Posts Tagged ‘my first experience’

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