How to Barefoot Backwards (Back Deep Water Start)

Glen Plake, Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame

Hook Ankle Under Rope

So you’re ready to start learning how to barefoot backwards?   Before you start, here a quick few pointers that will make things go a little smoother and keep the “nasal water logging” to a minimum. (And there’s always nose tape for that!)

To get up backwards we are going to stick to three simple steps:

-Planing on your belly and riding the plant.

-Transitioning from the plant to backwards barefooting position.

-Position while skiing backwards.

1.  PLANING ON YOUR BELLY AND RIDING THE PLANT

Roll Over Onto Belly

Float on your back, place the handle between legs and reach behind and grab it with both hands, hook one of your ankles under the rope

Time to take a deep breath and roll over, making sure you keep your body, arms, and legs straight. You will only be unable to breathe for maybe a second.  The driver should now pull you out of the water at a nice SLOW speed (too fast and you begin to porpoise and bounce). The water line should be breaking right around your knees.  10-12 mph will be your speed.

Now in this position you should easily be able to plane on your belly – making sure you are pushing your chest towards the water (this will create an air pocket and you will be able to breathe), and staying stiff like a board. This will not only allow you to breathe but it will also keep you from

Stay Stiff As A Board

bouncing and you will be in much more control. Once you are comfortable with this position, very slowly take your feet off the rope, and before being able to plant you will need to make sure you flex your feet.

This means pulling your toes back towards your ankles (it is very important not to point your toes otherwise they will go straight through). Turn outwards to a 45 degree angle and slowly place them onto the water, a little wider then hips width (an exercise to do to practice gliding on your feet would be to do one foot at a time with one foot staying hooked on the line and getting the feeling of the water coming off your feet – once you have them in the right position the water should flex the feet automatically for you, you shouldn’t push against the water or curl your toes down Once you are comfortable with one foot, put it back on the rope and repeat with the other.)

Take Feet Off Of The Rope

While doing this, the rest of your body should be fairly relaxed.  Once you are comfortable enough to plant with both feet you should be able to ride this position comfortably for 30 seconds. If you can’t do this because you are out of control, it can mean you’re not allowing the water to flex your feet, which means you will be gas pedaling (pointing toes or gripping). Remember-at no POINT should you ever pull in on your arms. You should still be remained with your chest pushed into the water.

Once you can glide with your feet on the water you are ready for the next step.

2. TRANSITIONING INTO A STANDING POSITION

Now that you can ride, on your chest, with your feet planted in the water,

Planting Feet

you will need to, what we call BREAK, which means pushing your chest and chin down while allowing your hips (butt) to push up towards the sky. This is very important factor. Imagine sticking your head between your legs so that you’re folding in half. While you break and you feel your upper body starting to lift you will need to make sure that you start to pull your legs closer so it makes it easier to stand (about shoulder width). Keep rotating your feet and knees inwards.

A key factor in the breaking point is to WAIT as long as you can and to allow the boat to do the work. AT NO POINT DURING THIS STAGE should you try to lift your upper body and/or head to try and stand. You MUST wait, wait, wait and then when you think you have waited long enough, wait some more. This is the part most people have trouble with.

Pushing Chin Down And Hips Up

Keep pushing your hips upwards as you rotate your feet inward (feet should be parallel to one another) until you feel the water on your chin. You will need to maintain bent knees and make sure you don’t come up too tall.

3. BACKWARDS BAREFOOTING POSITION

Congratulations, if you’ve made it this far, you’re now barefooting backwards!!! Now that you’re up and skiing however, you need to keep focused and make sure you are in a solid position. You want to be broken away at the hips, but still arching your back, and keeping your head up, your knees should be bent into athlete position, with your arms straight, and glued to your butt. (If the handle is away from your butt, you will be pulled out over the back much easier). If you are sliding around a lot, get off those toes and ski flat on your feet!! Using the whole surface of you

Breaking

foot (Water line should be up around your instep) will allow you to glide easily on the water, instead of sliding around or pushing water.  The driver should not exceed speeds over 28-32 mph depending on the size of the skier.   If the skier is having difficulty at this speed they do not have the correct position.  Any faster can result in a hard fall.

Driver Notes:

Boom height.

Higher booms will make it harder for the skier to slowly put their feet in the water and they might end up dumping them into the water, whereas if the boom isn’t high enough it will make it harder for the skier to get up. The boom should really sit around the skiers shoulder height when in

Backwards Position

the back barefoot position. (About 4-5 feet off the water)

Boat speeds.

– Planing stage: A nice SLOW (10-12 mph) speed-if bouncing occurs, you’re going too fast.

– Planting: Once you can see that the skier has got a firm even plant then it is time to bring the boat up to speed (this is a smooth, consistent, and gradual movement on the throttle.)

– Standing speed: This depends on the weight of the skier, but most people up to 200lbs will be able to backwards barefoot happily at no more than 32 mph.  More speed will only be applied after several miles have been occurred on their feet.  This means several sets and 20 days or more of skiing backwards.   Do not be in a hurry to do back one foots as this should be done on shoe skis first!

-Ending the pass: Unlike when your skier is going forwards, he/she can’t see when the end of the run is coming up!!! While this seems pretty straight forward, you’ll save a lot of last minute head smashers if you just ease off very gradually, letting the skier know the end is coming and giving them time to let go and lean away, instead of suddenly losing speed and going head over heels!!

–       Ashleigh Stebbeings, Australia


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2 Responses to “How to Barefoot Backwards (Back Deep Water Start)”

  1. Bill Ray says:

    I am so excited to get back on the water. (high temp here in North Idaho today was 27 degrees). I love WBC, with your expertise and willingness to improve the sport; makes us common folks, excited to get out there and do our best.

    KSO, I can still picture/hear your voice in my head just like when I was there with you in Florida with the “Head Zone Helmet” on. I just hope that (when our water isn’t frozen), I can still hear your calming voice in my mind, coaching me and telling me to “relax, just ride it. okay, now start when you are ready………”

    keep up the good work. Is Ben back? say hi to everyone there for me.

  2. Bill Bradstreet says:

    So, I’m able to get up pretty consistently being the boat now! Practice makes perfect. I’ve only gotten better since visiting you guys two years ago. Backwards is a hoot!

    I get a lot of water in my sinuses. The first run of the season leaves me with a headache for a few days. I even get a minor fever. Usually after I get over that first day, I dont get the fever and bad headaches. So I wonder if I’m doing something wrong?

    Is there a trick that I can apply to stop this from happening? Are there other methods for getting up backwards that don’t require me to be face down in the water?

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