Twenty-eight brave barefooters — what those who ski barefoot call themselves — from age 10 to 77 competed in the Lake Norman 39th Annual New Year’s Day Barefoot Tournament hosted by Lake Norman Marina.
What began with a few Sherrill’s Ford residents having fun on the water years ago, has grown to draw contestants from as far away as Canada to compete for nothing more than a trophy and bragging rights for 2017.
Mooresville resident Jeff Blair set the course record in 2011, combining a 2-minute 30-second run with 665 trick/start points for a total score of 816 points. Blair had missed the last two years, traveling with his family over the holidays, but was in town this year to compete.
Being the highest seed, Blair, who was the last to compete in the open division, didn’t disappoint his family and fans. Starting with a backward flying dock start, Blair came to his feet backward before spinning to the front, then did tumble turns, laying on his back and spinning 180 to 360 degrees.
His 85-second run, with 700 trick/start points, earned Blair 785 points, enough to beat the nearest competitor, Logan Walter, who had a 91-second ride with 335 trick/start points for a combined 426 points.
Blair’s stunts set him above the competition and is always a big part of his winning strategy. “I started when I was 12 years old and I’ve been doing it all my life. ...
“I’m trying to get my kids into it. I’ve got three boys and hopefully they will all three follow in my footsteps,” he said.
Two of his sons, Wesley, 10, and Will Blair, 12, competed in the boom division this year. Will won third place, staying up for 44 seconds and earning 44 points.
Skiers competed in three divisions: men’s; open, which is for contestants who had previous win; and boom, where skiers are assisted with a boom attached to the boat. There was no women’s division this year; the only woman participant competed in the boom division.
John Gillette, manager for the Lake Norman Boat Club in Sherrill’s Ford, said the tournament is one of most unusual barefoot tournaments in the world because a contestant’s start method is given points depending on its difficulty, a point is earned for every second the skiier is on his feet, points are awarded for tricks. The highest score wins.
Contestants can start with one ski in or out of the water, which is the easiest, or go for the most points with a full backward flying dock start, the most difficult one that Blair did, jumping from the dock facing away from the boat.
Rachel Normand, a five-time world barefoot champion, who is going to be inducted into the Water Skiing Hall of Fame in April, served as the judge, recording times and stunts executed.
Gillette said the event isn’t just about competing. Lake Norman Marina and the Lake Norman Boat Club sponsors each skier by donating 10 cents per point to Samaritan’s Feet, a charity that provides shoes for 1.5 billion people who become sick because of lack of footwear.
This year the total points accumulated- 4,369 points, resulted in $436.90 being raised for the charity.
Marty Price is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1st — John Cornish, Addison, Penn., 343 points.
2nd — Wayne King, Manitoba, Canada 324 points.
3rd — Mark Dougherty, Cicero, Ind., 269 points.
1st — Jeff Blair, Mooresville, 785 points.
2nd — Logan Walter, Orange Park, Fla., 426 points.
3rd — Marc Donahue, Monticello, Ind., 304 points.
1st — Alex Wulfhorst, Denver, 53 points.
2nd — Hudson Fox, Mooresville, 52 points.
3rd — Will Blair, Mooresville, 44 points.