Barefooting History

Quite simply, it's waterskiing without the skis, and it's the oldest of the so-called extreme sports.

It began in 1947, when waterskiing itself was quite young. Waterski pioneer Chuck Sligh had been trying smaller and smaller skis, and he came to the conclusion that it would be possible to ski, without using skis, behind a boat that was going fast enough.

A teenager, A. G. Hancock, proved Sligh's theory, but the glory went to Dick Pope Jr., who was photographed and filmed performing the feat at Cypress Gardens.

A barefoot competition was held at Cypress Gardens in 1950, but most of the participants literally dropped out. Emilio Zamudio won the prize for the longest ride, which was the only competition involved.

Although the new sport was often demonstrated in American water ski shows during the 1950s and 1960s, its most important early developments occurred in Australia, where barefoot jumping was invented about 1967.

At the first international barefoot competition, at Cypress Gardens in 1973, members of the Australian team demonstrated jumping to U. S. skiers. One of them, John Hacker, returned to the United States in 1977 to teach the technique.

In 1978, the American Barefoot Club was founded as an affiliate of the American Water Ski Association. The first U.S. Barefoot Nationals were held that year, and Australia hosted the first world championships, with competition in jumping, tricks, and wake slalom. There were 54 competitors, representing 10 countries.