Jim Forster: Barefooting from the Driver’s Perspective


 When competing in a barefoot tournament, a lot of focus as a skier, is whether you are going to get the pull from the driver that you are expecting. We are all familiar when practicing at home with the start, speed and boat path as we usually train with the same skiers. All of a sudden, you are faced with an unfamiliar driver which can put added pressure on and cause yourself distraction. As I have stated in a previous article that I wrote, it’s a good training technique to train with different drivers as this will help you to adapt to different pulls that you are not accustomed to and remove the uncertainty.

         As a Level 2 Driver and a competitive barefooter, I have the unique perspective of how we as drivers think and what is expected of us. I really enjoy driving and can tell you that for me, I put a lot of pressure on myself as I want to give every skier exactly what they want. If a skier misses a back deepwater start, a toe up or a back tumble, to name a few, I feel personally responsible and will notify the Chief communicator if I have any doubt that the pull was not to specification. A lot is expected of us and we are tasked with performing with as few mistakes as possible. Experience plays a big role in becoming a solid driver and cannot be gained overnight. As a driver, I want to make the skier feel comfortable and gain their confidence, but at the same time, adhere to the rules. When pulling my friends in practice, I strive to give them exactly the pull they want and also to drive with the same precision as one would expect in a tournament.

        I would advise prospective drivers to learn all the different phases of acceleration and to smoothly achieve speed level off as this makes a big difference to the skier behind the boat. You want to learn to accelerate smoothly up to the called speed, but not overshoot it…..the throttle pull back can cause the skier to fall if it is severe enough. This takes a little practice and can actually be done even with Zero Off speed control devices. Also as equally important to prospective drivers, is to learn the rules as set forth by the World Barefoot Council (WBC). These can be found in the WBC Technical Rulebook. Chapter 15 Towboats, deals with some of the more important ones, but others can be found in the other chapters. You need to be knowledgeable on what is expected of you as an official and also gain confidence that you can perform any start and pull any speed.

       Probably the most difficult start to pull is the back tumble up to one……..there are only a handful of skiers that perform this start, but what really helps the driver successfully pull it, is for the skier to call an RPM rather than a MPH or KPH for the level off speed. This also applies for those skiers that aren’t really solid on their back deepwater starts……..the RPM reference I have found, enables the skier to achieve a nice, smooth plant. Something else I encounter is pressure on myself from the judges in the boat, as they are also watching my boat path and acceleration, they can be critical at times, but a good driver has to be able to listen to, and accept criticism. This is all part of becoming a better driver and at the same time, gives .skiers a good tournament experience.

         I hope that this has given you an insight to what drivers experience………the next time the boat pulls up to you at the starting dock, you can be confident the driver will be waiting to please!

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3 Responses to “Jim Forster: Barefooting from the Driver’s Perspective”

  1. Chris Attinella says:

    Well stated Jim. You ALWAYS have given me an excellent pull, both in tournament (years ago) and at Pax!

  2. Jay Leuck says:

    ” it’s a good training technique to train with different drivers as this will help you to adapt to different pulls that you are not accustomed to and remove the uncertainty.”

    Jim I agree and I would only add that it’s the MOST excellent technique! I have been making the transition from show skier to tournament competitor the past few seasons and the single most important skill set that crosses over between both disciplines is mastering your starts. In my experience I have discovered to truly master ANY start means you understand and can feel all of the little nuances that can occur throughout the acceleration. The best thing any skier can do once they become proficient with a start is either ask there regular driver to mix up the routine pull, and/or attempt the start with someone else driving. It’s a challenge to be sure, and you will no doubt miss some starts here and there, but it forces you to concentrate and use your senses to react to the changes in timing.

  3. Gre Cooper says:

    Was wondering if anyone is moving toward speed control like zero off for outboards? I thought possibly in this electronic drive by wire era that outboards would just follow the speed controls of inboards like PCM and Ingmar. I know some outboards are now total drive by wire.
    I can’t seem to find any info on this possibility.
    Any news on this front??

    Thanks Greg.

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