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13yo Son Barefooting for first time tomorrow...


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My 13yo son is going to try to barefoot tomorrow. We put the boom on today - and he's really psych'd. I read several informative threads here - but thought I'd throw it out to the experts again.

He's not a big kid yet - weighs only 115 pounds.

We also don't have a barefoot suit for him - that kind of investment in a kid that's growing so fast is going to be tough to swallow. So for now - we're just going to go with the hang-off-the-boom strategy to get started.

I think I should pull him at 32. Yes?

And any other thoughts comments or suggestions?

He is not particularly advanced at any watersports - just does it for fun. Can deepwater start on slalom - cut back and forth - but he's not a postcard picture wall of water or slalom course skier by any stretch. Just adventurous and wants to barefoot.

This video shows what we plan to do. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2y0U4XIp3eQ

All advice welcome.

Cheers all.


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Do yourself three huge favors BEFORE YOU DO THIS!!! First, if you are not a footer yourself, download a copy of the barefooting instruction book from Lane Bowers and read it.

Beg, borrow or buy a correct fitting suit that fits tightly OVER a pair of padded barefoot shorts. I teach this sort of thing to newbies regularly and have the absolute greatest success with the Barefoot International "IRON" series suits. Trust me when I tell you that for a beginner, the flotation dynamics and glide qualities of this suit make all the difference. A used suit that correct fitting off ebay will work. No suit! Well it is very likely your teen will look like his posterior was beaten with a baseball bat and bruised as such. This is not Good!

Use a boom that correctly fits your boat and is adjusted to the correct height! This is huge important!!! The details in Lanes Barefoot book will help you with the specifics here. Your Boat speed should be factored to be very close to an amount derived by taking your sons weight, divide it by ten and add twenty. The MPH number derived by this equation is a great starting point to work from that is not so fast as to traumitize the new footer.

Learn through plenty of practice on dry land the correct body position for foot'n. Master this body position before you hit the water. If the new footer begins to move out of correct position while footing then BIG PAINFUL CRASHES will quickly follow. Shortly after that the enthusiasm for foot'n will wane. I would highly recommend the Barefoot international EZ footer and some skill in its use for first time Footers. Feel free to email or preferably call me for more details on this.

Best of Luck in this!


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I haven't made many post here on the board but feel somewhat qualified to chime in here. I was a ski instructor at a camp for two years when I was younger and also certified through the ski instructor course we have up here in Ontario/Canada (curious, does anyone know if USA Waterski has a similar program?). I taught many kids to foot at that age over those two summers (and a few adults since then).

First off, based on your description of his skiing ability I wonder whether or not he's ready to try footing. I believe you need to be a very strong skier before making the attempt. I would personally get him very comfortable on trick skis first before trying to foot. A lot of the skills are transferable.

I believe teaching anyone to foot using the method shown in the video is outright dangerous. I'm guessing you may not even foot yourself. My advice would be to have him learn using a kneeboard/wakeboard start (I think kneeboard is better but wakeboards are more readily available these days). Also, a set of Barefoot Trainers would help (http://www.ronscarpa.com/c-12-other-gear.aspx?skinid=64# scroll to the right at the bottom) allowing him to learn at slower speeds, develop proper technique and avoid the harder falls associated with higher barefoot speeds.

Finally, I would suggest going to a ski school or to a seasoned barefooter for lessons, especially for his first attempt. Proper coaching my a knowledgeable instructor will go a long way in making his first experience less painful, fun and successful.


PS. I believe there was an article by Paul MacDonald in one of the recent issues of Waterski detailing the wakeboard start. Ironically, Paul was a counselor at the camp when I was teaching skiing and he moved to ski staff the year I left. If you're ever near Orlando, take him to Ron Scarpa's for some excellent instruction.

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Thanks all.

Does anyone have a .pdf or file of that book? Lane Bowers site has been apparently been hacked. Not sure if it is still is...but is has been tagged registered as an attack site and my protection system won't allow me to go there. Tried to get the video too - subscribed, go the link - no go. Attack site warnings all over the place. Unless I override - and I just don't like doing that.

I talked to him, shared the posts from Brian and MMF, pictures of the bruised up thighs and and cheeks from other threads - not sure if he's going to go through with it now or not. I'll let you know.

Thank you again for the info - very awesome that you both took the time to put that much info down for me.

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My recommendation would be NOT to start out like the you tube video. Put him in "the Swing" on the boom. This is basically the "easy footer" method. If you are not sure what I'm talking about get someone who does barefooting to show your son. I'm not trying to be rude here or anything like that but I think it is important to let your son's barefoot experience be favourable. I'll tell you for sure...one hard crash and he will NOT want to do it again. I learned the hard way or perhaps the "not so smart way" and all that does is develop bad habits that are hard to break. Find someone in your area, or maybe even someone on the malibu crew who is in your area to teach him. The driver for barefooting is very important. Know what your doing.

I highly second the thought of ski school. Paul (as suggested) is awesome with kids, a great instructor, the environment at Scarpa's is just plain COOL and worth it. Just my two cents.

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I definitely agree on getting or borrowing a barefoot suit and padded shorts. I learned when Keith St. Onge came to our lake in 2005 for a clinic. I was only able to be there for one day but I was able to learn and continue with the sport. I'm not really a slalom skier but was able to learn to foot. I have since been to Keith's school twice and it is invaluable to have professional instruction. It also has helped me that I usually ski with two experienced footers (BillFooter and Sunset Bob).

Keith taught me a deep water start using the boom only (no 5 foot rope). That is the only start method that I know. I have since learned deep water starts from the 5 foot rope off of the boom, long line deeps and tumble ups. I agree with rushmans post, I would not learn via the method in the youtube video because it does not leave a foundation for future starts from the short rope or long line.

Good luck on the teaching!

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I can show this to someone, never head to write it out so I hope it makes sense. Have him (and you) do the following:

- Hang on to the boom and drag his body in the water.

- get him up to about 20 mph

- have him twist (roll) so he's riding on one of his hips

- have him pull his knees up to his chest

- have him spin around so his legs are now in front of him, ride this way for a bit to get comfortable, keeping his arms straight. Always keep the arms straight.

- get him up to about 28 mph

- slowly, and this is the hardest part, SLOWLY, plant the balls of his feet in the water. Jab them in (which is the natural instinct) and it's all over.

- slowly stand up

The kid is 13, he won't really care that he does not have barefoot shorts. My neighbor does it all the time. I'll bet 1/2 of us on this board probably learned to 'foot in cutoffs.

No need to go too fast if he's hanging on the boom. Had one of my neighbors who weighs 190# going 32 mph and he was fine. Had my wife (no weight given Whistling.gif ) up at 28 mph.

If you just want to have some fun on the water and not go overboard with equipment and coaching give it a shot. While the others all have valid points, see if he's gets serious about this first. If he does then by all means invest in coaching and equipment. Footing is a great sport and he'll soon find out the reason we all do it... 'cause the chicks dig it. Thumbup.gif

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A super sincere thanks to everyone who took time to write.

I showed him some pics that were posted on this board, of the bruises from barefooting in shorts.

2 things going for him - 1. he's 13, and 2. he's an incredible athlete...trains 20 hours a week (swim).

But seeing that bruise - and thinking through the long plane and bus rides that he takes to swim meets at his level - he just put the ski on. Decided that looked like it hurt.


Thanks again everyone. He may still give it a go when his meet schedule is less intense. For now though - it's off the table.

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i know its off the table for now, but actually some of the ski schools do teach people to start off the boom that way in the video, EXCEPT not the way she is hanging on - She is setup for a nice face to the bar. instead you hug the boom so your armpits are on the bar. that way if you catch a toe, you are just wrap around the bar, and your face will not hit.

but, the best way is using the Swing on the boom. You do not have to buy a special swing, a strong barefoot toe hold handle works perfect. Both my daughters learned this way (about ages 12 and 8 when they started). also go way slower than you think you need to.

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  • 2 months later...

Well...did it.

Spent a long weekend with a pair of highly capable skiers as coaches. I'm not sure what kids have over adults - I guess it's the guts. Wow. They caught on very quickly. Couple of hard slaps at 35mph for the younger one. Then...pretty much like old pros. Well, old pros on a boom I guess. They each tried going out on a handle with a 2ft leader - but no-go. That will be down the road some.

Here are some pix. My 13year old first - and a dragging start from my 16yr old follows.












Edited by JeffS
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And my 16 year old.











Thanks for the advice everyone - all was appreciated and helpful. So now I've got 2 kids hooked on it, and we'll be working on a shortline off the boom, and hopefully in time - on the long line.

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