Posts Tagged ‘chris mcwatters’

Footapalooza 2014 Results

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Well Footapalooza 2014 is in the bag, and what a great event this year. Friday stated out very well with many practice runs and catching up with the northern footing crew. Silver lake was flat, warm, and at a great level. With the level of the water being nice and high, it kept many of the lily pads out of sight. By the time night fell the course was set and everything was ready to go for the next day.

​Saturday morning came in cool, foggy and overcast, but the water was flat. As the footers showed up, the fog began to lift and by 9 am the sun was beginning to get warm and the water remained flat. When registration was over we had a total of 29 footers and many new faces. This year was the biggest turnout we have had in 6 years. We had footers from all over. New Jersey, Winnipeg Canada, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, and of course Wisconsin.

The first set of footers set the bar for the day by completing the first figure 8 of the day. The competition was fierce with great sportsmanship. There were many great match ups throughout the day, and with two divisions, it’s really too hard to go thru them all. I think many of the reader of this post would get bored, but I have a few key points to mention. We had several people that we’re doing 2 figure 8’s or more throughout the day. Additionally I believe the highlight of the Footapalooza was Doug Smith sr. facing off against his wife Kristin. As you can guess, the jokes were flying especially after Kristen took her husband out in the first 8, but let’s face it, Doug was in a no-win situation.

The day progressed smoothly without any weather delays, injuries, or boat issues. (Whew, thank God). After all was said and done we had a guy out of Winnipeg Canada winning the open division and taking 3rd in the pro division. It is important to mention that Wayne King skied back to back five times and never asked for a break and in fact, wanted just to keep going. The matches he was facing was no easy task–either every person he faced ran him at least 1 figure 8. Very impressive for anyone especially for someone that is 56 yrs old!

The rest of the breakdown went like this:

​Open division: Wayne King, Al Morrison, Todd Thompson, Travis Lepak, Brody Meskers, and Paul miller.

​Pro division: Jon DeBelak, Marc Donahue, Wayne King, Brad Pylman, Eric Devries, and then Ron Blouw.

​I would like to thank everyone that participated and helped with the running of the event. A special thanks to Dave Mueller for announcing, thanks to mike miller and Kevin bender for driving, and Trisha bender for running the bracket board.

Additionally I would like to thank our sponsors the World Barefoot Center, Masterline, Thor thoradson, al Morrison and Wood Ya eye ware, barefoot graphics and promotions, Beth ann baker, and if I forgot someone, I am sorry, but thank you so much. Finally I would like thank Bill Wolf and Greg Ake for allowing us to use this wonderful site.

​Footapalooza is going to happen next year in June time, as far as the date goes, that is up in June air. There is a chance–a better than average chance that it will be the week before Father’s Day. I will keep everyone posted. Additionally we have another contribution which means more of a payout.

Foot safe this summer and good luck in the tournaments. God bless you all.

Chris Mcwatters

Chris McWatters: Who’s the Best WBC Instructor?

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Over the last two years I have had the fortunate opportunity to ski with many different people from all over the world. One question that I have been asked multiple times is “who’s the best instructor?” Now this question has to be answered very carefully, because if it is not and the answer you give gets back to the crew, well the next ski set could become rather uncomfortable. Writing this article I feel like I am walking a thin line, but I am running out of material to write about, so I am going to try to tackle this obstacle.

Now the safest answer to this question is “they are all good” and that is true, all are very good. Of course the “all” being KSO, Smallz, Ben, Ash, and A.J. and let us not forget Swampy. This answer is pretty general and broad, and could be better defined. I can say that for the most part I have skied equal amounts between all of them with the exception of Swampy, but all the information about your skiing gets back to Swamp so it is like he is in the boat all the time.

It is important to mention that there are two different types of people in the boat. Sponsored skiers and students. Sponsored skiers are on a training schedule with a set regiment and are to do what you are told to do where students are there to square up basics or learn a few new things based on their skill level and wants. So, sponsored skiers and students are not instructed in the same fashion.

That being said, it brings me back to the question at hand. They are all very good at this sport, but being great at a sport and being able to share that knowledge don’t always go hand in hand. Fortunately for this crew, it does go hand in hand. They are great and they know how to share the knowledge. Whether you are student working on basics, or you are a sponsored skier working on more advanced items, all these guys and gal have a great eye and are able to spot what it is you are doing wrong. The real challenge is how can the instructors get you to do what it is that you want to learn with the least amount of pain and failure. Each of them are very successful at doing just that, and each have their own bags of tricks and ways of explaining every aspect of barefoot watersking to insure a positive learning experience at the world’s greatest barefoot training center.

I personally do not have one particular instructor I prefer over another, I think that they are all great and I enjoy skiing with each and everyone one of them. Yes, even with Swampy and that DAMN stop watch. They always have a way to get the best out of you. Well, maybe not right away but in short order. It is truly an honor to be a sponsored skier at the World Barefoot Center and I recommend to anyone, no matter the age, that has an interest in barefoot watersking whether it is for the first time, to square up the basics or advancing to the next level, call the WBC and join us here in Winterhaven, Florida for a wonderful experience and a chance to meet the best in the world.

Chris Mcwatters

Why Do You Barefoot Water Ski?

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Chris Mcwatters and Ted Baber

A question that I often ask myself and I am sure everybody out there does the same is– why do we do this?   “This,” of course, being barefooting.  If you think about all the things you go through to be able to barefoot, it almost seems psychotic.  The aches, pains, and injuries that we all go through is amazing.  I could never imagine any orthopedic physician,  physical therapist, or massage therapist discouraging this wonderful sport.  That would be like Budweiser supporting a law that would make beer illegal.  I personally do not know of anyone that competes or barefoots on a regular bases that does not have an injury of some sort.  In fact, there are many out there that have endured surgery and  in some cases multiple surgeries and yet, they keep plugging along.  this beautiful sport provides us with a wonderful opportunity for shoulder injuries, (we can thank turns for most of that) neck and back injuries (because going backwards and jumping are fun), knee injuries (just the sport alone knocks these guys out), ribs (goes without saying) and lets not forget the ever so fun concussion one of my favorites (thanks to FALLS) there is nothing more pleasant then that constant nausea, vertigo and pounding headache.  now i know there are a number more injuries out there that we all have had, whether its broken noses, eardrums, or burnt feet, but the question remains, WHY?

Now,  for those reading this article out there that have never barefooted before, the feeling you get when you’re standing there on your feet going 35 mph or greater is like nothing else.  There are no phones, buzzers, people yelling (until you get in the boat and hear that strong New England accent which belongs to Swampy Bouchard), its just you, the boat, and the wind in your hair (for those that still have hair).  Besides the feeling that barefooting gives you on a personal level, there is the entertainment factor.  A very common saying heard throughout the footing community is, “Never waste a crowd”.  lets face it we are all show offs at some level.  whether it is in front of the judges, spectators, friends or family we all like to please the crowd and dazzle them with cool tricks we can do on the water without skis.  What I find interesting is that to the novice spectator some of the most basic tricks are more entertaining than the more difficult advance tricks.  Doing a back toe or a front toe hold (the bases for most if not all tricks) takes a considerable amount of water time to master, but that doesn’t seem to entertain.  Get into a line step position and out again–that does not do it either, and in some cases neither does a front to back or back to front.  But…as  soon as a tumble turn or whip it is preformed, the spectators go all nuts, go figure!  If only those things were worth more points.
The other entertaining aspect of our beloved sport that everyone likes to see ,whether you admit it or not, are the falls.  It’s not like we line up to see the ever so famous scorpion fall, or a ass over apple sauce, or a grand dismount with a stuck landing,  but when they do occur– we all give “that” facial response, followed by a comment, and when the “okay” hand comes up, a burst of laughter.  After all that being said, it still does not completely answer the question WHY?
We all know that we don’t do it because it’s cheaper than the other water sports. In theory, it should be cheaper– I mean we don’t use any sticks or boards,  and all water sports wear some sort of life jacket, maybe a helmet, special ropes, special handles, and a specific type of boat.  In fact, I would venture to guess we carry more than most of the other water sports.  Still, WHY?
When it comes to water conditions, we are by the most finicky group.  OCD at its finest.  Too cold, too rough, too hot– and the list goes on, but when it’s perfect, ohhhhh is it nice.  And still, I ask WHY?

As barefoot water skiers, we have all these conditions, aches, pains, scars, we never waste a crowd, we never waste the water,  rain or shine and yet we continue to do this sport. WHY?  The simplest and probably the more confident or some might say, cocky, response is, “Because we can”.  Let’s face it, consider the number of people out there, now consider the number of people out there that water ski, narrow it down even further to the number that can barefoot (even smaller numbers at the competitive level.)  I am going out on a limb here and bet that number is less than .00001% of the population.  So barefooters, consider yourselves gifted, fortunate, and lucky.

Chris Mcwatters

Chris Mcwatters: The Beginning

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

​Believe it or not barefooting has always been something I have always wanted to try to accomplish.  Many years ago, my Uncle Mike showed me a beta tape of him barefooting.  That’s right a beta tape.  For those of you that don’t know what a beta tape is, it was the way to watch video tapes prior to VHS.  Oh, and the machine that played those tapes was about the same size as a inboard Sanger.  So there I was, a little influential kid watching a beta tape of my uncle barefooting in a orange life vest and cut-off jean shorts, sitting on the shag carpet.  Oh the memories.  It was at this point that I said to myself, I have to try this out.

Unfortunately, I never got the chance then.  It wasn’t until my Navy days in the mid 90’s while living on the beach, did I ever give it a shot.  I was sitting on the beach on Sail Bay (Pacific Beach, CA), when these guys come up onto the beach with their boat and asked Gloria (my soon to be wife) and me if we would like to go skiing.  Uhhh yeah, please!   Now the bay was calm, and it was my turn.  So I put on a slalom ski and off I go, not very good, but just happy to be on the water.  After a few cuts back and forth, I went down.  While I was in the water, I was thinking back to that damn video of my uncle, you can set off the ski and BAREFOOT.  Well I was hell bent to try, beside I was a military guy, nothing can hurt us right?

Oh boy, was I wrong, but in my ingenious thinking, “I can do this and impress the gal and be real cool….”  NOT.  So, I get up skiing and the boat begins to increase speed– there were problems right from the start.  I had difficulty getting my balance and getting  my foot out of the binding, but I do– barely.  The boat is what I think “screaming down the bay,” I have one foot on the water, now all I have to do is kick this stick off my other foot right.  Right…   What a show.  A complete yard sale.  I wasn’t sure I was ever going to stop hurting.

Fast forward seven years later, I moved to Michigan, graduated from college and like all graduates I bought a Ski Nautique.  I didn’t have a cottage, river, or place to stow it, but dammit I had a boat!  I live up to one on my promises to myself., own a competition ski boat.  So I bought a slalom ski, vest, wet suit and rope.  A true walley, only I did not then and do not now own a TUBE.  I did  have access to a lake: my grandma owned a cottage on a lake not too far from me so I was able to take it there.

One morning, I had gone over to the slalom course on my grandma’s lake and was watching these guys ski.  I had made my introductions to the crew and they told me to get in line and they would pull me through the course.  I told them that I wasn’t any good and could only get up on the ski and that that was a struggle.  They weren’t concerned with that they said, they only were happy to have skiers on the lake.  Well, about the time it was my turn, another boat pulled up and started talking to the crew.  They all knew each other it seemed.  The small talk came around to me and they asked me, “What do you do?”  Not sure what to say, I replied,  “Just ski I guess.”

I continued to say that I was interested in barefooting though.  It  just happened that the guy that had pulled up was the guy to talk to.  Well I was introduced to Gary Zimmerman and he told me to anchor my boat and jump in his boat.  He assembled this pole off the side of his boat (yup didn’t even know what a boom was in 2001).  He gave me a few simple instructions: sit on the kneeboard, hold the boom shoulder-width apart,  bend my knees and put my heels in the water–then let the boat do the rest.

Simple enough.

I do exactly what he says and there I was, BAREFOOTING.  Only one thing that was not explained to me, the letting go part.  Well, we make a pretty good run, and Gary says “let go,” so I do, but I don’t sit on my butt.  No way– I just have boardshorts on, so as I lose speed I fall forward and I don’t tuck and roll, no I hold my head high and I experience the patented “scorpion fall,” but I didn’t care, I was barefooting!

It was at this point I should have punched Gary in the face, because the addiction he caused me was horrible.  Sometimes I wonder if drugs were not cheaper.

​So that is the person that “broke” me into barefooting, Gary Zimmerman.  Now I still ski with him to this day.  I took several years off barefooting a tried airchairing, and slalom skiing, but came back to barefooting.  I would like to thank Gary for giving me first experience barefooting and continuing to barefoot with me at Round Lake in Manitou Beach, Michigan.

– Chris McWatters

The 2014 Greg Wilkinson Memorial Figure 8 Barefoot Tournament

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

The last two articles I wrote were about the person that taught me how to barefoot or the person that got into competing.  This article is about promoting an annual Figure 8 barefoot tournament.   This event was first called the Silver Sheep figure 8 barefoot tournament when Thor Thordarson was the organizer, but due to his busy personal schedule, he turned the organization duties over to Mark Donahue and me.  Mark and I originally called this tournament the Footapalooza Figure 8 barefoot tournament.  The tournament  is always held on the 1st weekend after Fathers Day.

A couple of years ago, the barefoot community lost a great person when Greg Wilkinson lost his battle to cancer.  Greg was a  great advocate for the sport of barefooting. He always had a smile on his face and was always very supportive.  With the permission of Greg’s wife, Penny, Mark and I changed the tournament name to the Greg Wilkinson Memorial.  We take a  portion of the entry money and any donations– and give them to Penny for a charity of her choice in Greg’s honor.

The Greg Wilkinson Figure 8 tournament has a few different rules and regulations than maybe some of the other Figure 8 events out there.  First and foremost, we want everybody to have the opportunity to compete and barefoot.  Therefore, we really don’t care how you get to your feet during the start.  If you can’t deep water start and you need to drop a ski then bring a ski; if you can’t drop a ski and you can only deepwater start, then leave your skies at home.  Deepwater starts and drop ski footers can go side-by-side without any problem.  Our goal and motto has always been and will continue to be “No footer left on the beach.”

This is a double elimination event.  For next year, we are fortunate to have a couple monetary contributors.  Contributors have given this event 1,000 dollars each. Yup, that’s 2,000 dollars plus the entry fees.  Now, instead of having these Figure 8 junkies coming and fighting over the lump sum, Mark and I decided to make two divisions.  Those two divisions have been uniquely called Pros and Open.  If any footer has won or placed in the top 3 in the last 3 years in any Figure 8, you are considered in our book a “pro.”  If you haven’t done that, we are considering you an Open footer.  We are here to attract footers and not scare them off.  We want to give the open footer the opportunity to win money as well.  The monies will be divided between the two divisions.  Also we do pay down to the fourth and maybe the fifth spot in the open division.  The Pro division will only be paid down to the top three.

So, that being said on June 21st 2014, the Greg Wilkinson Memorial Figure 8 barefoot tournament will be held in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, behind the Sacred Heart Apostolic school located at 5901 N 500 E  Rolling Prairie, In.  The entry fee is $55.00, and if you register between now and May 1st, a tournament shirt will be included with the registration fee. Otherwise you will have to purchase shirts at the tournament.

This event is located approximately 20 miles from South Bend, Indiana.  If you’re flying, Chicago is the closest major airport, but there are small airports around the area that some airlines will fly into. This site is very nicely situated behind the school surround by trees and lily pads.  There is a great viewing area for spectators on a grassy knoll overlooking the lake.  The lake is just big enough for a Figure 8 tournament–it is real nice and decreases the chances for a blow out.

Between the lake and the school, there is a large area for camping–sorry, no hook ups, but we do have porta restrooms on site.  For you non-camping types there are hotels within 10-15 minutes of the site.  We will be cooking on site and we seek donations for the food and the cook.  Saturday night after the tournament is over we have a large bonfire with music and beverages.  Sunday morning we all like to get up and get a quick ski in before we pack upon a leave.

There is an opportunity for barefoot lessons on Thursday and Friday if there is enough interest.  The World barefoot Center with Keith St. Onge, David Small, or Ben Groen would be interested to put on a clinic.  Please contact either me or the World Barefoot Center if you are interested.  The sooner the better of course, the WBC schedule fills up rather quickly.   Mark and I will be advertising this event on social media, word of mouth and hopefully a ski magazine or two, so please help spread the word and come out and enjoy a great time, meet new people, or shoot the poop with old friends–and honor a great person and friend.

Thank you and foot safe,

Chris Mcwatters

Chris Mcwatters: An Unforgettable Memory

Monday, August 12th, 2013

In past articles, many of us have written about our first tournament, who taught us, or our lives at the World Barefoot Center.  Well, this article is about a great friend that always puts a smile on my face.

Several years ago, a new family moved in next door to my wife and me.  After finding out that Curt and Molly liked to ski and Curt wanted to learn to barefoot, we became really close.  Over the years we got to know each others families and on one summer, I met my friend, Kyle.  Kyle is Molly’s brother, Curt’s brother -in-law. Now a little background on Kyle: he is a special needs guy, he has Downs Syndrome, but I would consider him a high functioning guy with Downs.

Kyle and I hit it off right away.  While our taste in our sports teams differs slightly, we still like to get together and watch our two favorite teams: The Michigan Wolverines and the Detroit Red Wings.  During the summer time, Curt and I would like to take Kyle on the boat with us and he liked to watch us ski and barefoot.  Kyle was able to get behind the boat, but only to tube.  Kyle has an extensive medical history besides Downs Syndrome.  Enduring multiple heart surgeries and neck problems really limited what he was able to do, both on and off the water.

After getting permission from Kyle’s parents and Molly, Curt and I were allowed to pull Kyle on the boom on a kneeboard.  It only took Curt and I a few tries and we had Kyle kneeboarding.  While he only had the coordination to hold to boom, he still was doing something besides tubing.  The look on his face was unbelievable.  He was on top of the world.  We had done that with him multiple times during the summer and one afternoon Curt and I thought we would give skiing a go.  We tried putting Kyle in a pair of kid skis.  Kyle and I held the boom and I positioned Kyle between my legs.  I held Kyle’s skis together with my skis and off we went.  Unfortunately, Kyle was unable to grasp the concept of keep the skis in front of him, so eventually his skies and legs went between my legs and off came the skis.

One thing I can say about Kyle is that not only is he persistent, but he’s also extremely strong.  Refusing to let go of the boom, Kyle was able to pull himself up and found himself standing on my skis. While he didn’t have his own skis on, in his mind, he was skiing.  Curt made a big circle so we could make a pass in front of his Mom, Dad and Molly.  Pumping his fist and shouting “Kyle Rose”, over and over– I can’t tell you want that meant to all of us.

Well,Curt and I thought we would press our luck, we asked Kyle if he would like to barefoot with me.  After thinking about it, he was in– only he was not going to barefoot, he was going to be in a tube and I was going to foot next to Kyle.  Thinking back, I don’t think we told his parents prior to doing this (sorry Mr. and Mrs. Rose).  Curt and I had one of those “impossible” to flip tubes and added a barefoot rope to it.  We matched it up with another barefoot rope and added a barefoot handle and hooked onto the tower.  We put Kyle into a barefoot suit and he and I got into the tube together.  As we got going and got up to speed, I bounced off the tube and there we were barefooting “together”.  Now, Kyle was priceless, he kept asking me questions and telling me to “Watch out!”  I kept telling Kyle I was going to be okay.

Kyle finally settled in and they we were, I kept looking at Kyle to make sure he was ok and see if he was enjoying himself.  At first Kyle was reluctant to let go of the tube handles, but I could still hear him yelling “Kyle Rose”.  I kept trying to grab his hand to grab the “pic” but he was not having it, at first.

We got to the other end of the lake and let the water settle out.  We had to give it another go, and Kyle was definitely in.  After the same routine to get me on my feet it only took seconds and the perfect memorable moment was captured.

Thank you Curt, Molly, Mr. Rose and Mrs. Rose, and especially Kyle Rose.  A Moment in my life that I will never forget.

Chris Mcwatters

Chris Mcwatters: A New Appreciation for the World Barefoot Center

Monday, July 15th, 2013

For the last 2 years my wife and I have had the opportunity to work both in Michigan for the summer and in Winterhaven for winter. We spend about 3 months in Michigan and 9 months in Winterhaven. Recently, I had a barefooters dream come true. It was about the beginning of March this year when I had found out that my wife was going to go back north for the summer to Michigan because of work related projects. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on which one of us you ask, I did not have to go north at that time, but I had a slight problem, I had no place to stay. Our house that we were renting had come down with mold (it is like a disease) and we had to be out at the end on March. Not wanting to move into a new lease I had asked Swampy, Smallz and KSO if I could live at the school. We sat down and talked about responsibilities, requirements and a short term lease agreement.

After a brief talk we had a deal. As all of us old timers know time goes pretty fast and before I knew it I was moving into the World barefoot center. As I am moving my stuff into the bunk house I realize that I have some work to do. CLEANING! Austrian barefoot sensation Stephan Wimmer and I got out the bleach spray, pine oil, roach spray, brooms and mops and went to town. We pulled out all the beds, rugs and started to clean. After about 4 hours of work we had it done! New rugs, bed consolidation, smell good spray, and we had ourselves a sweet looking 3 bed studio (thanks again for the help Stephan).

​I have to tell ya, what a great time, but not without a lot of unbelievable hard work. I never knew how much time, work and effort it takes to run a barefoot school like the World Barefoot Center. Outside of their coaching abilities and barefooting skills I have an all new respect for Smallz, Swampy, KSO, Ben (bennyboo), and Ash. The amount of time that these guys have to put into the school is incredible. I was able to see and be a part of many of the behind scenes operations that it takes to keep the #1 barefoot school in the world running on all cylinders.

Just a short clip of the daily routine:

Rise and shine around 0630-0700 every morning, gas the boats if they didn’t get gas the night before (and we might have to gas all 4 of them) clean the boats, making sure they are prepared and looking good for the barefooting guests for the day.

0730, barefooting enthusiast begin to some, and it’s meet and greet time. Introductions, hand shakes and hugs, then a tour through the school and the proshop.

0800, suited up and ready for the morning lesson. Now if I was not skiing in the morning or afternoon there was always stuff that needed to be done. Everyone of us that lives at the WBC has some sort of chores. Whether it was cleaning the garage, sweeping the house, cleaning the bunk house, picking up a new footer flying in, preparing lunch for the footing crew, chasing Annie and Ranger down the street, business deals, making new designs for suits, making new videos, answering calls and booking new footers for a future date, running to Publix or Walmart for stock, going to the post office to ship out orders. Just to name a few.

Then its lunch time and that means gassing up boats for the afternoon lesson, and watching video from the morning runs. Now the afternoon is more like the morning. Then in the evening, gas run, cook dinner, say our good-byes, and prepare for the next day. Usually during this time is when you can find swampy looking at the calendar and setting up the boat crews for the next day, who is footing with who, what does this footer or the footer need to work on or learn to do. Who’s driving, does KSO, Smallz, Bennyboo, or Ash need an afternoon off for personal stuff, who’s driving to the airport, oh and lets not forget the ever so popular but necessary MEETINGS.

Now this quick article is only a brief description of the happenings at the school, there a many more things that happen that I didn’t mention.
​Swampy, Smallz, KSO, Bennyboo, and Ash, I truly believe it is amazing how you guys can keep up your unbelievable skills, stay in shape, and not lose your sanity considering the amount of time you all put into instructing us and all of our different languages, abilities, quirks and mannerism not to mention all the on the road clinics, photo shoots, interviews and MEETINGS.

So the next time you see a picture of any of these guys passed out on the couch (or in Ben’s case, on the floor), pure exhaustion has been reached. Thank you, many times for the experience and friendships. Oh I would also like to thank the once crispy Ricky “Bobby” Bruce for helping me with the chores, and Judy ”Old lady”, and Karen Putz. Thanks again guys. Cheers mates!

Chris Mcwatters

Footapalooza Figure 8 Barefoot Event and Greg Wilkinson Memorial

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Footapalooza Figure 8 and Greg Wilkinson Memorial

June 22-23rd

Rolling Prairie, Indiana

and clinic with Ben Groen

Every June, for the last four years, Mark Donahue, myself and a few others have organized a Figure 8 barefoot event the small town of Rolling Prairie, Indiana.  This cozy little town is situated between La Porte, In. and Notre Dame on a small lake behind a church.  This lake called Silver lake is surrounded by trees on 3/4ths and a grassy hill for the last 1/4.  Just big enough for a figure 8 and about 200 ft short for a 3 event lake.  The site offers plenty of area for camping on site and a port-a-potty.  Traditionally on the Friday before the event, Mark and I spend the morning clearing some of the lily pads and setting up the course followed with plenty of horse playing and figure 8 practicing.  We like to start the event between 0800 and 0900 on Saturday depending on the number of footers.

After the event is over we have a BBq and a bonfire with music.  Then on Sunday we like to enjoy a day of fun skiing and relaxing.  The tournament has always been called Footapalooza, but this year we have decided to change the name a little.  This year we are calling it Footapalooza figure 8 Barefoot Event and Greg Wilkinson memorial.  Greg Wilkinson was a fellow barefooter and good friend who lost his battle to cancer this year.  Greg was a great person who always had a smile on his face and loved to barefoot.  So, starting this year Mark and I decided to change the name of our tournament in memory of Greg.  In the years past we had cash payouts and trophies.  This year we will only have trophies.  After tournament expenses, we will be donating the money gathered from the entry fees to Greg’s wife Penny, for a charity of her choice.

This Figure 8 tournament is a very friendly and easy-going event.  For those that are unfamiliar with figure 8 barefooting, the boat tows 2 footers in a figure 8 pattern until one footer falls.  There are a few challenges throughout out the figure 8 pattern, but the most challenging obstacle is the set of rollers caused by the tow boat.  Mark and I believe everyone should get a chance to give it a go if they desire, so we believe in the phrase “no footer left on the dock.”  In other figure 8 events a footer would have to step off a ski, well here we allow either, step off or deep up.  We like everyone to have fun and be as comfortable as possible.  The entry fee is $40.00, for this double elimination event.  We are hoping for a big turnout to honor a friend and have a great time.

Clinic with Ben Groen:

Additionally, this year I am putting out feelers for any interested skiers that would like to host New Zealand’s national champ, #4 ranked barefooter in the world, and World Barefoot Center elite skier Ben Groen for a clinic on Friday the 21st and Sunday the 23rd of June.  Ben is an outstanding instructor and great person.

The possibility of having Ben Groen to the site depends on the interested parties.  I will need a firm commitment prior to flying him up to the area.  Ben teaches all levels of footers– from those who have never tried to surface turns, to beginners, and much more.  Take this opportunity to advance your skills or clean up the ones you have now.

Please RSVP Chris Mcwatters at barefooter71@me.com for any questions regarding the Figure 8 event and the clinic possibility.  The directions are very easy,  the address is 5901 north 500 east Rolling Prairie, Indiana– it is behind the Sacred Heart Apostolic school, but email me where you are coming from and I will send you the directions. Mark and I look forward to seeing everyone and enjoying each other’s company and having fun doing something we all like to do:

Barefoot.

By: Chris Mcwatters

Marc Donohue, The Guy Who Introduced Me to Barefoot Competitions

Sunday, March 24th, 2013
Late in September, 2007, my buddies and I were on our annual boathouse trip to Dale Hollow, Tennessee.  All loaded up and ready for a great 4 days in the warm, smooth southern water in the mountains of Tennessee.  It was always a trip that I looked forward to for one never had to deal with rough water and I could practice the slalom course, airchair, wakesurf and of course barefoot.  At this point in my life barefooting was great fun but I really wasn’t that good.  I could barely do a basic toe hold on the boom, and I could go backwards, but with really crappy position and no consistency.

Every year, my buddies and I would always come up with some crazy idea or another to try.  Well, this particular year, we were going to try and pull five barefooters up deep water behind a 2001 1996 Ski Nautique.   I had two booms rigged up, one on either side.

As we arrive  to this one specific cove where one of the slalom courses were, we see a Mastercraft has beaten us to the site.  We pull up and asked these guys if they mind my buddies and I try a few things before they hit the slalom ourse.  They didn’t mind, so off we went.  Unfortunately, after several attempts we were unable to get all five up.

As we were thanking these guys in the Mastercraft, I noticed they were getting into their barefoot suits.  One of the guys in the boat asked if they could give it a go with us.  We were definitely game to try again.  This time we get four up for a pretty good distance,  long enough for photos and a brief video.

After we got done one of the guys, Marc, asks if I wanted to do another run. Not skipping a beat we give it a go.  We make a pretty long run in some nasty water.  As we’re floating in the water after the run, Marc asks me, “Where do you foot?” I mention that I live in Michigan and ski on a small lake up there. “Why are you not competing?” he asks.

“I’m not any good and that I can’t compete with you guys,” I explain. At this point the only thing I had seen was Keith St. Onge and his videos and knew there was no way to compete against people like that.  Marc had said that I would be able to compete.  We exchanged phone numbers and he said he would get in touch with me in the spring for the next tournament.  I really didn’t pay much mind to it and I thought maybe this guy Marc was drunk– or had taken too many head plants.

Well sure enough, in April, this Marc guy gives me a call and says there’s a Figure 8 tournament in Stout, Wisconsin in the beginning of May and he wanted me to go.  I had no idea what a Figure 8 event was and I was still very hesitant.  This guy called a few more times and I finally said “Okay!”

Marc came to my house in Michigan a day before we had to leave so we could practice.  Marc forgot to mention that at this event– you have to step off a ski.  I had never stepped off a ski and had no idea how to do it.  Well that day we practiced several times and I was very unsuccessful.  Marc and I nevertheless head to the event.  Now, if no knows where Stout Wisconsin is you’re not alone– neither did I.  I came to find out it is in northern Wisconsin and remember, it’s in the beginning of May.  You got it– COLD! We get up there just in time for the skiers’ meeting.  Get this, the name of the event was called “Frostbite.” Go figure!  After meeting a few of the other footers, we all retired to a local hotel.

Morning rise and shine–the outside air temp 35 degrees and it was spitting snow. The water temp a freezing 41 degrees.  Oh let me not forget–the winds were blowing 25 mph coming across the lake.  Yes, that means whitecaps.  Well, to say the least, I never got off my ski. I tried to step off twice and had two major yard sales.  In fact not a single person make a ½ 8 due to the conditions.  After the event we all got together and had “adult pops” and food.

I have to say even though I didn’t do very well, I had a great time.  These footers were a lot of fun and they all had a good time.  Everyone was supportive and interested in you and your footing adventures. Well, after the day was over Marc and I headed home. Eight hours back to Michigan gave us more time to plan our next barefooting tournament adventure.

If it was not for Marc “The Pornstar” Donahue I would probably never would have began barefooting in tournaments.  Marc and I continue to barefoot together–we put on a Figure 8 tournament every year in Marc’s home state of Indiana.  While our interest in barefooting has changed slightly we still both love getting on the water together and doing the thing we all love, barefooting.

Thank you, Marc Donahue.

By: Chris Mcwatters

Editor’s note: Chris “Two-Step” Mcwatters eventually learned how to step off a ski, but the nickname still remains.

Toes Up with Chris McWatters

Monday, January 7th, 2013

chris mcwatters barefoot jumping

A little over a year ago, I got the opportunity to be a sponsored barefooter for the World Barefoot Center. Little did I know what that would entail. I wasn’t able to do much on the water at first. I mostly had “backyard skills” as a footer. I had a weak basic front toe hold and I couldn’t do a reverse toe hold. I could get up backwards from time to time, but not really able to do much once I was up– except stand there. I would try things, but it was almost always a video-worthy “yard sale” — with body parts flying everywhere on a crash.

I sat down with the WBC crew and they came up with a plan for me to improve my skills on the water. The plan for me was to master “the basics” which is front and back toe holds– both basic and reverse. I came to find out that’s the plan for all the sponsored barefooters at the WBC. So, there I was day after day month after month, doing toe holds. I could hear Swampy in my head every time I went out to train; “Toe holds, toe holds, toe holds, everything starts with the toe holds, if you can’t do all four of your toe holds you’re wasting my time.”

It wasn’t enough to be able to do toe holds both front and back on my trick side of the wake, no…I had to do them on both sides of the wake; with full control of my body on one foot both forward and backwards.

“Shift your weight over the foot you’re standing on, push straight down on that foot, bend your knee, look at the horizon, arch your back, relax your ankle, tight core, relax your body, stop gas peddling, you’re tracking, keep the handle at your waist, keep your legs together, breathe, trust the system,” that’s what I heard, over and over. Oh and my favorite: “Have fun.”

Anyone who has trained with the WBC team has heard one or all of these statements at some point in time. Once a month I would sit down with the WBC crew and go over my progress, and believe it or not there was progress. I was told on several occasions during these meetings that if I ever wanted to advance into surface turns I would have to master front and back toes holds. So there I was again: more TOE HOLDS. Well, a little more than a year has gone by since that first trial on the water and I’m now working on surface turns. I have to tell you, these world pro barefooters and coaches know what they are talking about. Who would have thought? Whether doing front to back (F2B) or back to front (B2F), toe turns or line turns, they all begin on ONE foot. Needless to say this year I’m still hearing many similar commands from the boat, “press down on THAT FOOT, arch your back, keep a tight core, handle to your waist, look at the horizon, keep your legs together, breath, relax, trust the system,” and again “have fun”. There are a few more additional commands, but they all surround ONE foot. For example, the surface turn begins at the foot and moves up: first turn with the foot, then the hips and finally the shoulders and head. (Note, if attempting in reverse order, have the camera ready–there’s likely to be a yard sale.)

Over the last year, I kept hearing Swampy referencing the “system”. It wasn’t until now did I realize that the “system” began on ONE foot.

In conclusion, I’ve learned in three-event barefooting, two out of the three events require mastering ONE foot toe holds. Whether it be doing wakes or tricks, if you cannot comfortably do front and back toe holds, the view will always be the same when it comes to the podium.

Thank you Swampy, KSO, Smallz, A.J, BEN, and Ash, for all your help.

Chris McWatters