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 (30-45 mph/50–70 km/h) than conventional water skiing (20-35 mph). The necessary speed required to keep the skier upright varies by the weight of the barefooter and can be approximated by the following formula: (W / 10) + 20, where W is the skier's weight in pounds and the result is in miles per hour. It is an act performed in show skiing, and on its own.
Barefoot water skiing originated in Winter Haven, Florida. According to the Water Ski Hall of Fame, and witnesses of the event, 17-year-old A.G. Hancock became the first person ever to barefoot water ski in 1947. That same year, Richard Downing "Dick" Pope Jr., was the first person ever to be photographed barefooting, stepping off his skis on a training boom alongside the boat. In 1950, the first barefoot competition was held in Cypress Gardens, with Pope and Mexican competitor Emilio Zamudio as the only two known barefooters in the world at the time. The first woman to waterski barefoot was Charlene Zint in 1951.
Throughout the 1950s, additional barefoot starting techniques were invented including the two-ski jump out, the beach start (invented by Ken Tibado in 1955), and the deep water start (invented by Joe Cash in 1958). The tumble-turn maneuver was 'invented' by accident during a double barefoot routine in 1960 when Terry Vance fell onto his back during a step-off and partner Don Thomson (still on his skis) spun him around forward, enabling Vance to regain a standing posture. In 1961, Randy Rabe became the first backward barefooter by stepping off a trick ski backwards, a maneuver Dick Pope had first tried in 1950 but vowed never to try again after a painful fall. The early 1960s saw Don Thomson appear as the first "superstar" of the sport, developing both back-to-front and front-to-back turnarounds, and performing the first barefoot tandem ride in a show at Cypress Gardens.
During this time barefooting began developing in Australia as well. In April 1963, the first national competition was held in Australia, with 38 competitors. 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. Australians Brett Wing and Colleen Wilkinson captured the men's and women's titles. In 1976 Briton Keith Donnelly set the first (officially recognized) World Barefoot Jump record of 13.25 meters.
Equipment required for barefooting:
Barefoot water skiing has a competitive aspect which is very established. In traditional competition, there are three events:
The current world record for Men's Open division is 13,350 points set by David Small on August 14, 2018
For the Women's Open division the world record is 10,100 pts. set by Ashleigh Stebbeings on March 13, 2014.
In the Boy's division Jackson Gerard set a record of 12.850 points on July 28, 2018. It also counted as the Men's Open record until broken two weeks later by World Barefoot Center teammate David Small.
For the Girls division a record of 7400 points was set by Georgia Groen on April 1, 2013.
The world record for Men's Open division was set by Keith St. Onge on January 6, 2006 (20.6).
Ashleigh Stebbeings set the Women's Open division world record on October 8, 2014 with a score of 17.2 points.
The Boys division world record of 19.2 pts. was set on January 6, 2006 by Heinrich Sam. It was tied by Jackson Gerard on August 16, 2018.
Nadine De Villiers set the Girl's division world record of 16.1 pts. on April 5, 1997.
The current world record for Men's Open division of 29.9 meters (98.1 feet) was set by David Small on August 11, 2010.
With a jump of 23.4 meters (76.8 feet) Ashleigh Stebbeings set the Women's Open world record on February 19, 2017.
Tee-Jay Russo jumped 26.7 meters (87.6 feet) to set the Boy's division world record on December 29, 2018
The Girl's division world record of 12.1 Meters (39.7 feet) was set by Kim Rowswell on August 13, 2010.
Some other barefoot competitions feature endurance events. These include:
The newest form of Barefoot competition is an event which brings together all three events Tricks, Slalom and Jump into a single set.
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