Wade Masters: How I Started Barefooting


Growing up in East Tennessee was a blessing to say the least. The Tennessee Valley Authority flooded much of the land, providing beautiful waterways to enjoy. As a child I grew up in an area called Greenback– a place that is still very special to me. One place in particular is a little piece of heavenly water known to locals as Bat Creek. It started out as a creek– and after TVA dammed up the river it became a seven mile stretch of some of the best water for skiing I have ever seen.

On the occasion, I was home not doing much–I was kinda bored and daydreaming about skiing when there was a knock on the door. When I went to see what sales person was there, because only the salespeople came to the front door and knocked, everybody else just came around to the back door and let themselves in. It was Todd Tiller ,a great friend of mine still today. Todd was standing there with all the excitement of Christmas– an enthusiasm he carries with him everyday. behind him was his truck with his dad’s Ski Nautique. He didn’t even have to ask, I said, “Let me get my stuff, five minutes tops.”

The ride to the ramp was an exciting one, he was telling me all about this new water sport that was just developing called wakeboarding, and that he had a board and we were all going to try it. Being a slalom skier. I was intrigued and confused at the same time. He explained that the start was difficult, but once you were up it was an awesome ride.

Arriving at the lake, we prepared to wakeboard a bit, I found it very easy to start on the wakeboard and the ride was easy and peaceful, but all the while I had my eye out for the perfect stretch of glass to rip with my Connelly double boot ski. Yea, wakeboarding was new and fun, but it didn’t seem to satisfy my need for speed.

We did have the perfect stretch of glass water: you could see your reflection in and I did proceed to throw it high as the pine trees that lined the lake and yes, it was a good day.

The sun was going down, it was almost time to go back to the real world where people push and shove, and try to get ahead. We weren’t done. Todd said, “This water is so slick, I think I want to foot.” Out from under the bow he proceeds to pull the biggest mess of equipment I had ever seen! There were parts and pins, and suits and shorts and handles. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen, but it looked complicated.

After the boat had been reconfigured and everyone in the boat moved from their most comfortable position to the best, absolute balanced position for the boom position. We took off, and out of the spray and speed, there came Todd barefooting. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen and when he was finished, I found my self standing up in the boat. As a matter of fact, I met him at the back of the boat helping him out of the water and saying to him, “Will that suit fit me?”

He laughed and said “ I don’t know.”

After a few minutes of politics and instruction, he agreed to let me try. The suit was loose, wet, and cold. And none of that mattered. On my first and only run that evening, I tumbled up on the boom and went about half the length of Bat Creek. I caught a toe about mid-way but didn’t let go. I tumbled back around and stood up again.

Not at all knowing how much that one day in Greenback Tennessee would Impact my life so positively. I was hooked in a few minutes and have spent a great portion of my life doing what I truly love…..Barefoot Water Skiing.

Wade Masters

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