Archive for the ‘World Barefoot Center’ Category

Barefoot Water Skiing clinic in Mexico with Keith St.Onge!!

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Barefooting in Mexico!

I’ve traveled around the world and back but Mexico was the one place I have yet to visit.  Actually, South America is still on the list as well. After speaking with Juan Carlos and Gustavo at the world championships in Waco, TX I expressed much interest in coming to their homeland. I contacted Juan Carlos a month afterwards and he said, “Let’s do it…buy a plane ticket and that will confirm everything.” It didn’t take me long. I bought a ticket that night.

Juan Carlos, his wife Edith & I eating Tacos in Mexico City

I arrived in Mexico on March 1st and Juan Carlos was there to pick me up. We went to his house and his wife Edith joined us for a traditional Mexican lunch, which is at 3pm in Mexico. Took me a little while to get used to that!   I love Tex-Mex in the states and I was hoping for something similar. We had taco’s with shaved meat, pineapple, onions and fresh squeezed lime over the top. They call limes, Limón’s down here and they come by the dozen. Fresh “Limón’s” are squeezed over every meal served. I loved that as it brought all the flavors out for the taste buds to go crazy. Lucky I like hot and spicy food because almost every meal was hot but not to the point of sweating thank goodness.

View of the Volcano off my balcony! Gorgeous!!!!

We drove South two hours to Tequesquitengo where his lake house was. The lake sat in a deep whole and I could see walls outlining the perimeter of the lake, which only meant one thing. “Bathtub” effects that I new would be horrible. Juan Carlos quickly confirmed we would not be skiing there and we would drive twenty minutes to Coatetelco where he had a private boat launch on a lake that provided great conditions.

When I woke up the next morning I had a spectacular view of the landscape over the lake. A volcano rose high into the panoramic view. We left for Coatetelco and I was able to reunite with an old time friend, Alejandro Alvarez. Alejandra came to my ski school nine years prior while my good friend Adin Daneker was down. We became the three amigos for a little over a week and had a blast. It was great to see him ski again and we enjoyed reminiscing about the past.

My good friend Alejandro Alvarez

Skiing in Mexico

The site was exactly like our lakes we use at the World Barefoot Center in Winter Haven, FL. The shoreline had reeds on the side of the lake to absorb the rollers and many great shorelines that protected us from the wind. Out of nine days of skiing we hardly experienced any wind at all. Mountains surrounded us and the lake remained glassy throughout the days.

The restaurant on the lake

We launched the boat late that morning and ate lunch “at 3pm” at the local restaurant called Las Vegas. It was more like a bungalow with fire being their source of heat. I was introduced to tortillas everyday for our appetizer, not like the chips and salsa we experience in the states. Shrimp was recommend and it was great but after four days of shrimp I got brave and tried the fish. First I asked for the grilled fish but it has so many bones to pick through it was an hour long process. Next I asked for fried fish, which made it much easier to eat but it took forty five minutes to eat. I then kept it simple and ordered the fried fillet of fish. That was the ticket!

Fried fish was the number one choice be the locals so I tried it!

1st Barefoot day in Mexico! Full boat!

Saturday and Sunday the restaurant was jammed packed. Most people from the city come out to eat in the country as there were at minimum twelve restaurants on the lake. I love it there because they had live mariachi bands playing daily. Even though I don’t understand a lick of Spanish I loved the up beat style of the music. Local kids would come around and sell us peanuts, seeds and anything else they had to try to make a few pesos. Often we bought or gave them something. I gave a few kids an American dollar, which is pretty useless out in the country but may be cool to show around. I also gave them signed posters, brought them in the boat and skied in front of the restaurant to give them all a show.

We brought the kids in the boat and I gave the local kids a show one afternoon

Wicca, Juan Carlos’s dog loved to grab the handle and drag while being pulled over the jump ramp!
Wicca Jumping

We took an afternoon to visit the worlds largest under ground cave in length and height.

Beautiful cave 45min. from Taxco, Mexico. You can see how large the cave is by looking at the people in the lower right hand corner.

Following that we visited the city of Taxco, which is known for mining silver. There were small shops, a gorgeous church and great views as the city is built on a mountainside that reminded me of Greece, minus the ocean. The funniest thing about Taxco was the hundreds of white VW bugs that covered the streets as taxicabs.

Having lunch over looking a beautiful church & Taxco

Greece without the ocean

The next morning we woke up a little earlier and visited old ruins that were built hundreds of years ago. Fascinating history!  They played a game with a small stone similar to basketball. The playing field was built on a slanted course with two wooden wheels on opposite sides each having a hole in it. The winner was sacrificed to the Gods. Juan Carlos says that is why Mexico doesn’t have an superb athletes, of course he was just joking and I got a good laugh.

Temples over looking the lake we barefoot skied on

Ancient games played like basketball. The ring/hoop seems to be in the middle of this arena as the other fields had the ring/hoop on either side up one level.

Temple grounds

Gustavo and Juan Carlos cleaning their position up and learning 1ft. – 1 hands before moving onto front toe holds.

Gustavo working his 1ft. - 1hand

Gus doing his first toe hold on shoes

Juan Carlos working the 1ft. - 1 hand

Juan Carlos cleaning up his front toe hold

A few of the locals.

Local boys on their horses

Laura learning how to barefoot water ski on the shoe skis first.

Laura trying it for the first time

Everyday glass.

I love the iPhone Panorama option on my phone!

Carlos Garcia came out to see what we were up to. Carlos is one of Mexico’s legends in three event skiing and held Mexico’s jump record for twenty plus years. He was also known for his barefoot water skiing skills. His claim to fame was a trick he perfected that always got the crowd on their feet. You can find video’s on YouTube of him doing this. He would fall onto his back purposely looking as though he had fallen and then pull himself around and stand back up. Remember, he had an old life jacket on with three layers of jean shorts was all. Watching the video is quite amazing.

Mexico's Legend Carlos Garcia & Keith St.Onge

It was a pleasure to meet Carlos as I love the history of our sport. He invited me to do a demonstration at his well-known restaurant on the water. He was hosting a private party for the Secretary of Tourism and I was honored to do it. Catch was, it would be at 9pm. We arrived and I was able to meet many other water ski historians like Muchalo. He was the one that promoted and taught people how to ski in Mexico since nearly the beginning. He has a ski school and was even the one who taught Juan Carlos how to water ski for the first time.

First time up backwards for Chappa

Chappa made me laugh because he was screaming the whole time. He had a right too because it was his first time up backwards! Congrats buddy!

Local goats and crops being brought back by horse.

Letting the goats cross the road before continuing

Corn stocks being brought into town

I have never seen so many horses and donkeys in the street in my life. Definitely cool to experience and see. The locals are so resourceful they don’t let anything go to waist. I saw horses carrying wood, peanuts, corn, sugar cane, three people at a time etc… I even witnessed locals using fifteen foot bamboo poles with a hook on the end to retrieve fruits and nuts from massive trees on the side of the road. My favorite by far though…buying coco’s. Spanish for a coconut. $1.00 or 13 Pesos for a real coconut that they would cut a hole into and serve with a straw. Fresh coconut water that you could later cut open and eat!

My new good friends Juan Carlos and Gustavo!! Love these guys!

My new good friends Juan Carlos on the left and Gustavo on the right. Thank you both so much for your hospitality!

Gustavo’s daughter Mariana, who learned so much and plans on going to the next World Championship.   She has so much passion and achieved front toe holds on the shoe skis and back one foots on the shoe skis.

Mariana looking clean on her feet!

Bart: This 22 year old learned so much, so fast. Most people would hardly believe me but here it is. He barefoot skied one time on the boom before we met. He learned on foots on his feet, front toe holds on shoe skis, tumble turns, back deep on his feet on his third attempt, back one foots on shoes, back one foot one hand on shoes, both basic and reverse back toe holds on shoes done on his first attempt. Barefooting behind the boat on his feet on his 1st attempt, tumbles behind the boat, crossing the wake on shoes behind the boat, one foots on shoes behind the boat. Remember this is all done in six relatively short sets, which makes a day and a half of skiing. So, why not try a back to front on the boom while we’re at it right? Also remember, we were using the HeadZone helmets exclusively, which makes for faster and easier learning.
“Ok, do as I say and we’ll do a back to front.” I said to Bart has he was skiing on shoe skis. “Knees and feet together, weight on the right foot, handle into the small of your back, eyes and head up as high as possible. Now, just hold your position, turn to your left and let go.” He came to the front beautifully but caught a tip and fell. “Let’s try it again!” I said. He was more than ready to try it again! Next one he nailed along with several more to follow. Nearly flawless on the last one so I said, “Front to back.” Go up and down for your up weight and turn as you come up. Finally, something he couldn’t do nor come close to doing on his first attempt but absolutely sensational skiing and talent was witnessed those few days. We hope he continues to stay with it so he can also compete in the next world championships!

I hope to see this young man at the next World Championships!

I was treated like a king, ate like a king and will remember this trip for a lifetime! I can’t wait to go back actually! Juan Carlos and I have talked about doing a yearly clinic in Mexico with the option of making it open to whoever wants to come. Obviously it will be limited to a first come, first served basis. If we can spark enough interest this trip would be a package deal. Two days of skiing, a day to tour around and another two days of skiing. Simply driving to the ski site and eating there is an experience all in it’s own. From there you can go and do as you please. Acapulco is only two hours away and we plan on scouting the waterways in Acapulco for a future clinic. Please contact the WBC or I to let us know if you’d be interested in Barefoot Water Skiing in Mexico. A trip of a lifetime!

Thank you so much to Juan Carlos, Laura, Gustavo, Mariana, Claudia, Lulu, Edith, Chappa and everyone else who made my trip so memorable. I didn’t only gain great experiences but lifelong friends as well.  I look forward to going back in the near future!

Keith St.Onge


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The Barefoot Legend of Tom Olden

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Tom Olden
1936 – 2012
A memoir to my great friend, mentor, and hero, Tom Olden
By Paul Stokes

Tom Olden learned to barefoot at age 40. He was hooked. He was so hooked on the sport that he made a commitment to ski every month and he did for almost 30 years in a row.

Tom lived in Kansas and his ambitious goal was not easy, especially in the winter. At times keeping the streak alive would involve breaking ice at the boat ramp just to get a to the open water. One time when the ice was too thick to launch a boat, Tom strung a bunch of ski ropes together tied to the hitch on the back of a pickup truck. He walked out across the ice and set up so he could ski across an open spot of water on Lake Cheney. He did all this to keep his streak alive. He only stopped his monthly ski rides recently because his body (and his doctors) literally said no more.

I met Tom in 1987 at my first barefoot tournament when I was 15. Tom was the tournament director and he had been running the tournament since 1979. This was the longest running tournament in the country and could still be considered as such today since a tournament continues in Wichita every year organized now by Clay Bourbonnais, a long-time friend of Tom and a contributor to this story.

One year, the tournament had to be moved to a new lake because a tornado tore through and destroyed the other lake. This tournament has brought countless footers from all over together and Tom is the reason that the Wichita barefoot scene has flourished for so long.

Tom knew the importance of having someone all of the competitors could look up to and inspire so he always brought in a top ranked US Team member to his tournament. It worked! I’ll never forget that first tournament of mine– Mike Seipel was there, fresh off a World Championship victory. Another year, Tom brought in Rick Powell who blew us away with his soft touch and fancy footwork. Brian Fuchs also made an appearance. I remember Brian graciously waiving his fee because the tournament had the worst weather imaginable and had lost money. There are many commitments Tom made in his life for the sport– and having his tournament and bringing in a pro was going to happen every year, no matter what.

Another commitment Tom made was to Wichita’s New Years Day ski. Tom not only organized and promoted the event, he was the chief fundraiser and the star of the “show”. Tom would barefoot every year in his speedo to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy. Some years he footed off the boom and some years he would swing out on the five-foot handle.

During one particular year Tom decided to go for it long line! This particular year it was really cold. There was about six inches of snow on the ground and the boats had cleared out about an inch of ice by running in circles for about an hour. Tom did a dock start on a slalom ski. The boat would head down course, buttonhook, and bring him back towards the crowd to step off. Tom had forgotten that he was on Arkansas River in downtown Wichita where there were bulkheads all the way down the shore on both sides. The backwash was ridiculous and the bathtub effect was in full affect. Everyone saw the disaster coming but there was nothing they could do. Tom was going for it! He had barely pulled his foot out of the back binding when he bounced on some huge backwash and wiped out. Everyone on the shore was screaming “Hurry up, go back and get him, and bring him to shore”.

To everyone’s amazement Tom gave the signal to bring the rope around. He was going for it again! It’s important to remember that Tom is wearing nothing more than a Speedo and the ice was just opened hours before by boat wash. The boat came around and took up slack. Now the water was rougher than ever and the bathtub effect was in full force. The boat took him back down, buttonhooked, and then brought him back up to speed. It was clear from the shore that failure was inevitable yet again. Sure enough, Tom fell just trying to get his foot planted. It was brutal to watch him hit the icy water.

The crowd took a deep breath in. Yells were heard across the crowd. “Go get him, go get him, get him in to shore!!!”

Brad Pegg and I met him at the dock, threw blankets around him, and escorted him to the portable heater. I will never forget what Tom said, “What a rush! My heart stopped completely when I hit the water but I didn’t want to let the crowd down so I tried again.”

Now that’s commitment…

Speaking of Brad, Tom and Brad were best friends. Tom drove for Brad, barefooting almost everyday up until Brad’s death. (Brad passed away in May 2010 from a heart attack.) Brad was very special to Tom and his death really broke Tom’s heart. He was never the same after that loss.

Tom was also known as being a little crazy, not literally, but like most footers, he was always willing to be the center of attention. A great example of that is being willing to barefoot naked in front of the newspaper cameras. This photo was actually a part of the Wichita newspaper. Like I said, the man was a little crazy.

Another great story: Tom was at the Nationals in Owego, NY, when a boat on a trailer suddenly started rolling down the hill into the lake. Apparently this was a long sloping hill. Tom jumped to action and took hold to the tongue of the trailer. It was described as a “tumble up to a heal digger,” as Tom did everything he could to try to keep this boat and trailer from uncontrollably launching itself into the lake. The trailer luckily hit the one and only tree on the site that was part way down the hill. I don’t know the details, but this is a famous story amongst the old guys that remember the US Nationals 30 years ago.

Tom had many highlights and successes in his life. He served in World War II and came home with a VW Bug. He was interviewed on Good Morning America. He started and built Olden Auto from the ground up, eventually retiring from selling the business and the associated real estate. He was a founding partner in Ski & Barefoot Marine, which eventually became Marine World. To this day, Marine World is the premier pro shop and Master Craft dealership in Wichita, KS. Tom’s motto was “work hard and play harder”. Tom’s success in business allowed him to invest in his own private lake, many commercial properties, and of course Marine World.

Tom also had his fair share of challenges to overcome. He conquered bladder cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. He repeatedly broke his ribs and tore his shoulders into his late 60’s and early 70’s.

Other fun facts about Tom, he had barefoot videos posted on FuelTV. He said it was the most money he ever made skiing. Tom was also the reason that the American Barefoot Club includes Kansas in the South Central region, unlike three-event skiing, which is part of the Midwest.

Tom’s last nationals were in 2011. Clay and I were lucky to spend his last tournament memories with him. We road tripped down to Waco, TX from Wichita, KS. Tom had many health problems and the trip wasn’t easy.

The ABC took the opportunity to pay their respects and Tom received a Lifetime Achievement award for all of his contributions to the sport of barefoot waterskiing. This would be one of his proudest moments. The framed award was one of the few possessions that he took with him to his hospice care room. This was truly his most prized earthly possession.

We miss you Tom!

World’s Oldest Female Barefooter Turns 70

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

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Judy Myers took a couple of celebratory barefoot runs today at the World Barefoot Center despite high winds and whitecaps. Keith St. Onge managed to find a patch of calm water and Judy was all smiles during her runs.

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If you’re not familiar with Judy, here are some links to catch you up:

The TODAY Show: Barefoot Water Skier is Landing on her Feet

Judy on Growing Bolder

Happy 70th birthday, Judy!

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Keith St. Onge or David Small, Who Is The Better Barefooter?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

The one question I get a lot behind the scenes, one-on-one from interested barefooting fans at the World Barefoot Center or at tournaments is this:

Who is actually the better footer, David Small or Keith St. Onge?

I am the guy who coaches and trains both of these great warriors. I get to see them both ski on a consistant basis during training and at tournaments, so I figured that I would tackle this question head on and give you my honest opinion and breakdown of these two great footers.

The first thing that we will look at is accomplishments:

World Championships Gold medals:

Small’z – 11
KSO – 11

World Championships Overall:

Small’z – 4
KSO – 2

World Games:

Small’z – 1
KSO – 2

As you will see in the comparison below, in the last three out of four world championships, the wins could have gone either way:

In Texas 2012, KSO fell on a back to back 360 and all he needed was that and two 180’s to win that one.

In the 2010 Germany tournament KSO won it from the original score sheets coming out of the boat and it took a chief judge intervention and some video to take his toe turn away and to give Small’z the victory.

Only in New Zealand in 2009 when Small’z fell in tricks and did not make the cut in tricks– was it not close.

In Washington 2006, where KSO won that one, he got a needed re-ride on one of his jumps and had some help when the last jumper zeroed out to allow him to sneek one by Small’z.

All of these tournaments were “that close”–and they all could have gone either way.

World Records

Small’z has held the jumping record for years and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, KSO has held the slalom record for years and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. The trick record is currently held by Small’z and is the one that has been going back and forth between these two skiers and they have both set many pending records in the last couple of years that were not approved. I see this record being broken again by one or both of these guys in the next couple of years.

Worlds standing’s list:

Once again these two have been rotating number 1 and 2 for the last several years. Last year Small’z was slightly ahead for number 1 and KSO has overtaken Smallz for number 1 on this years list by just a few overall points. I expect them to continue to rotate around for that number 1 position.

Breakdown by event:

Jumping:

Small’z is the King of jumping, the best that the sport has ever seen. In recent years, KSO has made some big improvements and has closed the gap up in jumping enough to be one of the top jumpers in the world, but not enough to challenge the King. Smallz is so strong and consistent at this event and has such an understanding of what he’s doing that it’s just not fair for the rest of the competitors–they often don’t stand a chance against him.

Slalom:

KSO is King of slalom, the best in the sport. This is Small’z weak event and even though he has made some improvements, he is not in the position to challenge the King. KSO is so strong and consistent for both back and front wake slalom that any score below 20 is a major disappointment for him.

Tricks:

Tricks is the most difficult event and requires the most time and work, and this is where tournaments are normally won or loss between these two great competitors. They both do all the same tricks and have the same trick runs. KSO’s best score is 13,300 and Small’z best is 13,150. They are the only two that have ever tricked over 12,000 points in the history of the sport and they can both do it today with no problem at all. AJ Porreca has tricked 12,000 points on the money twice, but not over.

Let’s break down the tricks:

Multiple turns:
Smallz has better habits and his turns are cleaner with better technique than KSO, He does a great job of trailing his head and shoulders and staying square. KSO is a little more efficient then Smallz and can usually get a little more in time even though he has a few bad habits that sometimes gets him into trouble.KSO is working hard to clean up some of his bad habits and Smallz is working on trying to become a little more efficient.

Toe Turns:
Here it is KSO who is more compact and solid, while Small’z depends more on his natural talent. Small’z does a lot of upweighting and is loose during his toe turns; and because of that, he also loses precious time. KSO has to learn how to square up in the back position and Small’z is working hard on trying to turn a little more compact– with less body movement.

Line Turns:
Here, they are both rock solid and the best in the business.

So who is the better skier? I am not one to shy away from these questions and I will give you an honest answer. After watching these two great warriors train and compete with each other for the last few years, I will break it down like this: betting on one of these guys over the other is like walking into the casino and laying your chips on either red or black. If you had 100 head to head tournaments between these two, they would both be right around 50 wins each.

Keith St. Onge and David Small are two of the best ever barefoot water skiers– and I will continue to appreciate their greatness. And for my health, I will call it a draw!!

By Swampy Bouchard

New Wetsuits, Board Shorts and More in the Pro Shop

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

The World Barefoot Center Pro Shop is stocked and ready for all your footin’ needs!  Check out our new line of Ten-80 board shorts for men and women: WBC Board Shorts.  We’ve also added a colorful line of beanies to our hat collection: Stuff for the head. Check out Small’z modeling skills:

Our new line of 2013 wetsuits produced by Eagle are more colorful than ever:

We also carry US Gear handles, the official handles of the World Barefoot Championship. Take a look at the handles in action:

WBC now has an Instagram account!! Follow us :)

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The World Barefoot Center has joined the Instagram World.

If you have an account you can follow us!!

Just go to your account and search for @worldbarefootcenter


World Barefoot Center ski school presents, Patrick Wehner Award

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

The Water Skier magazine associated with USA Waterski has published the October issue and mentioned the award given out to Patrick Wehner.  This award is given to an athlete or someone involved in barefoot water skiing as an official etcetera.  This individual must show true “Sportsmanship” on the water and/or off the water.

The World Barefoot Center will give this award out at every World Championship with one FREE week of bare foot skiing at the WBC.  The award is named the Patrick Wehner Sportsmanship Award.

World Barefoot Center presents the Patrick Wehner Sportsmanship Award

Printed in the Oct. issue of The Water Skier magazine


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GROUP SPECIALS!!

Monday, November 5th, 2012

WBC will be offering a group special from January 5th 2013 till February 22nd 2013. They are group rates so the more people you bring, the more you save. There are 2 different packages the first includes skiing only and the second includes skiing, accommodation and airport pick-up/drop off. They are as follows:

The first one is a 5 Day Week (skiing only). The regular price is $850.00. The rates that we are offering are as follows:

  • 1 person – $750.00 per person
  • 2 people – $700.00 per person
  • 3 people – $650.00 per person
  • 4+ people – $600.00 per person

The second one is a 5 Day Week Package (includes skiing, accommodation and airport pick-up/drop off). The regular price is $1250.00. The rates that we are offering are as follows:

  • 1 person – $1100.00 per person
  • 2 people – $1025.00 per person
  • 3 people – $950.00 per person
  • 4+ people – $850.00 per person

Please note: The World Barefoot Center is open 7 days a week, and that a 5 day week is 5 skiing days, in a 6 day period.

Patrick Wehner Inspires Keith St. Onge

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Patrick Wehner. Who is he, one might ask.

He is one of the BEST BAREFOOT WATER SKIERS the sport has ever seen!  If you don’t know him or have ever met him he is one of the most modest people you will ever meet.  His mother is from France and his father (world renowned coach) Hilmar is from Germany.  Patrick has skied for Team France and Germany in his career and has won many individual World Titles.  He has put endless hours of training in on the water and has a deep love for the sport.

Patrick Wehner "One of the Greats"

I met Patrick for the first time at my first World Competition in 1996.  We did not speak to each other much during the competition, but our respect for one another was mutual.  He was a better skier than me and we were close to the same age.  Young men amongst the best in the world.  Patrick and I saw each other at many world championships and began a great friendship.  It’s hard to describe how two people can be such close friends and live so far apart.  I’m in Florida and he’s in Europe, but whenever we connect, time fades away.

I had taken 3rd Overall in 1998, came runner up (2nd) for the Overall title at the world championships in 2000 and 2002.  Over the course of six years, I just couldn’t seal the deal as a World Champion.  It was a tough break for me and a hard pill to swallow, but I simply did not ski to my capability.  One night after the 2002 Worlds, Patrick and I were discussing my continued losses and I broke down and cried.  I was completely depressed and did not want to finish my career without having at least one World Title under my belt.  It seemed like the task was impossible.

Patrick reached in his wallet and pulled out a card. He handed it to me.   It was a quote by William Arthur Ward: “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.  If you can dream it, you can become it.”    Another barefooter, John Pennay gave it to Patrick during his own low point in life.  John told him to keep the card until he achieved his dreams and then pass it on to someone else.   This simple quote got me motivated again!  Because I had so much respect for Patrick, it was a memento which meant a lot coming from him.  I kept the card in my wallet and read it from time to time; to remind me of what I needed to accomplish.

The card with the Inspirational Quote that Patrick Wehner gave to me.

Nothing else seemed to matter after that moment but one thing: I wanted to become a World Champion!  It was time for me to change the way I looked at life and how I would prepare myself for the next world championship.  I was going to give it everything I had, because I could “Imagine” it and I had “Dreamed” about it for several years!  I was going to make sacrifices and do whatever needed to be done.

Motivating Quote that Inspired me to Fulfill my dreams

Keith StOnge, Even Burger & Patrick Wehner. I received the card later that evening.

It didn’t happen overnight; in 2004, I still came in second once again behind David Small.  I was so disappointed.  This guy beat me two worlds in a row and he was standing in front of my dream.

It took another two years and many more life changes before I finally achieved my dream: in 2006 I won my first World Championship. I passed the card on to someone else.  The card went on to yet another barefooter after that.

The 2006 World Overall Champion, Keith St Onge

Keith St Onge receiving his 1st Overall World Title

Thank you Patrick Wehner for keeping me motivated until I reached my goal.  You are more than a great friend and “One of the Best!”  You are the true example of how we can all help OTHERS around us in our lives. Thank you!!

Click here to read another story on Patrick Wehner

This story and more can be found in greater detail in my upcoming book, “Gliding Soles, Lessons from a Life on Water” to be released in September, 2012.

By: Keith St.Onge
www.worldbarefootcenter.com
www.ksowetsuits.com
www.keithstonge.com

2012 US Nationals from Mike Holts, “Holtzy”, eyes.

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Sunday Evening August 5th, 2012

I arrived in Waco, Texas today about 12 noon. I want to get familiar with the time zone, the site, boat, equipment, and the water so that I’m most prepared to ski the 2012 National Barefoot Championships.

I stopped at the site today; the entry gate to the facility was locked. Did that stop me? I DON’T THINK SO. So I quickly developed Plan B to figured a way in; I parked the car, squeezed past the gate and walked about ½ mile and found ‘life,’ Heath Cooper my buddy who installed the 409 PCM motor in my boat two years ago, I love this guy.

Mike Holt from tumble up flyer

Heath gave me a tour of the facility, there is a water-ski cable par, multiple water ski lakes, and some special breed animals; it’s an amazing venue –  HYPERLINK “http://www.barefootskiranch.com/” \o “http://www.barefootskiranch.com/” http://www.barefootskiranch.com/.

The facility has two ski lakes; Lake 1 is long and wide; the good part is that the length gives the skier lots of set up time, but bad part is that when the wind pick up, the lake can get choppy. Lake 2 is shorter and narrow; the bad news is that the short length requires a quick ‘set up’ which places pressure on the skiers to rush. Short set up can cause a skier to loose concentration, often without positive results. The good news is that the water should be less choppy in Lake 2.

After the tour, I see my former ski partner David Small, the current three-time World Champion. We hang out for an hour or so; it was very enjoyable and we plan to ski in the morning. This is why I arrived early; find someone to give me some pulls behind the boat on the water I’ll be competing, but to have the current World Champion be my driver/coach was beyond what I was praying for. David and I planned on dinner later tonight and maybe some ‘night barefooting.’

David Small jumping

I get to my room, the air is cool, and I’m excited to just chill out for the evening. THEN I realize that I’m to meet David for dinner at 8 pm and ‘night barefooting.’ I’m thinking … I don’t think those are good ideas now that I’m in my room.

Problem solved, I text David and blow him off; I’m at peace with my decision because I want to be ready for some serious practice in the morning. A few hours later I get a call from another ski buddy and he wants me to go to the site to do some skiing, but again I’m comfortable just relaxing tonight, so I blow him off.

Monday August 6th, 2012

I stopped by the site today to ski with David Small, I have a knot in my stomach and I’m stressed out; my big concerns in skiing at a different venue behind a different boat include:

How is the ‘table’ behind the boat?

What is the top speed can I expect?

How fast does the boat get me ‘out of the hole’?

Overall how do I feel?

What does the water feel like?

The answers were all very positive.

The wake is ‘no worries’.

I need 46.5 mph in slalom and the boat is fine.

The pull out of the ‘hole’ was soft and I need to adjust my call.

The water is interesting, the temperature is hotter and the water feels ‘soft.’ Not sure what to do, maybe I should ‘up’ my speed.

It was just David and I and felt like old times, I feel better now after practice, handle at the end of all runs.

Tuesday August 7th, 2012

Stopped by the site today and skied with Keith St Onge (KSO) who is a two-time World Champion and No. 1 rated skier in the world with his wife Lauren St Onge (she’s so sweet). I’m not relaxed because it’s hard to ski with a World Champion and be relaxed, but I do feel better knowing the venue, what to expect from the boat, and the water.

WHAT do you mean we are not skiing today behind the boat I skied behind yesterday! Great, skiing with KSO and now I have to start all over again ‘testing.’ KSO skies amazing (I feel so small). I’m very pleased with this boat, except the boat doesn’t get 46.5 mph; it’s a max of 45… not good. The water feels soft and I’m confused, do I call for more speed than normal, or stick with my standard call… big question.

I’m judging for the first time at these Nationals, so I spend 4 hours reviewing videos of skiers so that I can be prepared for the next day assignments.

Wednesday July 8th 2012

I wake up early to do more video review, have a great breakfast and go to the site to ‘hang’ with my barefooting ‘tribe members; We ‘get it,’ we understand the years of commitment to excellence, the sacrifices required, overcoming injuries, pain, disappointments along the way, we all want to do out best, but sometimes we show our worst. Competitive barefooting can be a terrible ‘head game….’

A few hours pass and I’m in boat to judge; I’m satisfied with my performance, I’m prepared. After an hour break I go into the next ‘boat crew’ to judge Open Pro Men in Tricks. My first day at Nationals I’m judging the best skiers in the planet that do so many complicated tricks in such a short time? I visit with an official and explain that this is my first time judging at National; did they ‘really’ want me in the boat? They said you’ll be okay “Holtzy”, we have video backup if needed.

I’m in the boat, skiers ski in a ‘seeded’ order where the lowest ranked skier is first and the top rank skier (KSO) is last; this allows me to warm up my skills. All of my preparation in video judging the past two years and judging elite skiers in our Southern Regional tournaments prepared me well. I did a good job in the boat and out of 32 pulls we (not just me) had to do ‘video review’ of 5 runs.

What I learned in judging the best in the world is that out of the 16 skiers there was only a handful that didn’t fall. These skiers are doing the most difficult tricks in the world and one slight mistake is disaster.

This knowledge gives me confidence that if I fall during any of my runs, its okay, it’s just that it wasn’t my day. Failure on any given day or moment doesn’t define who I am. I’m proud of my dedication, focus, commitment to excellent, and to do the best I can.

Thursday Morning, August 10, 2012

This afternoon I ski in Open Pro Men Slalom; I ski with all of the ‘top dogs’. I think my head is screw on straight, we’ll see in a few hours…

Oh yea, the boat to be used for Open Pro Men Slalom IS NOT one of the two boats I ‘tested’ Monday or Tuesday… great, another thing for the head to screw with. What speed do I call? Can I make my back-deep-to-one start on the first pass?

Thursday Afternoon, August 10, 2012

I skied today for the first time in Open Pro Men Slalom and it occurs at the 2012 National Championships. Just a little history, there are three ‘classes’ of competitors, age group, Open, and Open Pro. All skiers automatically qualify to ski in their age group against their peers. The goal of all advance barefooters to one day ski ‘Open.’ When I was younger, 30 years ago, I dreamed of one day skiing Open, but as life took its actions on my life (family/kids) I gave up that dream over 20 years ago.

However, I continued to ski with the best skiers in the world like David Small, Mike Salber, KSO, Rich Powel, Lane Bowers, Mike Seipel, Steve Merritt, Zenon Bilas, and others. After 24 years of skiing, I went Open in 2008; the cool part was that I did it at the National Championships before all the top skiers in the USA; and I won my 5th National Championship in the Men 5 division, and won the Male Barefoot Athlete of the Year.

Last year I ‘toyed’ with the idea that if I trained hard and smart enough, maybe I could qualify to ski in the “elite” division at the 2012 World Championships. To ski “elite” I had to get a qualifying score that matched the top 20th place skier in the WORLD. That score was 15.6. Up to this point, my best slalom run was 15.2 scored at the 2011 Southern Regional Championships at the age of 56 years young! For me to qualify to ski ‘elite slalom’ at the worlds with a score of 15.6 is almost impossible, but set this as my goal last year.

In July 2012, a month ago, I skied 15.8 in slalom as judged by Richard Gray the Chairman of the World Barefoot Council. With this score I not only ski in the ‘Seniors’ division at the 2012 World Championships, I’ll be skiing with David Small, Keith St Onge, Peter Fleck and other elite skiers at the age of 61!

I’m stunned that I slalom 15.8, but the biggest shocker comes the next day; I skied a 16.2 which qualified m3 to ski Open Pro at the 2012 National Barefoot Championships.

So now at the age of 61, I’m at the starting dock… I’ve eaten properly, gotten rest, drank liquids, trained as hard as I could with the best in the world, worked out to get a strong core, had massage therapy and visited chiropractor when needed, keep my focus, I’ve done EVERYTHING I can think of to be totally prepared for this instant.

I’m in the water, my heart is racing, I clean my hands  with soap so that I can grip the handle; especially since I do a ‘back-deep-to one’ for the start. With this start everything has to be perfect, rarely have I ever missed this start in a tournament, but I have missed it before, the last time was at the 2010 World Championships in Germany, let’s not review that story. Why do such a difficult start when it’s not required in Slalom? It’s a long story and one day I’ll explain…

Okay I’m in the water, a boat judge hands me the ‘tournament handle’ and I’m shocked… the handle is like a slick broom stick and I can’t get grip. I try to rub the handle to get some grip, but it’s time to GO.

I give instructions; ‘gear’, then yell ‘okay,’ the boat lunges harder that I expected, the handle slips from my palms to my finger tips… I’m struggling to not ‘loose the handle.’ I plant my ‘one’ foot in the water, wait for speed, with five officials in the boat, I really don’t have the speed I’m accustomed to. I stay as calm, I make the start, I’m on my feet; I’ve passed the first test, I’m up and ready for slalom.

I attempt to regrip the handle from my finger tips to my palms; it’s not working, this handle is crap, I need to get going, with finger tips. I complete the first crossing one foot, then the second crossing, then after the 3rd crossing and I get pull up and take a hard fall (good thing I have a neck brace). I’m bummed out, I only got 3 points on the first pass (I should have gotten 8)…

The pickup boat gets me and takes me to the end of the course to start the second pass. I give my instructions to the boat judges; I’m just skiing forward, so no drama here (unless I fall). I call 46.5 mph (I should have called 47.5, because of soft water is soft), I complete the pass and score 7.8 points (I typically score 8.2).  My score is 10.8 point… I wanted at least 15.0, would be happy with 15.6 and ecstatic with 16.2, but its official 10.8.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the day, I’m numb. What did I do wrong? In reflecting back, it

was my fault; in practice a few days ago they didn’t have the tournament handles so I used ‘my’ handle. I should have force the driver to use the ‘tournament supplied handle’ so that I would know what to expect. If I had done that I would have know about this problem and I could have come up with a solution.

Mike Front Toe

A few skiers told me they had problems with the handle Paul Stokes (Open Pro) told me “Holtzy that’s why I were gloves, you never know the condition of the tournament supplied handle.”

I plan on getting ski gloves for the Worlds, this WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

Friday August 11, 2012

This morning I’m sick from yesterday’s failure Open Pro Slalom; I don’t want to be here anymore, I hate barefoot tournaments, I want to go home, I want to be in the arms of my wife so that she can ‘baby me.’ The reality is that I have to ski tricks in my age division, Men’s 6 (60-64 years). There are 16 skiers in the event; the lowest seed is 250 points, 2nd seed is 1500 points, and I’m top seed at 2740 points.

After an hour and half of waiting, it’s my turn to perform; I know my wife is on the computer waiting to watch me ski. I’m suited up, I wash my hands with my soap three times, and I rub my hands on the handle to make sure I have ‘the grip.’ I’m pacing back and forth like a race horse waiting to get out of the pen on the dock.

It’s not time; I take the handle, wrap it around my back, and get ready to do a flyer off the dock. I get ready to yell ‘okay’ but the rope gets hanged up in a cleat on the dock and all systems must stop.

The rope gets reset, I wrap the rope around my back, I yell, ‘in gear,’ the boat begins to move forward in idle, the rope tightens up, I yell “okay” and the boat takes off. I take seven steps, launch myself off the dock in superman and pray I make my flying-back-tumble-deep-to-one start. This start is worth 800 points, the highest scoring start. I don’t know when the last time anybody other than myself has done this start at a National Championship.

I land on the water on my chest, ride on the stomach at 2300 rpm, then turn to the backward position, plant one foot in the water, wait for boat speed, the driver David Miller nails the throttle, I still wait for ‘speed’ and then I press the foot in the water and attempt to stand up on one foot.

I make it, the driver pulled me perfectly and I did what I needed to do; I’m stoked. I regrip the handle; pull it in and down to my butt and start the trick run – one foot, one foot reverse, surface hop – wait I don’t think the hop was high enough for credit, so I do the surface hop again, then a turn from backward to forward, then tumble-360-to-one, reverse tumble-360-to-one, tumble-180-to-one, then reverse 180-tumble-to-one. I have an almost the perfect pass, except the double surface hop. You can see the video at:  HYPERLINK “https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B2dZybUIi_ohZnl3R21XUFhWeFU/edit?pli=1#docId=0B2dZybUIi_ohRG1hbDJ0dktidDg” https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B2dZybUIi_ohZnl3R21XUFhWeFU/edit?pli=1#docId=0B2dZybUIi_ohRG1hbDJ0dktidDg

I’m happy with the first pass but I’m still stressed; on the second pass I do a back-deep-to-one start, this is the second most difficult start in barefooting and it’s worth 500 points. I give the boat officials my instructions, the boat tightens the rope, I give the signals ‘in gear’, then ‘okay’ and I roll over on to my stomach. The boat takes off, I wait for speed, plant one foot, press the foot into the water, and when I feel I have sufficient speed I attempt to stand up – and I make it!

Now I do a ‘positional back-to-front turn’ to set up for the first trick; I’ve missed the back-to-front turn before at a National Championship and also once at the 2012 World Championships in Germany. I’m up backward, I get into position for the turn, and attempt the back-to-front turn; I nail it, clean feet-to-feet. I place the handle over my head and do – neck-2-foot, neck-1-foot, neck-1-foot reverse, then a one-foot, one-foot reverse, teeth-2-foot, teeth-1-foot, teeth-1-foot reverse, rope-on-foot, rope-on-foot reverse, tumble-2-foot, and reverse tumbel-2-foot. I did everything and it was flawless.

I know my wife loves the ‘butt slide’ so I do a nice butt slide, look at camera, and give her a signal via the internet that ‘these two passes were for you baby.’

You can see the second video run at:  HYPERLINK “https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B2dZybUIi_ohZnl3R21XUFhWeFU/edit?pli=1#docId=0B2dZybUIi_ohNEpWVHVHTGdhWTA” https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B2dZybUIi_ohZnl3R21XUFhWeFU/edit?pli=1#docId=0B2dZybUIi_ohNEpWVHVHTGdhWTA

Immediately after the trick event I call my wife and tell her ‘I love barefoot waterskiing, I love barefoot tournaments, and I’m so glad I’m here!’

The emotions in competitive barefoot skiing at a National Championships can be overwhelming. This week I had some success and some failures, and lessons learned. I didn’t achieve my goal of skiing at least 15.0 in Open Pro so that I could ski in the Open Pro finals, but I know I did the best I could.

National Record – Later I find out my score was 2700 points, the current record for Men 6 is 1310 points. After record review the runs are reduced to 2650 points; I have the current record in Men 5 and now I have the Men 6 trick record. It might be a long time before anybody breaks the Mens 6 trick record.

National Champion – My terrible slalom pass of 10.8 exceeds the 7.28 of the highest Men 6 skier, so I get 1000 points in the Slalom event for overall; my 2700 points in tricks gives me 1000 points in the tricks event. This results in an over all score of 2000 out of 2000 points; I win the 2012 Overall National Men 6 Champion and I think this is my eighth Overall National Championship win.

My season is not done, I have the World Barefoot Championships in two weeks to complete my season; I have my goals set, we’ll review them in a few weeks.

Holtzy

P.S. Joe Malenfant, the President of the American Barefoot Club (ABC) that the record set today was not accurate and that the actual record was base don my performance at the 2012 Regionals tricks event of 2740 points, which was downgraded to 2720 points!

By : Mike Holt