Toes Up with Chris McWatters

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

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One Response to “Toes Up with Chris McWatters”

  1. Patrick Felgner says:

    Awesome buddy, glad to hear it’s working. Can’t wait to see yoir progress.

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