Ariana Koehler: Driving Keith St. Onge

I have been very fortunate to grow up on a lake my whole life. The water, boats, and skiing have all ran through my blood for as long as I can remember. Kailey and I were taught how to drive the boat when we were young, and soon enough we learned how to pull each other skiing. We would take turns driving as the other would trick ski, swivel ski, disc, or whatever else just to mess around. The barefooting however, was usually driven by my dad so he was there to coach us as well.

When we are not on Lake Como being coached by our dad, Kailey and I train at the World Barefoot Center and there is one day I remember quite clearly. On a normal day of skiing on Lake Conine, Keith took out my sister and I for an afternoon set. After the two of us were done skiing, Keith decided that he too wanted to go for a run. I didn’t think much of it, assuming that we were going to go grab someone back at the house to drive. Then when he looked at me and gave me his speed, my heart dropped. This was about to be my first time pulling a barefooter and it wasn’t just any barefooter… this was Keith St.Onge, the world’s best barefooter! Sitting there for a second, I realized that he wasn’t kidding around at all, so I hopped in the drivers seat and asked for some advise. We took one quick pass for me to practice first, then he said, “That will do” and jumped in the water. As he got out of the boat, Kailey leaned over and shouted, “Nice knowing ya!” I rolled my eyes and listened to his reply as he said, “Nice knowing me? I can always let go of the rope if something goes wrong, you’re in the boat and can’t do anything if she runs into shore.” Hearing this conversation was not necessarily a confidence booster as I was already incredibly nervous. This didn’t stop me though as I continued to pull the line tight and wait for Keith to get ready. Then I drove for a few passes, watching him do slalom in the mirror. I didn’t do too bad of a job, however, no matter how bad you mess up, it’s almost impossible to make Keith look bad. He said the first pass was a little hot, but the rest were just fine. Thank goodness he approved!

Looking back at the first time I drove for a barefooter, I always smile. I was so nervous, but have changed so much since then. Now, Kailey and I regularly pull each other barefooting and driver for people as we teach lessons. I also work at a marina now, where I drive all sorts of boats every day and often have to teach people how to drive boats. From that first pull I learned a lot, but it was just the start of something that I don’t even have to think twice about anymore.

~Ariana Koehler

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