Why Do You Barefoot Water Ski?

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

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