Archive for the ‘WBC Skier Stories’ Category

Keith St. Onge’s World Championship History

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

1996 World Championship:

At the age of 18 Keith skied in his first World Championship held in Fergus Falls, MN in 1996.  Keith was a member of the winning USA World Team that earned a Gold in the Team Overall.  He qualified to ski in the second round in all three events (slalom, trick and jump) and took 7th Overall.

Keith St. Onge competing in his 1st World Championships in 1996

1998 World Championship:

In 1998 Keith moved to Florida for the winter and trained for the World Championship in Sydney, Australia.  He won his 1st gold medal in Slalom and took 3rd Overall.  Keith was a member of the winning USA World Team that earned a Gold in the Team Overall.

2000 World Championship:

In 2000 the World Championships went back to Fergus Falls, MN.  Keith did not place in the top three in the individual events but took Silver Overall.  Keith was a member of the winning USA World Team that earned a Gold in the Team Overall.

2002 World Championship:

In 2002 the Worlds were held in Wallsee, Austria.  Keith was favored to win the Overall.  He took Gold in Slalom, Silver in Tricks and Silver Overall.  He came up short to the young David Small from England that surprised everyone with his talented skiing.  Keith was a member of the winning USA World Team that earned a Gold in the Team Overall.

2004 World Championship:

In 2004 the Worlds were in Mulwala, Australia.  Keith won the Bronze in the Slalom and Trick events.  Keith was favored to win the Overall title once again but came up short to David Small.  For the third time in a row Keith won the Silver in the Overall title.  Frustrated and depressed on coming up short for the Gold Overall medal St. Onge changed his life habits and set out on a quest to win an Overall Title before it was too late. Keith was a member of the winning USA World Team that earned a Gold in the Team Overall.

2006 World Championship:

Keith trained harder than he ever had one year prior to this tournament and suffered a back injury that almost changed the outcome and stopped him from competing.  This event was held in Adna, Washington.  Favored to win once again the pressure was immense.  After the first round of the jump event Ketih’s back injury resurfaced.  The team masseuse (Charlene Portman) kept Keith’s back function-able to carry him through the tournament.  Keith went on to win the Gold in the Slalom event, Gold in the Trick event and his first Overall Title earning him the Gold.  This was by far Keith’s best performance setting World Records in every (3 rounds) round in the tricks event.   Keith was a member of the winning USA World Team that earned a Gold in the Team Overall.

2008/2009 World Championship:

Coming off his first Overall Title in 2006 Keith teamed up with past coach Gary “Swampy” Bouchard to train for the Word Championship in Otaki, New Zealand.  With an incredible trick routine put together by coach Swampy, Keith was the first skier to trick over 12,000 points in history.  Keith won Gold in Slalom and Bronze in the trick finals.  Keith won his first medal (Silver) in the jump event and won the Overall Title for the second time.

Keith St. Onge winning his 2nd Overall World Title with L-R, Team Coach Lee Stone, KSO with close friends Adin Daneker & Ryan Boyd

2010 World Championship:

Brandenbourg, Germany was the location of the 2010 Worlds.  Keith and David Small merged their barefoot water ski schools to create the World Barefoot Center.  They trained with each other under the wing of Coach Swampy and began skiing as friends but still harsh competitors at the tournaments.  Keith took Gold in Slalom and Tricks while David Small took Gold in Jump and Overall.  It was a clean sweep for the new business partners and a big win for the business.  Keith was a member of the winning USA World Team that earned a Gold in the Team Overall.

2012 World Championship:

Waco, Texas hosted the 2012 World tournament and it was another show down.  Keith won the Gold in Slalom and Tricks while David Small won the Gold in Jump and Overall.   Keith also won the Silver medal in the Overall title.  Keith was a member of the USA World Team that earned a Silver in the Team Overall.  This was the first time in twenty six years team USA did not win the Gold Team Overall.

2014 World Championship:

The worlds were held in Mulwala, Australia for a second time.  David Small put a personal best slalom score of 19.8 on the board in the 1st round.  Keith skied next and also put a personal best score on the board of 21.1.  The next event was jumping while Keith put a 25.4m jump up his first round David Small came back with a 26.5m jump putting them dead even for the Overall going into the tricks event.  David put a near perfect run together matching his world record of 12,150 points.  Keith bobbled on his first trick while the rest of his run quickly disintegrated.  He fell early in his second pass and posted low score up.  It was to low to make the semi-final round, which meant he would no longer be able to fight for an Overall medal.  The only thing he could do was focus on winning the gold in slalom and try to medal in the jump event.  Jump is Keith’s weak event but he had put many training hours into this event over the past few years.

Keith won the slalom event and jumped a personal best distance of 26.6m/87.3ft to put the pressure on world jump record holder David Small.  David fell short on his last jump giving Keith his first World Championship Jump Title and 13th career World Championship Gold Medal.  David Small won the trick and overall while Keith won Slalom and Jump.  This meant a clean sweep for business partners David Small and Keith St. Onge as well as for the World Barefoot Center Ski School.

Winning this jump title made Keith St.Onge 1 of 4 men to have ever won all three events at a World Championship. Others being, Brett Wing, Mike Seipel & Ron Scarpa.

2014 Jump Finals: 1st Keith St. Onge, 2nd David Small, 3rd Ben Groen. A World Barefoot Center sweep

2016 World Championship:

The Blue Moo in Alma Center, Wisconsin will host the 2016 Worlds.

Is Barefooting on Your Bucket List?

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

barefooting bucket list

Skydiving. Mountain climbing.  Scuba diving. White water rafting. Barefoot water skiing.

More and more, I’m seeing barefooting as a “bucket list item” among new customers  whenever I’m down at the World Barefoot Center. No matter the age, they want to learn how to walk on water–and it’s right up there with skydiving, mountain climbing, and more. Today’s equipment and teaching methods make it easier than ever to try this extreme sport.

Four years ago, I took up barefoot water skiing again at the age of 44.   I had not barefoot water skied in over 20 years.  At that age, I pretty much thought I’d never barefoot again until I saw 66-year-old Judy Myers barefooting on the TODAY Show.  Judy took up the sport at the age of 53 and today, she’s the world oldest female competitive barefooter at 70. Just watching her on the show inspired me and I started feeling the old passion sparking up within me.  Judy invited me to the World Barefoot Center in March, 2010 and my life did a 180.

The first time I got into the boat at the World Barefoot Center, I was a nervous wreck and pretty intimidated by all the fancy moves everyone else was doing on the water.  If you told me then that I’d be doing some of those things four years later, I would have laughed you out of the boat.  But that day, I was embarrassed to get into a wetsuit and scared that I would make a fool of myself on the water with a boat full of people watching.  I got over that pretty quickly the moment I put my feet on the water and felt the old passion for the sport return.

karen putz back toe

I’ve been taught by every instructor at the World Barefoot Center and I’ve enjoyed learning from all of them (even the one who makes me cry, who shall not be named. <Insert grin.>)  I was once asked to rank each instructor, and I found it impossible to do so.  Keith St. Onge, David Small,  Ben Groen, Ashleigh Stebbeings, and Swampy Bouchard all have a professional attitude and the knowledge to instruct in every aspect of the sport.  They all know when to push, and when to pull back and rebuild your skills.  In fact, when Ben suggested a back toe hold during my last set of Women’s Week in 2013, I thought he had lost his mind. But by the end of the set, I had let go of the handle a few times and accomplished my first back toe on my feet.  Not bad for a 48-year-old!

I’m also seeing more and more “mature” folks taking up the extreme sport after several years off the water.  In 2012, Jill Broderick from Vermont came to the Women’s Barefoot Week for the first time.  The last time Jill barefoot water skied was 40 years ago.  In one short week, she learned the deep-water start, tumble turns, and longline. In 2013, she moved up to one foots and continued to build a solid foundation to her barefooting skills.  Oh yeah, Jill is over 60 years old.

Jill Broderick

The most famous barefooter of all, Banana George, took up barefooting at the age of 46, took up competition at 65, and barefooted behind a seaplane when he was 81. The last time he set his feet on the water, he was 93.  Even then, he managed to do a one-foot!

So if you have “Barefoot water skiing” on your bucket list, don’t wait for some day to make it happen.  Last I checked, there is no “Someday” to be found on any calendar anywhere.

By: Karen Putz

The Barefooting Community Loses an Icon: Banana George Blair

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Banana George is without a doubt the most well-known barefoot water skier anywhere.  The legendary barefooter passed away October 17, 2013 at 98.  Banana George didn’t retire from the sport until he was 93 and he managed to do a one foot during one of his last runs. He’s the only barefoot water skier to ski on seven continents, a feat recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.  He was inducted in the Water Ski Hall of Fame in 1991:  Banana George in the Hall of Fame.

Banana George and Keith St. Onge

Keith St. Onge and Banana George

Banana George Turns 93

Banana George Has Gone Far for a Skier Who Travels by Foot

Breaking the Age Barrier

There’s No Mellow Yellow in Banana George

Barefoot Old Boy, With Cheek

Banana George Water Skis Way to Health

Banana George: Accidental Hero

Banana George Named One of “Sexiest Men” in Sports Illustrated

Banana George Rolls Into Town

Banana George Barefooting at 85

Banana George Turns 90

In a tribute to The Banana Man, Keith St. Onge donned one of Banana George’s old wetsuits and took a footin run:

KSO in Banana George's old suit

Growing Bolder Segments on Banana George:

Banana George Battles Back

Hot Chicks and Cool Cars

News articles:

Banana George, One of the Biggest Names in Water Skiing

Banana George: The Most Interesting Person in the World

USA Water Ski News: Banana George

George Blair: Steamboat Resident

Banana George Action Hub

Banana George Obituary

If you’d like to contribute back to the sport in honor of Banana George, the American Water Ski Educational Foundation (AWSEF)  has set up a scholarship fund to benefit young skiers:

Banana George Blair Ambassador Scholarship

By: Karen Putz

Connecting with the Best Barefooters on the Water

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

The highlights of my barefoot career have been many over the past 30 years–and trust me, I have been very lucky more than most barefoot water skiers to experience what the sport can give.

One thing that stands out for me is the experience  I have had with World Barefoot Center every time I visit.

How many people can say that they have sat in the boat with so many of the best skiers in the world and been a part of what it takes for them as skier to be the best?

Seeing what these skiers need to do mentally and physically, and feeling what they go through as I sit among this group while they are being driven to win and achieve their goals is incredible.

Every athlete at the top level of their sport trains in similar ways, no matter what that sport. These athletes cannot do it alone. It’s the coaches who connect all the pieces together to enable an athlete to be able to go to the limits that is required for them to win.

As a competitive skier, I have by no means achieved what these elite skiers have in barefooting, but every time they climb onto the back of the boat, I connect with the passion and goals in their eyes.

Robbie Groen, New Zealand

Keith St.Onge’s 2nd WaterSkier Magazine Cover

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

After years and years of falling short of my dream to win the World Overall Title, it finally happened in 2006.  I trained harder than ever before and it all paid off.  After returning to Winter Haven, Florida, I received a call from photographer Lynn Novakovski.  “I’d like to come out and get a cover shot.” he said.  I couldn’t wait for the opportunity, and Lynn came out the next day.

I tried to remember the covers from other athletes from years back.  I never saw or at least did not remember anybody ever wearing medals around their neck.  I thought this would be a great idea, so I brought my hardware along.

My first run was quite sketchy because my medals were swinging everywhere in the wind.  My friend Char had a hair band in the boat and suggested I tighten up the medals on my neck.  The trick worked as the medals were much tighter and did not flap in the wind.  Of course I was taking a chance if I fell, but I wanted to get a unique cover.

Keith Stonge Waterskier magazine cover shot

1st Waterskier Cover shot for Keith St. Onge after winning the 2006 World Overall Title

By: 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.

20130216-070440.jpg

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!

20130216-070427.jpg

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

Growing Bolder with Barefoot Water Skiing

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Judy Myers and Karen Putz were interviewed by Growing Bolder less than a year ago.  The amazing story about Karen’s husband forwarding a link about Judy on the Today Show changed her life.  The video link inspired Karen to take the sport of barefoot water skiing again and she came to the World Barefoot Center to put her feet back on the water after her last barefoot run twenty years prior.

Judy and Karen were approached by Growing Bolder to do a video on Karen and Judy’s relationship and how Karen lost her hearing from taking a fall while barefoot skiing.  Her family had a rare inherited gene where a sudden hit or blow to the head would cause hearing loss.  A Mom Who Walks on Water. They also did another video on Judy: The Barefoot Competitor.

Recently, Kellie Clark viewed the Growing Bolder video and decided he wanted to try barefoot skiing.  He visited the World Barefoot Center in Winter Haven, FL with his friend, Steve Franklin, and we got them on their feet.  We appreciate the time Growing Bolder took to come out and interview Judy and Karen.  We hope to have many new students that are inspired from watching Growing Bolder!!
By: Keith St.Onge