Featured Footer: Carol Jackson

In the summer of 2001, Carol Jackson watched as her husband learned to barefoot with Billy Nichols, the skier who holds the Guinness record for the longest barefoot run (two hours and 42 minutes).  After Billy left, Carol went out on the boom and put her feet in the water.  She’s been barefooting ever since.  At the 2011 Barefoot Nationals at the Barefoot Ski Ranch, Carol set a pending World Record for tricks and slalom in the Women’s 5 division.

The 55-year-old Ocklawaha, Florida resident received her first formal training from Lane Bowers.  “My husband and I wanted to learn more.  I wanted to learn how to do it right, and not the ‘crash and burn’ style,” said Carol.   “Lane taught me how to get up on the short line properly, and then he taught me how to get up backwards.  It was easy for me to learn because I often watched others on the water.”  Carol began to learn surface turns on shoes– a trick that she found relatively easy to do because of her previous experience with trick skiing.

When David Small set up his ski school in Claremont, Carol began to train with him since it was just a half hour from where she worked.  “I heard good things about David and he taught me a lot of new things,” said Carol. “Plus, he has a good sense of humor!”  Carol began to advance with her skills, working on one-foot wake crossings, tumbles to one and refining her surface turns.

Carol didn’t enter her first tournament until 2008. “I was a weekend skier for a long time,” Carol explained. “I looked up the tournament scores on the internet and figured that I could score the same scores in my age division. I contacted Rachel George and Kay Wiser and a few others and they encouraged me to try it.”   Carol received a warm welcome at her first tournament and quickly found herself enjoying the people she met.  Her first tournament experience was filled with some unexpected surprises.

“It was much more difficult than I expected,” said Carol.  “I wish someone would have told me the reality about the boats–the boats are loaded with five people, so the wake is huge.  I didn’t know how to call a start, and  it didn’t feel like barefooting behind my boat.  It was much harder than I ever thought it would be.”  Carol doesn’t remember much about her trick runs– just that she couldn’t complete a tumble turn and her score was low.  “I didn’t give up– because I really liked the people there.  Despite my bad experience, I had fun. I decided to try it a few more times.”  After a few more tournaments that summer, Carol skied in her first Nationals and scored a personal best.  She was firmly hooked on competition at that point.

Of all of the tricks she’s learned, Carol found the back toe hold to be the most challenging one of all.  After crashing over and over, she gave up on the trick for a while.  Earlier this summer, she took it up again and accomplished it while working with David.  During a session with Swampy, Carol explained her difficulty with the trick and how she kept falling on one side, over and over.  Swampy explained the proper position, gave her a few positioning tips and Carol soon found herself doing the trick.  “Swampy is very good at explaining position on the water and where you need to be– it was like a light bulb– I just got it.”

The next trick that Carol wants to master is the line-step in her backward run.  “I don’t try any new tricks unless I receive instruction,” said Carol.  “I don’t want to crash or learn the wrong way.  It’s easier to learn the right way than to fix the wrong way.  Plus, my job is very physical and I can’t afford to get hurt.”

As a “mature” skier, Carol encourages others to take up the sport, but to get in the best physical shape possible before getting out on the water.  “I used to break in horses for a living, and that’s harder than barefooting,” Carol chuckled.  None of her friends have adopted the same love for barefooting, but they still think Carol’s talent on the water is a cool thing.  Only one of Carol’s friends was brave enough to try sitting in the swing off the boom, and she was sore for days afterwards.

“Barefooting taught me to work hard in a sport, but to have fun as well,” said Carol.  ” Ten years ago, I used to watch Billy Nichols on the water doing all those tricks and I thought, ‘I’d never be able to do that!’  But here I am today–I’ve learned that I’m more capable than I thought.”

Written by: Karen Putz

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