Hi, I posted this account over in alt.lifestyle.barefoot.
I thought some of the barefoot waterskiers here might
be interested. If not, sorry to bother you :-)
-- Mike Berrow
A few days ago I spent some time over at the house of a barefooter.
Not our kind of barefooter though (there's another kind ?). This
barefooter is a barefoot waterskier. They *also* call themselves
barefooters ... and they were around long, long before there was an
internet group on barefoot lifestyles. If you've ever done a web-search for
the word "barefooter" you'll know what I mean.
Anyway, the guy's name is Mike Temby and I had known him for a while
since his daughter and mine are in the same competing dance group. We
were dropping my daughter off at their house for a birthday party
sleepover. I asked if he had any pictures of barefoot water-skiing
(Mike knows about my Barefoot Hiking club and has never seen me in
"Even better, I have video tapes" he said. I told him I'd love to see
them. We sat down on the floor in front of his VCR and he took great
pride in showing me a series of tapes while I asked all sorts of
It turns out that Mike is not just ANY barefoot waterskier ... he's
one of the top barefoot waterskiers in the country. I saw a tape
showing him placing first in the western regional championships. The
tricks they do are *amazing*. He's been waterskiing for thirty years
(barefoot for the last eigh***). He used to run a barefoot waterski
school called the "Footloose and Fancyfree Ski School". Both his
daughter and his son ski with him most weekends. He still teaches, but
with a growing family, he now has a weekday job. Incidentally, Mike is
a dead-ringer for the actor George Clooney on hospital TV series
I asked what percentage of waterskiers are barefoot waterskiers. He
said just two percent. I wondered if a lot of people ask him "But why
do you do it barefoot ?". "Yes" he said, "all the time, even most of
the regular skiers". I told him I get the same question about barefoot
Having looked at quite a number of barefoot water-skiing web-sites I
had noticed a distinct absence of the answer to this question. I guess
it's partly because this sport has been around for a significant time,
there's a lot of people in it and they don't feel they have to make
So what does he tell the people who do ask why ?.
"Sensation" he said, "It just feels absolutely awesome, I love the
thrill of the water zipping past at fifty miles an hour right under my
soles". He also mentioned (and showed on the videos) that there are a
whole set of tricks that you can *only* do without skis. There are
maneuvers called "tumble-turns" where the skiers sits down on the
water and spins around alternating use of hands and feet to hold onto
the tow-rope. I saw a quite few others but they are fairly tough to
describe. They even do barefoot ski-jumping over short ramps covered
Mike's biggest claim to fame is that he's a WORLD record holder for
speed barefoot waterskiing. Technically (to us) it's not barefoot
since for this type of thing they wear a tightly laced thin leather
"bootie". He told me the reason is that above 80 miles per hour, the
skin on the soles can start to tear off. They still call it barefoot
because they aren't wearing skis. This is serious stuff. In the video,
I saw him and his partner setting this record a few years ago in
Arizona. They weren't just wearing booties. They were completely
covered in wetsuits, gloves and hockey goalie masks !!. Apparently,
you can shear the skin of your face too if you happen to fall over.
The world record that Mike jointly holds is for "Speed Tandem". This
is when two people are pulled by the same boat (one tow-cord each),
making a sort of "V" shape. They did a standing 1/4 mile in 11
seconds, hitting a top speed of 99.33 miles per hour !!. This record
still stands and Mike told me that people have been killed trying to
break it. The solo record is well over 100 miles per hour.
All pretty amazing ... but the best was yet to come !. Mike told me
that one of his waterskiing students, as a treat, bought him a private
sky-diving (parachuting) class. The deal was: they give him ground
instruction and then a jump strapped together with an instructor (one
chute being big enough for two).
The instructor had heard of Mike's barefoot waterskiing fame and said
to him "You think you're pretty tough, don't you ?. How about doing the
jump with me barefoot ?". Mike said "Aww come on ! you're just fooling
around with me aren't you ?, You'll get me to take my shoes and socks
off in the plane and then you'll all just have a good laugh !".
"No" the instructor insisted, "I'm serious". "I'll tell you what,
we'll both leave our shoes and socks on the ground so no-one can
chicken out". Mike was game for this and he told me that they made the
jump on this basis. There was one more video to show me ... a partner
of the instructor had jumped at the same time and videotaped the whole
I saw them walking barefoot out to the plane, Mike sounded just a
little nervous as he bantered with the instructor (wouldn't you be ?).
The video picked up again just before they jumped. The video guy must
have jumped a fraction of a second later because you could see them
both falling / floating strapped together with their bare feet splayed
out behind and above them as they fell, faces looking down.
The video man stayed alongside them using the zoom to get this
incredible shot of them smiling and waving at the camera, their bare
feet clearly visible behind them. They were really moving fast by
then. You could see Mike's nose partially flattened against his face
by the force of the air rushing by.
The jump was made at 10,500 feet and they were in free-fall down to
3,500 feet. The video next showed them from above their multi-colored,
rectangular chute as the California delta farmland wheeled gently
below them. Post-production on this video had it set to suitably
awe-inspiring music. It even had a slow-motion replay of the free-fall
I saw them landing in a field from a vantage point of about 500 feet
above them. The camaraman rushed up as soon as he had landed in order
to capture the post-jump reaction from the two men.
Mike was in thrill seeker heaven, strutting around like a peacock and
punching the air ecstatically. His instructor said that they had
landed on their butts. "No way !" said Mike, pointing at the ground "I
can see the heel tracks right through here". "What a trip !!" said the
instructor. "Yes" said Mike, beaming, "We are barefoot brothers now !!".
I don't think the world has many barefoot skydivers :-)
Mike has promised to give me a barefoot waterskiing lesson sometime in
the spring. I'm going to try to persuade him to come on a barefoot
-- Mike Berrow
-- East Bay Barefoot Hikers