Get a Grip – Handles Part 1
To the uninitiated, Barefoot Waterskiing would seem to require less gear than other forms of water sport but in reality it’s probably the inverse.
One of the essential pieces of kit for a Footer, new or seasoned, is the handle.
Handles are the piece of equipment that allow the Footer to connect to the towing device (usually a boat, but these days the towing device can also be a winch or a cable system).
The history of handles goes back to Waterskiing days where it was initially a wooden dowel with a triangle of rope that met at the tow rope. Through a piece of ingenuity, the legend, Garry Barton, developed the first rigid Barefoot handle; Garry’s design is still the basis for today’s handles.
Today’s tournament skiers use up to four different handles for the three events (this is probably less than a few years ago when start methods were an event in their own right and had customised start apparatus). The four handles that you might expect to see in a Tournament Skier’s kit bag these days are:
Front Toe Trick handle, used for toe start methods or toe holds/ups tricks.
Back Toe Trick handle, used for back toe holds, tow back to front to backs
Wakes handle, specifically for Wake Slalom
Jump handle for…. Jumping!
Here’s a quick explanation of the four handles above:
Front Toe Handle is a trick handle that is a maximum of 15 inches wide and has a toe harness for holstering your foot whilst skiing from a forward starting position. The toe harness is typically made of neoprene and nylon these days. The side struts are rigid or semi rigid and have some flotation material located along them.
Back Toe Handle is also a trick handle that is a maximum of 15 inches wide; like the Front Toe Handle it also has a toe harness for holstering your foot whilst skiing. The side struts are rigid or semi rigid and have some flotation material located along them. On the Back Toe Handle the sides are longer than the Front Toe Handle due to the distance from the foot in the air to the handle in the skier’s hand when skiing on one foot backwards.
Wake Slalom Handle is also a handle that is a maximum of 15 inches wide. This handle is traditionally much less rigid on the sides, however some models of late have a semi-rigid triangle and are much tighter to the point of convergence. The reason for this is that the handle is used as leverage in the skier’s Wake Slalom technique and as a result the transition needs to be fast and snappy. Wake Slalom Handles also have flotation.
Jump Handles are a maximum of 12 inches wide and are in a small triangle configuration. The main reason for the smaller size is safety considerations; no one wants to be snagged on a limb or head whilst flying through the air at speed. Jump handles come in a mixture of non rigid, semi rigid, or rigid sides.
With any sports equipment, we all have preferences and reasons for why we prefer certain designs or particular manufacturers over others. Barefoot handles are no different.
Coming in Part Two of the handles series, we’ll scope out the manufacturers and what they have to offer.