Kailey Koehler: Can You Handle It?

Check out the handle on the dock...

“Can you handle it?”

This is a question that I often get asked by my friends before I compete in a barefoot tournament. It may seem like an easy conversation starter to ask anyone to calm the nerves before he or she competes, but to me, it is a joke and a reminder of my experience at the 2012 World Championships.

During the worlds in Texas, I began to prepare myself for the first round of the Open Trick event. I put my suit on, stretched out, grabbed extra hair ties for my wrist, and of course grabbed my back and front toe-hold handles. When the dock starter told me I was next on the water, I took a deep breath, handed him my handles, and got ready to ski. The boat pulled up to the dock and everyone cleared the surrounding area so that I could prepare to do a back flyer. I told my judges the pull I wished for and I skied to the other end of the lake. As far as I was concerned I had a great pass and I was ready to ski forwards.

The boat circled around me and asked where I had put my front toe handle. I confidently responded by saying “I gave it to the dock starter as I was getting ready to ski.” Everyone in the boat, including myself, was very puzzled. After realizing that my handle never made it into the boat, the boat crew quickly drove back to the dock, grabbed my handle, and flipped through the rule book as I sat on the jet ski more nervous than I had ever been before.

After a few minutes they came to the conclusion that I could not use my front toe-hold handle. They offered me a slalom handle (which was better than nothing) so I scrambled to think of a trick run. Unfortunately, I was unable to do quite a few of my tricks. Lucky for me though, I scored enough points to just barely squeeze into the next round. Everyone on the dock was happy for me and they were very comforting to me in that situation.

Every tournament is a learning experience and I definitely learned my lesson the hard way. Ever since the 2012 Worlds, I am sure to personally deliver both of my handles to the judge in the boat.

Kailey Koehler

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