Featured Footer: Dave Miller

Back in 1996, Dave Miller was a die-hard slalom skier. His journey into barefooting began when a friend showed up with a barefoot wetsuit. Neither of them had ever seen one before. It took Dave a good three months of beating himself up on the water before he was able to successfully glide on his feet behind a slalom boat.

Shortly after that, Dave took a job with GEICO as a corporate pilot and his route took him on regular trips to Florida. “That’s when I was introduced to Ron Scarpa,” said Dave. “I came to his ski school and advanced so quickly in one day–I knew it was my calling.” Dave spent his formative years skiing with Ron on a regular basis. When he was starting out, Dave knew his limitations and was careful to progress with tricks to avoid injuries. “I knew if I injured myself, I couldn’t do my regular job,” he explained. “I tried to stay with tricks where I wouldn’t injure myself.”

But for Dave, advancing to higher level tricks proved to be easy for him. He found that he had a natural talent for surface turns, on one foot and two. In fact, the most challenging experience for him was learning the back deep behind the boat. When he began competing in tournaments, he did a front to back to enable him to do backward tricks and back wakes. As he advanced with skills, he added jumping to the mix. It was not something he was comfortable with but he had to include it to compete at the higher level. “I was scared I would get hurt,” Dave recalled. “And if I get hurt and can’t fly an airplane, then I can’t do my job. I didn’t want that. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t be a pilot.”

Six years after he first put his feet on the water, Dave competed in the Senior Barefoot Worlds in 2003 where he slalomed 14.2 and tricked 2950. This was by far his favorite tournament, and an exciting time for him to ski in the worlds. The following spring, Dave racked up his first major injury. He was in the middle of completing a reverse front-to-front 360 when his leg twisted and hyper-extended. He felt a pop and a sensation similar to a rubberband snapping. He knew right then and there something was wrong. “I detached my hamstring,” said Dave. “The hamstring basically exploded where it attaches to the bone.”

Dave continued to compete in a tournament in June 2004 at the urging of friends, but he found himself holding back on the water. He wasn’t able to ski at the level he was used to. Suddenly, his interest in competition fell flat. He had hit a wall. “I realized I was done,” said Dave. “I wanted to quit at that time. I realized I was not immortal.” Dave took the injury as a sign and put competition on hold. He continued to barefoot for fun and take lessons at Scarpa’s. Every year, he volunteered at tournaments working as a Senior Driver. When 2006 rolled around, life became busy and Dave turned away from the tournament scene completely.

At the Eastern Regionals in 2010, Dave felt the old, familiar itch to compete. He missed his friends from the barefoot community. He missed competing. But he didn’t share it publicly. Only his wife knew of his plans. Very quietly, he continued to work on his skills at Scarpa’s and dreamed of a comeback before facing his 50th birthday. He had plans to ski in the Eastern Regionals and the Nationals, but on Memorial Day 2011, he hurt his shoulder in the middle of a one-foot turn. Just like that, his dreams for a comeback were put on hold while he recovered from shoulder surgery.

In December, 2011, Dave got back on the water, this time at the World Barefoot Center. “I’ve known Keith and David for many years and I knew the way they taught barefooting,” said Dave. “With Ron Scarpa Water Sports going out of business, the World Barefoot Center was the best place in the world to go to improve my skills, to learn what I wanted to learn and to be pushed the way I wanted to be pushed.” Dave wanted to learn how to compete at the same level as the top skiers do.

Dave had to learn to kick his skiing up another notch on the water. There were some days he faced hurdles, and other days he soared. He recently had two frustrating days in a row as he went back to the fundamentals on his basic back to front. “All of my basic foundations have to be very strong but that’s my weakest right now,” Dave explained. “I’m working to do it the way they want it. I understand their system and I’ve seen it work with the team– they’ve all improved by following the program. I have to get this turn correct so I can move forward with my plan.”  He recently completed his first reverse back-to-front on one foot.

Dave is aiming big and wants to qualify to ski in the Worlds yet again.  He’d like to surpass his personal best, 3850 in tricks and 15.6 in slalom.  But there will be no more jumping in his future– he says he’s done with that.  “I love barefooting and being out on the boat. I love the feel my feet gliding on the water,” said Dave.  “I love being able to do something so unique and special that not everybody can do.   And the friendships, the people I’ve met, are the nicest in the world.”

Written by: Karen Putz

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2 Responses to “Featured Footer: Dave Miller”

  1. jack and vickie says:

    Nice to meet you today. Your neighbors.

  2. World Barefoot Center says:

    Great to have you all in the neighborhood! If you every need anything let us know!

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