Back to the Basics with Barefooting

duane godfrey taking a faceplant

Every time I go skiing with Keith St. Onge, I enjoy our conversations about health, fitness, eating habits and…thinking. This goes way back to when we first met at Gliding Soles, (his first barefooting school, also the name of his new book, Gliding Soles, Lessons from a Life on Water) – he was fun to hang with and was an open book on eating and training well. For me, shooting the breeze with Keith is always a great opportunity to learn all I can from a proven practitioner. I want to know what the best skiers think in setting up for accomplishing a trick and/or thoughts/focus before and during a slalom pass. It is important for me to unclutter the mind and just focus on what I need to think. It comes down to what works for me and what I need to be focused on. What I don’t need is to clutter my diminishing/clogged hardrive with superfluous over-thinking, when I should be focusing on one or maybe two setup thoughts. These need to be ingrained: hence the topic…ingrain the basics and free up the mind.

It is no wonder that the basics are the core of WBC’s mantra. Prior to joining  the World Barefoot Center, I was fortunate to work with those who also identified my weaknesses. Both Richard Gray and Paul MacDonald insisted that I need to smarten up and ingrain the basics to become a better and more consistent skier. Each have pushed one foots and toeholds – especially back toeholds, while their tone persuaded me get on it to avoid their ire. What has dogged all my back to-front one foot turns over the years – surface, line and toeturns is the fact that my basic forward one foot skiing position is terrible. To prove the point I was asked to merely demonstrate basic forward one foot position…

WRONG!! Foot forward, plowing, and straining was what I ended up with. “Do a front toehold” – foot flat, shin 90degrees to foot/water (shin flex), proper amount of knee bend – effortless…so then they’d ask, “why can’t you do a front one foot?”… obviously because I never thought anything of it other than just mindlessly doing something before something else. By concentrating on this one aspect, my one foot back-to-front surface turn, line front and toe fronts became much easier and actually do-able. So for me, since this is not yet ingrained, I need to remind myself that when coming to the front, I need shin flex and flat foot.

David Small has helped my back skiing setup by reminding me to ski flatter on my foot in preparing for the 1 foot b-f as well as pulsing down (absorbing the turn)when reaching the back from a 1 foot turn or toeback– these points are definitely helpful hence major setup thoughts – for now.  My goal will be to make this automatic so I can be more in tune with the turn itself – I still don’t see the turn, and for that I need to concentrate and actually have my eyes open!….Always see where I have been.

Back toes are another block-builder that I plan to do on a more regular basis.  It takes strength, determination, balance, smoothness, vision and accuracy to perfectly track the trough without movement….sounds like a challenge!  If the toes burn, you know immediately that the foot is not flat enough. If you are moving to the side, chances are there is not enough shin and foot flexion. When anything goes wrong with a back toe, it identifies a weakness hence a very good indicator to the skier of what needs attention thereby also improving self analysis. When doing back toes, one has to do everything in unison – again, a great skill to practice. Deliberately going off balance and rectifying are great exercises for overall skiing and completing the toe-back. These are important skills that sets one up for success in turns and wake crossings.

In conclusion, I will strive to remember that barefoot skiing is a lot of fun but can become a chore when only working toward tournament scores. Therefore, Note to self:  I will take the time to practice the basics and ratchet down the intensity;  striving to perform smooth and controlled warm up passes to set the tone for the harder stuff……….Stuff that requires solid basics.

Duane Godfrey

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One Response to “Back to the Basics with Barefooting”

  1. World Barefoot Center says:

    Duane, thanks for sharing. I had to learn the painful lesson of going back to basics after being too eager to learn new stuff. ~Karen

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