoot jumping, one of the three events in modern barefoot competition, as well as pioneer many new tricks. In November 1978, the first world championships were held in Canberra, Australia, where 54 skiers competed for a total of 10 different countries [4]. The Australians blew away the competition with maneuvers almost unheard of. Brett Wing and Colleen Wilkinson captured the World titles for men and women, respectively.


Though barefoot water skiing does not require water skis, there are many pieces of equipment you need to participate in their sport safely. These include:

  • Barefoot wetsuit - The skier wears a fitted, padded neoprene barefoot wetsuit which has built-in floatation so that the need of a life jacket is unnecessary. It is possible to ski with a Coast Guard approved Type III flotation vest though this does not pad the skier well and the skier will not be able to perform many tricks. Some barefoot wetsuit manufactures include Eagle, Vortex and Barefoot International.
  • Padded shorts - Though not necessary, almost all barefooters wear padded neoprene shorts. These help pad the skier's buttocks which is very helpful in performing the deep water start and tumble turns.
  • Handles and ropes - Though you can ski with a normal 75 foot tow rope and handle, many skiers use special ropes made out of Poly-E or Spectra. Barefoot handles have plastic tubing around them, so the skier can wrap their feet around the rope without getting rope burn and can have small modifications for frontward and backward toe holds.
  • Boats - The skier needs to have a boat that can travel to a speed they can barefoot at. Some boats are made specifically for barefooting, as they have small wakes and can travel at fast speeds. For a current list of boats approved by the American Barefoot Club, visit ABC Boats.
  • Booms - Barefoot booms are used for learning barefooting and also, learning new barefoot tricks. This is essentially a long pole that hangs over the edge of the boat
  • Shoe Skiis - Shoe skiis are small 'skiis' put on the foot that are only a few inches longer and wider than the skier's foot. Usually it consists of a binding and some type of heel strap. When using shoe skiis the driver should go approximately 18mph or whatever speed the skier prefers for trick skiing or kneeboarding. Do NOT attempt to shoe ski at barefoot waterskiing speeds.


Barefoot Jumping

Barefoot water skiing has a competitive aspect which is very established. In traditional competition, there are three events:

  • Tricks - The skier has two passes of 15 seconds to complete as many different tricks as possible. All tricks have specific point values depending on difficulty. The skier also is awarded points for the start trick they performed to get up. For more information on points awarded for each trick, see the Trick Point Chart.
  • Slalom - The skier has two passes of 15 seconds to cross the wake as many times are possible. The skier can cross the wake forwards or backwards and on two feet or one foot.
  • Jump - The skier travels over a small, fiberglass jump ramp. They have three jumps and the longest one they land (hold on and later stand up) counts. Professionals can jump as far as 90 feet (27.43200m).

For more information on rules, see the World Barefoot Council.

Some other barefoot competitions feature endurance events. These include:

  • Figure 8 - Two skiers on opposite sides of the wake ski while the boat drives in the pattern of a figure 8. The skier who is the last one standing wins.
  • Team Endurance - This is a race between a variety of teams. Each team has a boat and the skiers take turns skiing. This generally takes place on a long river, where race distances can be up to about 45 miles. The first team to cross the finish line wins.

The newest form of Barefoot competition is an event which brings together all three events Tricks, Slalom and Jump into two action packed passes. These events are held only for the elite in barefooting, all looking to win the cash prize. The name of this event changes depending on the competition, but previous names have been the 'Splash of the Titans' and the 'Belfast'Max'.


Barefooters have their own unique terms such as: "Take me for a pull" "Give me tow" "I want to go for a rip 'n ride" "Footin!" "Rimming!"

See also



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