Dave Miller: How I Started Barefooting

Dave Miller, 1997

From as far back as I can remember I’ve been on a boat. I grew up in southeast Pennsylvania and my parents had a boat that we used to take out on the Schuylkill River just outside Philadelphia. We’d use it just for joy rides and swimming, but once I was old enough to drive and tow the boat to the river, my friends and I started waterskiing…on two skis. Our boat was a 17.5 ft Glastron with a 115 HP Evinrude motor…pretty peppy for back in the early 1980’s! My buddy, Drew, also had a boat that we’d take out on the river…it was a 13 ft Boston Whaler with a 40 HP motor. Between those two boats, we taught ourselves to get up on one ski.

As time went on, we got better and added a kneeboard to our toys. One day one of us came up with the grand idea of sitting on the kneeboard and trying to stand up off of it while wearing our Converse sneakers and it worked!! We were around 18 years old and had never even heard of barefoot waterskiing, but we knew it was cool! We (Dave, Drew and Danny) each did it a couple times and thought we were the coolest guys on the river!

Fast forward 15 years– one of my friends goes to a boat show in DC and buys an Eagle barefoot suit. He brings it home in May 1996 and says “lets learn to barefoot waterski.” I had no idea what barefooting really was so I went on the Internet to learn a little bit about it and it looked like fun! We spent three months trying to learn how to get up on our feet, and one day in September 1996, we got it!!! It was all longline with a ┬áslalom rope, behind a Mastercraft ProStar 190– and it was brutally painful…..but I was hooked!

I went back to the Internet, searching–and met a guy named Geoff Olinde (he and Richard Grey could be twins) and we agreed that in the spring, he and I will go to barefoot waterski training in Florida at Ron Scarpa’s ski school. Because I have the best job in the world (a corporate pilot for GEICO), I spent a lot of time in central FL and I learned a lot in a very short time. I also met some really great people and developed some lifelong friendships. I also became influenced by World Champion barefooters and some soon to be World Champion barefooters. Whether they knew it or not, David Small and Keith St. Onge were two of the influential people I met in Florida–and they were both teenagers at the time!

Around June 1997, I heard there was a barefoot tourney in PA right on the river where I had grown up skiing– and being the competitive person I am I had to try it. I scored a 5.2 and a 760 in my first tourney and I knew I found my sport! I continued to compete until 2003, but when “life” and injuries kept me from competing at the level I desired I took some time off from the competitive side–but continued to ski for fun. In 2011, I decided to get back into the sport, more as a driver than a skier, and I couldn’t be happier!

By: Dave Miller

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