Featured Footer: A.J. Porreca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WBC SKIER PROFILE : AJ PORRECA from WorldBarefootCenter on Vimeo.

Written by: Karen Putz

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