Archive for the ‘WBC Skier Stories’ Category

Brody Meskers, WBC Sponsored Skier, Male Athlete of the Year

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

brody meskers back flyer

Brody Meskers, a sponsored skier with the World Barefoot Center, has been chosen as the American Barefoot Club Male Athlete of the Year for 2011.  We’re proud of you, Brody!

Brody Meskers, ABC Male Athlete of the Year

Read more on Brody:

Featured Footer, Brody Meskers

Elaine Heller is the American Barefoot Club Female Athlete of the Year for 2011.  Congrats to Elaine!

Elaine Heller, ABC Female Athlete of the Year

By: Karen Putz

Nap Time at the World Barefoot Center

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Barefooting is hard work. Good thing there’s nap time at the World Barefoot Center.

A. J. Porreca

Brody Meskers

Like father…

Robbie Groen

Like son:

Ben Groen

Even champions need sleep:


Caitlyn Rowland

Caitlyn Rowland

Ted Baber

Ted Baber

The King of Sleep at the World Barefoot Center:

Adin Daneker

Even Swampy goes down for a nap:

Swampy conks out

World’s Oldest Competitive Barefooter, Jim Boyette at the WBC

Monday, September 12th, 2011

So you think you’re too old to start barefooting?

Jim Boyette was 45-years-old when he learned to barefoot back in 1973.  He first tried kicking off a ski, but he found himself faceplanting again and again.  Jim didn’t give up– he switched to a rubberized air mat and stood up on his feet.  “It took about a thousand falls, but I finally got it,” said Jim.   Two years later, he started competing and hasn’t stopped since then.  He’s been to every single Nationals since 1978.  The soon-to-be 84 year old has no plans of stopping his competitive streak.

“My training is restricted to weekends, one hour each day,” said Jim. “My trick runs have gone bad– I start with a flying dock and then some tumble turns.  On my second pass, a tumble up, more tumble turns then the basic stuff– sit down stand up and waves.  I’m lucky if I manage to ski without passing out.”

Tumble turns have always been Jim’s “bread and butter” tricks and he enjoys tricks much more than slalom.  In his prime, he scored 1000+ on his tricks and even at the age of 66, he recorded a 700 at the 1993 Nationals.   “I learned backwards in my mid-50s,” said Jim.  “It took me forever to learn! I stepped off a ski backwards and learned to get up short line, but I never learned to get up backwards longline–and then they stopped allowing skis in tournaments.”

Jim is an inspiration to many at the barefoot competitions.  “Jim is such a nice guy and he has helped me along the way with his positive  attitude,” said Judy Myers, the world’s oldest competitive female barefooter. “He’s always so positive and just makes one know they can continue.  He has a great sense of humor and his spirit makes one feel young.  Jim is always there rooting others along and he makes one feel they ‘can do it.'”

And the next time you complain about your feet hurting, or your neck aching, or your sore abs– consider this: Jim has Charcot-Marie Tooth Neuropathy which causes his muscles to atrophy.  “It affects my barefooting,” said Jim. “Sometimes my feet feel like two pieces of wood–I don’t have a good feeling in my feet–but it hasn’t stopped me yet.  That’s a good thing!”  Jim also has days when arthritis takes over and makes barefooting even more difficult. Jim also limits his time under the sun due to skin cancer that was caught early.

Oh, and about those sore abs that you’re complaining about?  Well here’s one more thing: during a physical fitness test in the Navy, Jim once did 1,613 situps.

“It is always great seeing young kids getting involved in the sport, but I have skied with Jim in the past and the old fellow is just amazing!” said David Small. “He gets out there and tears up the water with ease– and at nearly 84, he truly is an inspiration to everyone, not just barefooters! If an 84 year old can keep going out there and skiing, then none of us can complain about aches and pains after a set from now on.”

Jim Boyette, 83 and Still Competing

Boyette is Towing the Line

Jim Boyette–Late Starter, But Early Finisher

Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd

Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd 1984

Jim Boyette Bio

Super Charged Seniors

Best Senior Athlete

JIM BOYETTE COMES DOWN TO WBC from WorldBarefootCenter on Vimeo.

Written by: Karen Putz

Legends Collide, Keith St. Onge and Glen Plake

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

The following article appeared in The Waterskier, March/April 2011 written by Karen Putz, photos by Lynn Novakofski:

On the slopes, it’s not hard to spot Glen Plake barreling down a mountainside. You cannot help but notice his hotdogging skills on skis, which earned him a place in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame last year. What’s more, you can’t miss the 15-inch high, colorful Mohawk that manages to stay intact through flips and turns.

Plake is known for his career on the slopes, but for fun, he enjoys barefoot water skiing. In October 2011, Plake and his wife, Kimberly spent a few days at the World Barefoot Center barefoot water skiing with Keith St. Onge. St. Onge met Plake 10 years ago at the Surf & Water Ski Expo in Orlando, Florida. “Glen was my idol when I was growing up,” says St. Onge, a native of New Hampshire. “When the barefoot season was over, I spent my winters skiing on the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I love snowbaroding and skiing, so I followed Glen’s career through the years with great interest.”

St. Onge saw Glen and Kimberly walking around at the Expo and decided to approach them. “I didn’t want to intrude, so I kept it short: ‘Hi, my name is Keith; you were a childhood idol of mine and I really wanted to meet you. Have a great day’ and then I walked off.”

As St. Onge walked away, Plake called him back over. “Wait, what’s your last name?”

“St. Onge.”

“Hey, I know you!” Plake said. “You’re a barefoot water skier–I’ve seen your name in the water ski magazines!”

“I was really blown away at the idea that one of my idols actually knew who I was,” St. Onge recalls.

Plake was first introduced to barefooting at the age of seven when he watched a guy barefooting on the lake that he grew up on. “I taught myself to barefoot when I was twelve by stepping off a ski behind the boat,” Plake says. “At first, I wasn’t very successful, but I kept trying. Then one day–perhaps it was a fluke–I stepped off and went a short distance. Another day, I hung on and I went for a long distance. I said to myself, ‘Ok, that worked!’ And I kept on barefooting.”

Plake geared up in his first wetsuit at the age of 18 and began experimenting with deep water starts and tumble turns. When he was 20, he purchased a boat with a boom. “The boom made things easier and I began experimenting with more advanced tricks,” Plake says. “But once my snow ski career took off, I didn’t barefoot as much. When I married Kimberly, I taught her to barefoot and I started learning more new tricks.”

Plake is no stranger to competitive water skiing–he has competed in three-event slalom and water ski racing events. He has some solid barefooting skills with tumble turns, backward and toe holds. He’s currently working on adding surface turns to his list of tricks. “The thing about barefooting with Keith, when you work toward a trick or a goal, he breaks it down into steps and drills,” Plake says. “When it is time to do it, to execute a trick, if you prepare and take the steps along the way, then you should be able to execute on the first try. That’s the difference between having a great teacher who is knowledgeable and teaching yourself.”

“Glen barefoot water skis just like he snow skis– in a totally relaxed mode,” St. Onge says. “He skis with a huge smile on his face and you can see he just loves every minute of what he does. That’s how it should be–fun first!”

While studying Plake on the water, St. Onge could see that his lack of formal instruction revealed some maneuvers that Glen struggled with. It was time to re-introduce the basics and start over again from scratch. “I had to take Glen out of his comfort zone and he, like most people who have skied for years, do not like going back to the basics,” St. Onge says. “Even though it was against the Glen Plake grain, he knew that’s what it would take to better his skills. I actually felt like I was tearing him down, which killed me, but his skills on the water improved.”

“It was fun learning new skills from Keith,” Plake says. “All these years, I was self taught. I never had any formal barefoot instruction, so I didn’t do it right. My snow skiing is based on a strong foundation and that foundation lets me do things on the water, but my technique had some flaws. It was nice to have Keith teach me a better position and clean up my flaws. Barefooting is a very rewarding sport. A lot of other sports take a long time to see success or results, but with barefooting it is easy to have success because there’s so many different things you can do on the water.”

It’s safe to say that if Keith St. Onge needs to clean up his form on the slopes, Glen Plake will be the guy for the job.

Joann O’Connor Keeps Going

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Um, Joann... your sunglasses!

Meet Joann O’Connor — a 62-year-old barefooter from Lake Lucerne in Crandon, Wisconsin.  Joann was the first female competitive barefooter in the Midwest, competing in the Regionals in 1967.  A motorcycle accident halted her barefooting journey for many years.  At the age of 54, she put her feet back on the water and has been having a blast ever since!  Despite a fused ankle, Joann learned to barefoot backwards.  For four years, she’s been working to barefoot backwards longline.  You can read more here:

Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance

Barefooting with a Senior Citizen

Alex Youngblood, Nine-Year-Old Barefoot Competitor

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Alex does a flyer at the Michigan tournament

She’s a tiny, little thing standing on the dock, but when nine-year-old Alex Youngblood stands on the water, you can’t help but say, “Wow!”   She’s a kid with a real passion for barefoot water skiing.  And when you talk to Alex,  you can literally see that excitement– her whole body radiates when she talks about the sport she loves.  Alex first put her feet in the water on water skis when she was three-years-old.   “Alex would watch me from the boat and mimic me barefooting,” said Jim, her father.  “She would pick up a handle and put it on the pylon and pretend that she was barefooting.  She probably learned a lot just from doing that.  I put her in the swing and let her dip her feet in the water– she took to it very quickly.”

Jim’s own first taste of barefooting came when he was in his 20’s, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience as he injured himself while trying the sport.  He decided to stick with slalom skiing– until he began hanging out with two barefoot skiers (one who was Chris Szwed, father of Kyle and Laura Szwed) who  needed a spotter.  They convinced him to give barefooting another try, insisting that with proper equipment and training, it would be a much better experience.  “Once I tried again, I got the bug and never looked back.  I left slalom skiing behind,” Jim laughed.

Alex competing in the Michigan tourneyAlex has been bitten by the same bug.  In 2009, Kenny Kaestner from Foot’n Foundations challenged Alex to learn a deep water start so that she could compete in the Regionals and Nationals.  He promised her a brand new junior toe handle if she could complete the start and send him a video.  Alex worked hard and at the end of the ski season that year, she was the proud owner of a new handle.   “Alex looks up to Kenny–that challenge was a turning point for her,” said Jim.  “You know how it goes, you can tell your kids the same thing over and over and they become numb to it.  Alex did everything that Kenny asked her to do, he is a good teacher for her.”

Alex learned backwards on the short line earlier this year with instruction from Lane Bowers, and she has the goal of qualifying for the Worlds next year.  At a recent Michigan tournament, Alex scored a 2.8 in slalom and 350 in tricks.  She added knee skiing at the end of her second run, something that Jim says he can’t do himself.  “If she can get backwards long line and a few other tricks– one foot and tumble to one, then qualifying for the Worlds is doable,” Jim explained.  “It’s her desire and her wish to go to the Worlds, not mine.  She has a very competitive personality–not against others– but she sets goals for herself and then works to see if she can accomplish it.”

Watch for Alex on the water!

Written by: Karen Putz

Alex, barefooting with her parents

All this barefooting is tiring!

WBC says goodbye to Taylor True and Joey Tombers after 5 weeks of hard training!!

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Joey & Taylor at Holtzy's Invitational

When Taylor and Joey arrived at the World Barefoot Centre they were eager to get on the water and make the most out of the 5 weeks that they were spending here to train over the summer. With the tournament season just about to start, they needed to be focused and train hard to give themselves the best possible chance of moving towards their goal to qualify for the 2012 World Championships.


Here’s what Joey had to say about his time at the World Barefoot Centre. “WBC is a wonderful place, both on the water and off. I learned so much in the five weeks I was there. When I first arrived I could barely get up backwards, now I can do line step one foot, one foot reverse, hop and both back toe holds.  All this wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the awesome coaching by some of the top skiers and you can’t forget Swampy, the best coach you could have. They pushed me to do the very best I could. I had so much fun skiing with WBC and I can’t wait until I come back down next time.”


They both worked really hard to get where they have and also had a great attitude towards training and it has shown with the scores that they posted in the first two tournaments of the season. Joey’s personal bests went from 900 in tricks to 1,330 and he increased his jump from 7.7 to 9 metres. He also went from doing forwards two foot slalom crosses to solidly doing both one foot crosses forwards and also one foot crosses backwards. Taylor’s personal bests went from 320 in tricks to 890 and she increased her slalom score from 3.3 to 4.6. She has also started to consistently get up backwards as well as her forward one foot slalom crosses.

It was great to have them both here and watching them progress as skiers. We are all looking forward to seeing them the next time they come back down to WBC.

– by Ashleigh Stebbeings, Australia

Karen Putz– My First Barefoot Tournament

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

As I drove up the highway toward Blue Moo lake in Alma Center, Wisconsin last Thursday, I was having second thoughts about the whole barefoot tournament thing.  Earlier in the week, I took a few runs with Dan Tanis over at Cedar Lake, but I couldn’t accomplish a single thing on the water.  Out of five pulls, I got up twice and fell each time I attempted to slalom across the wake.   I hadn’t yet practiced a trick run.  And here I was, driving four hours to compete in my first tournament.  

Twenty five years after tripping over a wake, I got back on the water again at the World Barefoot Center in March of last year.  I think a certain 68-year-old woman came up with the idea of entering tournaments.    “It’ll be fun!” she said.  “Everyone is friendly and they’ll help you and tell you what to do.”

Well, Judy was right about that.  I arrived at the dock on Friday morning and met with Kenny Kaestner, the instructor from Footn Foundations and host of the clinic.   Right away, Kenny made me feel at home on the water and he provided some fantastic instruction.   I was struggling to cheek out, and he taught me to line myself up at the opposite angle of where I wanted to cheek out to.   I spent the  morning slaloming and going through my trick runs.  Kenny bumped my speed up to 39/40 and I discovered that I liked it much better on firmer water.  By the time the morning sets were over, I felt confident that I knew what to do.  We spent the afternoon working on backwards.  I worked on riding backwards on one foot on shoes and then tried a back deep on my feet with no success.  I explained that I could get up easily on shoes, but I was really struggling to get up on my feet.  Kenny ran me through a hip exercise several times in the water, identifying the muscles used to get the hips up.   After that, I  was able to get up three times in a row backwards on my feet.

I somehow totally missed the fact that the tournament started at four that afternoon and I was pretty wiped out at that point.  I put myself last in the line up– hoping that I could recover some energy before it was my turn.  Let’s just say this… nothing will wake you up faster than getting back into a cold wetsuit– and jumping in the cold Wisconsin water late in the evening.  Holy moly…

I told myself that if I could just stand up and manage at least one cross, I would be happy.  I forgot the very trick that Kenny taught me– and found myself stuck inside the wake during my first run.  I didn’t have a choice but to stand up inside, and I nearly lost my balance.  I managed to make it outside the wake and then cut right across the wake.  To my complete surprise, I found myself still standing on the other side– and cut back across.  I managed two more crossings and I was really whooping inside when the boat came around.   I ended up with six on the second pass and with a score of 2.8.  That was later bumped up to 3.3. 

Kenny is a guy who does it all.  Not only did he run the tournament, but earlier in the year, he took his bow and arrow, shot Bambi– and served venison for dinner.  “I don’t care much for venison,” said Janell Heller, the owner of Blue Moo Lake.  “But when Kenny marinates and cooks it– it is wonderful.”  I took her advice, tried the venison and agreed with her, it was really delicious.

Blue Moo Lake is set at the edge of a corn field in the middle of a very rural part of Wisconsin.  When I first met Blake Heller, he reminded me so much of my dad– the same round face, the farmer’s heart and the beer in one hand.   I asked Blake how the lake came about and he explained that it took just three guys to dig out the lake.  They started in November and finished in spring the following year.  This was my first time skiing on a lake made specifically for barefooting and wow, one could easily become spoiled by the amazing water that happens on each run.

I put myself last in the line up again the next day for tricks.  I was a little nervous about doing a flyer, as I had done one only once before down at the WBC.  Paul Stokes had just returned from his run and he gave me some reminders as the rope began to tighten up.  The flyer went perfectly and I managed to get the wave, wave, sit down stand up in.  As soon as I shifted to one foot, bam– I faceplanted.  I had planned two tumble turns on the second pass.  Halfway through the first tumble, I felt as if the handle was going to get away from me so I pulled out of it– stood up for the second tumble– got halfway around and lost the handle.  So much for that run!  But I was happy with the 140– it was a lot better than a zero.

The best part was getting to watch the other gals barefoot.  It was amazing to watch Ariana and Kailey Koehler do their trick runs and absolutely jaw-dropping to watch Elaine Heller and Liz O’Flaherty sail over the jump.  The whole tournament experience was a positive one.  The barefooting community is definitely a warm, welcoming one.  Whatever apprehensions that I had when I arrived– were totally gone by the first hour.   I’m really looking forward to the next tournament!

barefoot scores blue moo

By Karen Putz

A New Barefooter in the Family

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

My son and I got up at five a.m. to head out to Cedar Lake earlier this week.   It would be David’s first time on the boom, and I was looking forward to sharing the sport with my oldest kid for the first time. I was hoping he would be hooked– as I had visions of us barefooting together the rest of the summer.

After the first try, he admitted that the sport was just a tad harder than he expected it to be.  He gripped the boom again for another try.

“Um, son, both feet in the water.  Save the one foots for a little later…”

Ok, the third time just might be the charm:


The boat exploded in applause– a new barefooter just joined the family!  There was a broad smile on David’s face when he climbed into the boat.   An even bigger smile was plastered on my face as I went to hug my son.  “So, what do you think?” I asked.

“It’s cool, Mom!  But I still like wakeboarding better.”


— by Karen Putz

WBC Skier, Chandler Cargile in the News

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

World Barefoot Center sponsored skier, Chandler Cargile recently landed in the news:

The Barefoot Skier