Jim Boyette was 45-years-old when he learned to barefoot back in 1973. He first tried kicking off a ski, but he found himself faceplanting again and again. Jim didn’t give up– he switched to a rubberized air mat and stood up on his feet. “It took about a thousand falls, but I finally got it,” said Jim. Two years later, he started competing and hasn’t stopped since then. He’s been to every single Nationals since 1978. The soon-to-be 84 year old has no plans of stopping his competitive streak.
“My training is restricted to weekends, one hour each day,” said Jim. “My trick runs have gone bad– I start with a flying dock and then some tumble turns. On my second pass, a tumble up, more tumble turns then the basic stuff– sit down stand up and waves. I’m lucky if I manage to ski without passing out.”
Tumble turns have always been Jim’s “bread and butter” tricks and he enjoys tricks much more than slalom. In his prime, he scored 1000+ on his tricks and even at the age of 66, he recorded a 700 at the 1993 Nationals. “I learned backwards in my mid-50s,” said Jim. “It took me forever to learn! I stepped off a ski backwards and learned to get up short line, but I never learned to get up backwards longline–and then they stopped allowing skis in tournaments.”
Jim is an inspiration to many at the barefoot competitions. “Jim is such a nice guy and he has helped me along the way with his positive attitude,” said Judy Myers, the world’s oldest competitive female barefooter. “He’s always so positive and just makes one know they can continue. He has a great sense of humor and his spirit makes one feel young. Jim is always there rooting others along and he makes one feel they ‘can do it.'”
And the next time you complain about your feet hurting, or your neck aching, or your sore abs– consider this: Jim has Charcot-Marie Tooth Neuropathy which causes his muscles to atrophy. “It affects my barefooting,” said Jim. “Sometimes my feet feel like two pieces of wood–I don’t have a good feeling in my feet–but it hasn’t stopped me yet. That’s a good thing!” Jim also has days when arthritis takes over and makes barefooting even more difficult. Jim also limits his time under the sun due to skin cancer that was caught early.
Oh, and about those sore abs that you’re complaining about? Well here’s one more thing: during a physical fitness test in the Navy, Jim once did 1,613 situps.
“It is always great seeing young kids getting involved in the sport, but I have skied with Jim in the past and the old fellow is just amazing!” said David Small. “He gets out there and tears up the water with ease– and at nearly 84, he truly is an inspiration to everyone, not just barefooters! If an 84 year old can keep going out there and skiing, then none of us can complain about aches and pains after a set from now on.”
Written by: Karen Putz