Featured Footer: Ashleigh Stebbeings

When Ashleigh Stebbeings arrived at the World Barefoot Center in January, 2011, she was feeling a bit burned out with barefoot water skiing after ten long years of competition.  The eighteen-year-old first began barefooting when she was eight, and just a year later, she was skiing in the Nationals, representing the Australian Junior Team.

“The first time I put my feet on the water, it was a weird feeling,” Ashley recalled.  “I immediately fell in love with that.”  Within a month, Ashleigh was skiing behind the boat and quickly learned one-foot, tumble turns and handle-in-teeth tricks.    At nine years of age, she was the youngest skier to qualify for the minute badge—skiing backwards.  In 2003, Ashleigh was selected for the Junior team and skied in her first Worlds.  She has skied every World Barefoot Competition since then.   “My greatest achievement took place in 2009—I won slalom, trick and jump—in both the Junior and Open division.  I set a new World record in jump as well,” said Ashleigh.

At the Worlds in Germany, David Small and Swampy Bouchard, approached Ashleigh and invited her to train at the World Barefoot Center.   Ashleigh wasn’t sure what she wanted to do—or if she even had the heart to continue with barefooting.  Back home in Australia, Ashleigh had to drive 40 minutes to her training site, and she found it tiring to continually rearrange her schedule to fit in time on the water.   “I decided to come to the World Barefoot Center to see if I could find the passion again for barefooting,” said Ashleigh.  “I knew that if I couldn’t find it here, then I couldn’t find it anywhere.”

Ashleigh was riding on nerves when she first arrived, as she wasn’t sure what to expect or what to do.  At first, it was intimidating being the only female among the boys, including the WBC staff, Ben Groen and A.J. Porreca.  But Ashleigh found herself settling in and quickly became “one of the boys.”

“It is mind blowing to be in the boat with Keith and David,” said Ashleigh.   They’re a great help with instructing– they understand what we go through—and they know how to teach us and push us.   I also learned a lot from Swampy, Ben and A.J.”

In the beginning weeks, Ashleigh had some rough days on the water and Ben and A.J. provided support and encouragement.  “Ben helped when I had some bad days– because he had the same kind of experience when he came here from New Zealand,” Ashleigh explained.  “He knew it would get better and helped me through them.  Now the three of us are inseparable.”

The most challenging tricks for Ashleigh were the surface turns- the front-to-back and back-to front.   Every time she went out on the water, fear overtook her and she hesitated or ended up taking a tumble.  “I can’t do this,” she told Swampy one day.   Swampy sat her down and had a heart-to-heart talk with her.

“Quitters never win—and winners never quit,” he told her.  “You’re only as good as your last set, and there’s another one around the corner.”

“Swampy strengthened my mind — he helped me me find my belief in myself,” said Ashleigh.  “I learned to trust the system—and the system works– the system proves itself.    When I have a rough day on the water, I go back and review what I’ve done– I break it down, go back, and try to fix it.  I change what I need to change– then I go out and do it over and over again, until it becomes a habit.   Everyone has a bad day, but   you go out and redeem yourself– that’s what helps the most.”

And one day, everything came together for Ashleigh.  She experienced a huge shift in attitude and it began to show on the water.  During one set, she completed her first 720, and became the first female to accomplish that.   After that day, her confidence grew in leaps and bounds.  By the time she left the World Barefoot Center to head home, she had conquered the multiple turns and her fear had completely disappeared.

Ashleigh’s training paid off:  at the Australian Nationals in April, she set a new (pending) World record in tricks, slaughtering the previous score by over 1,000 points.

“Before I came to the World Barefoot Center, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or even if I wanted to stay in barefooting,” said Ashleigh.  “They really helped me love the sport again.  And barefooting is a lot like life—if you believe in yourself and push yourself, you can accomplish anything you want to—and be anything you want to be.”

Second Place for Stebbeings– Mercury News

Barefooters Vie for Titles–Liverpool Leader

Ashleigh Stebbeings–Waterski Magazine

Stebbeings Makes It Three in a Row

Foot in the Door for World Mark

WBC SKIER PROFILE : ASHLEIGH STEBBEINGS from WorldBarefootCenter on Vimeo.

Written by: Karen Putz

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