Archive for the ‘Featured Footer’ Category

Featured Footer: Brody Meskers

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

When Brody Meskers was three years old, he watched some skiers barefooting in a Chetek Hydroflites Ski Show and told his dad, “I want to learn to barefoot!”  Rick Meskers wanted his son to learn to water ski first.  Brody quickly became frustrated with skis that he couldn’t control, so Rick put him in a swing off the boom.  Brody was all smiles when he put his feet in the water.  The following year, he learned to barefoot off the boom and pestered his dad to teach him more.

“Right from the beginning, Brody loved barefooting,” said Rick.  “We never worried about having to teach him as he always wanted to take it a step further each time.”   At that point, there was no holding him back.  Rick added a rope to the boom and Brody taught himself to start on his stomach and tumble up on to his feet–he didn’t like getting water in his face with the deep water start.  By the time he was five, he was barefooting with a twenty-foot line and at six, he entered his first competition.  Because of his tumble up starts, the tumble turn became his first trick–even before he learned to wave.

Keith St. Onge became one of Brody’s idols from the very beginning.  The Meskers met Keith while visiting friends in Florida and Brody took a clinic with Keith when he was six.  “The night before the first clinic, Brody went to bed early so he would be fresh the next morning,” said Rick.  “This is the kid who never goes to bed early!  That was a big deal to him, to ski with Keith.  Anything Keith told him, he took it to heart and repeated everything he said.  Keith is his hero–he loves him to death.”

Six-year-old Brody competed in the Midwest Regionals and Nationals– and he won both tournaments, edging out boys who were 7, 8 and 9 years old.  The following year, Keith told Brody that it was time for him to learn to barefoot backwards.  This proved to be a challenge for him, because he did not like putting his face down in the water.   “That was not a fun year,” Rick recalled.  “Brody promised Keith he would do three backward starts every time we went out on the water.  We had to try to convince him to do it.  That was the only time that I thought some of the fun was taken out of him.”  Brody persisted, and after about 100 starts and many plants, he finally stood up backwards on the water.

Today, Brody is a sponsored skier at the World Barefoot Center and he works with Keith, David and Swampy.  “I like barefooting so much because there is so much to learn,” said Brody. “You can always get better and better.  Sometimes I don’t want to ski, but if I want to become the best, I have to go hard at it.”

This year, Brody focused on jumping and surface turns.  “The first time I jumped, I was with Keith in Florida,” Brody said. “I asked him if it would hurt, and he said no.  I was scared.  I went over the first time with shoe skis and I was so excited.  It wasn’t the cleanest jump–but I landed it!”  Brody recently accomplished his surface turns behind the boat.  His goals this summer include slaloming 12.9 and hitting 3000 with tricks.

“I see Brody being the next Heinrich Sam,” said Keith.  “He is way ahead of the learning curve for a ten year old.  I’ve worked with Brody since he was six years old, so I would love to see him go all the way and accomplish whatever his goals are.”  Brody still has a ways to go to catch up to Keith’s trick scores, but he is determined to make it happen.

Brody spent the month of June working with Swampy, A.J. Porreca and Ben Groen down at the World Barefoot Center.  “As parents, it’s tough to let your kid go,” said Brody’s mom, Tracy.  “But Brody really wanted this, so we agreed to send him off for a month.  They are great guys at the WBC–they are teaching him so much about skiing and life.”

Today, Brody is even more fired up about barefooting than ever.  When people ask him if he wants to be like Keith St. Onge, he’s got an answer ready:  “I want to be better than him.”

Watch out, KSO!

Brody and Ben Groen

Five year old Brody on the water

Nine year old WBC Skier Brody Meskers

Hanging out at WBC

Written by: Karen Putz

Featured Footer: Ashleigh Stebbeings

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

When Ashleigh Stebbeings arrived at the World Barefoot Center in January, 2011, she was feeling a bit burned out with barefoot water skiing after ten long years of competition.  The eighteen-year-old first began barefooting when she was eight, and just a year later, she was skiing in the Nationals, representing the Australian Junior Team.

“The first time I put my feet on the water, it was a weird feeling,” Ashley recalled.  “I immediately fell in love with that.”  Within a month, Ashleigh was skiing behind the boat and quickly learned one-foot, tumble turns and handle-in-teeth tricks.    At nine years of age, she was the youngest skier to qualify for the minute badge—skiing backwards.  In 2003, Ashleigh was selected for the Junior team and skied in her first Worlds.  She has skied every World Barefoot Competition since then.   “My greatest achievement took place in 2009—I won slalom, trick and jump—in both the Junior and Open division.  I set a new World record in jump as well,” said Ashleigh.

At the Worlds in Germany, David Small and Swampy Bouchard, approached Ashleigh and invited her to train at the World Barefoot Center.   Ashleigh wasn’t sure what she wanted to do—or if she even had the heart to continue with barefooting.  Back home in Australia, Ashleigh had to drive 40 minutes to her training site, and she found it tiring to continually rearrange her schedule to fit in time on the water.   “I decided to come to the World Barefoot Center to see if I could find the passion again for barefooting,” said Ashleigh.  “I knew that if I couldn’t find it here, then I couldn’t find it anywhere.”

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Featured Footer: A.J. Porreca

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

When Anthony “A.J.” Porreca was nine-years-old, he stepped off a ski behind the boat and took off barefooting– on his first try.   It took six or seven attempts after that to develop some consistency with his kick-offs, but A.J. fell in love with the sport.   A.J. took a clinic with Keith St. Onge and learned to barefoot backwards.  By the time he was thirteen, he was entering competitions in the Midwest as well as show skiing with the Minneiska Ski team in Whitewater, Wisconsin.

“After I skied in my first tournament, I wanted to leave show skiing and take barefooting seriously from that point on,” said A.J.   During spring break his freshman year in high school, A.J. went to Florida for a week of training with Keith and soon became a sponsored athlete.   “I really wanted to ski with Keith, so I went back down during spring break when I was fifteen.  That’s when I started taking the barefooting like a job, and pushing it.”

Today, A.J. is nineteen and he works and trains at the World Barefoot Center.  “It’s a great experience working with Keith, not only to watch him train everyone else, but to also get input from him.  I’m there all the time– it’s a lifestyle.  I see the world champ– how he lives on and off the water—and it’s good to be around him– to get to see him more than a skier.”

A.J. works closely with Swampy Bouchard, who has trained and coached him for the last four years.   Swampy taught him to set goals and to work hard toward them– but at the same time, to be happy and productive on the water.  “I appreciate everything Swampy does for me, he has stuck with me through the ups and downs,” said A.J.  “He pours just as much passion into my skiing as I have.   Swampy is really committed to the skiers–  he’s not just going through the motions– he cares about skiing, both the sport and the skiers.  He’s been with me every step of the way, both on and off the water. I don’t know what I would do without him– I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”

A.J. is famous for his “Porecca Special,” a backward barefoot start where he takes another skier for a ride on the handle.  During Women’s Barefoot Week at the World Barefoot Center, A.J. graciously gave each gal a ride on his back. When 67-year-old Judy Myers experienced the “Porreca Special”, they walked away with a memorable video:

A.J. is a student at the Florida Southern College in Lakeland, about thirty minutes from the ski school.  Every weekend, he heads out to the WBC to train and occasionally instruct students.  He’s aiming to break 10,000 in tricks and to conquer his most challenging trick, the feet-to-feet toe front.  When he’s not on the water, he works in the pro shop or writes articles for the website.   He’s aiming to swipe the World Champion title (he’s currently ranked 5th in the world) and add that to his name someday.   Meanwhile, he’s learning all he can from the two World Champions and having fun while he’s at it.

“The biggest lesson that barefooting has taught me about life is this:  To make things happen, you have to set up a plan, commit to it and work for it.  Nothing will drop in your lap– you have to choose what you want to achieve, put all of yourself into it– and go out and make it happen.”

Update: A.J. broke the 10,000 point goal– becoming the fifth person in history to trick over 10,000. He recently tricked over 12,000 points, joining Keith St. Onge and David Small as the only three to trick over 12,000.

WBC SKIER PROFILE : AJ PORRECA from WorldBarefootCenter on Vimeo.

Written by: Karen Putz

Featured Footer: Ben Groen

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

When Ben Groen was four years old, his father, Robbie, strapped him to a kneeboard and towed him around the lake. The tot soon progressed to skis and when he was eight, his father decided it was time for his son to ditch the skis and learn to barefoot. “My father, my uncle and my grandfather are all barefooters, so naturally, I had to try the sport,” said Ben. “I sat on the swing, off the boom and I was terrified. I didn’t know what would happen. My dad was firing off instructions, ‘stand there– bend your knees!’ Once I put my feet on the water, I was hooked! Just standing there– skiing with your feet on the water– is an awesome feeling.”

Ben skied in his first tournament in 1999 at the same age. “As a rookie, you’re allowed to ski off the boom or the short line,” Ben explained. “All of my cousins competed in the Juniors and I wanted to be like them.”

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