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Foot’n Mouth: Barefoot and Grown Up

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Earlier this year I was sitting in our Association AGM listening to a colleague from the Waterski Association say that we, as a Barefoot club, need to be doing our part to teach people to ski – on skis. This, he said, would then translate into a percentage of skiers learning to Barefoot waterski.

I sat there debating this with myself: why teach people to waterski on skis? Why not give them their first taste of Barefooting straight out?

Look, I’m the first to admit that a progression in understanding of hydrodynamics and how the human body reacts on the water could be beneficial for learners; starting with composite sticks or a board under your feet, running at a lower speed so you have time to adjust and learn about being on the water. But I’d say that as a sport we have progressed and matured to the point where we can teach our sport in isolation, without having to learn the essence of another as a pre-requisite.

The development of sport is organic and cyclical in my experience. Athletes push boundaries, equipment manufacturers bring new gear to market, athletes extend performance as a result of the new gear, new techniques in training and participating are developed and the cycle begins again. As the cycle continues the new methods are taught to the newcomers, and the old rules, gear, and methods are left behind. Skydiving and Surfing are excellent examples of this.

So these are the facts as I see them.

Our sport is mature. We have gear that is, and has been for some time, world class. The wetsuits are comfortable and functional, the booms are safe and sturdy, the boats are safe, reliable, and powerful, and the handles and lines are dependable. Add to that training gear like the EZ Footer and other similar boom swings, along with established methods of coaching for new Barefooters, and there’s no reason we need to start a newbie on a pair of sticks at all.

Having a knowledgeable coach in the boat watching over and directing you is the ideal, but without one, there is still a whole bunch of basic progress you can make. There are resources on the internet; videos and e-books by Lane Bowers are a great starting point as Lane breaks the skills down into easy to understand bite sized chunks. There are videos on YouTube by the likes of Paul McDonald and KSO that are worth checking out as well. There are a number of Barefoot Ski Schools around that give a fantastic grounding in the sport, and we’ll cover these in an upcoming post.

For me, the buzz – that adrenalin surge every time I jump in the water – is the drug that makes Barefooting so addictive. That’s the hook we must give to our Barefooting prospects to turn them into full-on Footers. The techniques and methods of Barefoot Coaching are quite different to other water sports and it’s my view that we can, and most definitely should, teach these in isolation and get our prospects hooked directly into Barefooting itself!

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