Footloose and fancy free - the bare facts about skiing without skis

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  25 Apr 2012

Footloose and fancy free - the bare facts about skiing without skis

Along with the Bucket List of things to do before you die, there should be a 'Duck It' List of things to not do as you drag your sorry carcass to the midlife-crisis mark and beyond.

Eschewing slow horses and fast women are Rules 1 and 2, according to my 90-year-old dad. Refraining from barefoot skiing would be near the top of my own list.

Over Easter we'd barely finished paying homage to the first bloke to go barefoot on water than the Australian Barefoot Racers Club hit town.

Instead of flowing robes, these guys wore padded wetsuits and neckbraces. A speedboat was hauling them along at 160 kmh, at which speed the water could potentially burn the heels of their feet.

How barefooting was probably invented ... skier "Badger" Hextell bites the dust  Gary Sakoff

Now, I can relate to the offshore and circuit powerboat racing yarns that populate these pages. I've even ridden shotgun in an F1 Superboat. But the guy who invented barefooting must've either been a very bad conventional skier or as crazy as the first Frenchmen to plop a snail in garlic broth and say bon appetite.

The race is over 350 metres from start line to finish and lasts anywhere from 14 to 25 seconds. The skier perches on the boat's transom and, once the green light shows, they fall off the back while holding onto the ski handle. The boat then accelerates to run out the ski rope.

When the rope is taut the driver belts the throttle to get the barefooter out of the water and across the finish line in a blur of spray.

The tow boats are a mix of monohulls and hydroplanes, powered by anything from supercharged inboards running on methanol to naturally aspirated inboard engines. There are also high-powered outboards.

Everyone from experienced barefooters to juniors, veterans, and women can compete. I'd imagine the veterans section is looking for members ...

Mark Rothfield

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