The First Barefoot Water Skier

March 6, 1947: On this day, 65 years ago, the amazing feat of water skiing on bare feet was first recorded in a photograph. Dick Pope Jr., famed water skier from Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida, was the first person to be photographed barefoot skiing.

Barefooting had been first accomplished several days earlier by A.G. Hancock, a 17 year-old water skier from Winter Haven. Water ski pioneer Chuck Sligh Sr, coaxed Hancock into trying the stunt by stepping off a ski. Hancock made one successful step-off for about 200 meters on his bare feet.

The news quickly traveled across town to Cypress Gardens, where Dick Pope, Sr, urged his son to try barefooting. Pope Jr. did and was successful. Through Cypress Gardens’ spectacular photography, Dick Pope Jr. received all the accolades for barefooting. A.G. Hancock never tried it again.

For the photographers out there: The color photograph of Dick Pope Jr. was most likely made with Speed Graphic 4 x 5 camera, but it’s possible that Cypress Gardens used a 5 x 7 large format camera. Cypress Gardens, known for its spectacular photography, even used a hand-held 8 x 10 camera for some water ski photography.

Photo courtesy American Water Ski Educational Foundation.

Written by Zenon Bilas

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One Response to “The First Barefoot Water Skier”

  1. claude st.Onge says:

    Hey guys, I’m back in NH. I am so pleased to have been able to ski with you professionals. I just finished reading all the info on WBC and looking at the pics and the new videos. I had a great time and I recognize the professionalism and technical assistance this ski school has acquired and uses for all of their students, including me, CSO. Old dogs like me enjoy the sport so much when it is technically easier to learn. Thanks for the drag. I’ll be back. Oh, it was a pleasure to share dinner with the crew and skiers. And also thanks for the birthday wishes and especially the chocolate cake, yum yum. Keith, Thanks for the footn lessons. Love all of ya.. CSTO

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