Way back in March of this year, Judy Myers announced that she was going to organize a Women's Barefoot Week at the World Barefoot Center. "The sport is dominated by men," said 67-year-old Judy. "We never do anything for the women, so this year, we are devoting a whole week just for the gals." The week became a reality on November 1-6, with fifteen women gathering in Winter Haven for a week of barefoot water skiing.
The World Barefoot Center is run by Keith St. Onge and David Small, both who are World Barefoot Champions, and the Junior Team coach, Gary "Swampy" Bouchard. I arrived on Sunday afternoon with Valerie Shinn and we quickly changed into our swimsuits and grabbed our wetsuits to join Sharon Carlson, Judy Myers, Joann O'Connor and Claudia Landon in the boat. We spent the afternoon getting a wild ride on 18-year-old A. J. Porreca's back while he barefooted backwards. Judy Myers ended up upside-down and hanging on the rope for dear life-- laughing all the while.
The World Barefoot Center ran three boats, with the women rotating among themselves so that everyone had a chance to get to know one another. The amount of talent on the water was astounding. Four of the gals were over the age of 60-- and they worked on one foots, toe holds, backward barefooting and tumble turns-- proving that age is nothing but a number. World competitors, Ariana (15) and Kailey Koehler (14) from Illinois, came in for a few days to rack up some training time. After four sets per day, we were tired! We were able to kick back in the hot tub each night and relax with a glass of wine, thanks to our sponsor, Barefoot Wines.
I was in awe at the shear amount of talent, confidence and positiveness that flowed among the women this week. How I wish I had these women around when I was growing up! During every set, there was an attitude of "yes you can!" expressed--and this simply spurred me on with every run. In three short days, I accomplished a backward deep water start, and for the first time in my life, I rode on the water backwards. This would not have been possible without Judy Myers and Joann O'Connor, the two who personally helped me envision this and told me over and over that I could make it happen. At the end of the week, Joann won an award for the "Most Improved Barefooter", sponsored by Vibram Barefoot Shoes.
To the gals of Women's Barefoot Week: Judy Myers, Joann O'Connor, Claudia Landon, Val Shinn, Bethany Bennett, Lisa Browning, Carla Gerstein, Stephanie Hooks, Ariana Koehler, Kailey Koehler, Lauren Lindeman, Char Portman, Lorriane Piskura, Kay Wiser and Sharon Carlson-- you all are awesome and you rock! Looking forward to next year!