Lauren began skiing in the Hydroflites Ski Show as a show skier and continued to barefoot recreationally. She would occasionally barefoot in the ski shows, getting up early in the morning to practice with the men before going off to work. “I never even thought of entering barefoot water ski competitions,” said Lauren. “I mostly stepped off a ski and hung on, and I did some barefooting on one foot.”
Lauren’s life did a 180-turn when she met Keith St. Onge, the two-time World Barefoot Champion during the summer of 2008 at an instructional clinic at Lake Chetek. Keith invited her to join his clinic and improve her barefooting skills. By the end of the first day, Lauren learned how to do a deep-water start and by the end of the second day, she was barefooting backwards on her first try. The two of them have been together since then. Keith proposed to her during a Chetek ski show last August and the wedding is set for later this year.
Keith’s coach, Gary “Swampy” Bouchard threw out the suggestion that Lauren should start competing at barefoot tournaments and qualify for the Worlds 2010. “When I made the decision to qualify for the worlds, we skied every day–in rough water, smooth water and even when it was raining– I needed the training. There were so many things to work on in the beginning,” said Lauren. “The most challenging trick was the tumble turn, a simple turn on top of the water. It took forever for me to learn it. I finally worked through it by telling myself to ‘yank on the rope and turn’– it was a mind block for me.”
Learning to slalom backwards was another challenge that Lauren faced, and no amount of training by the two World Champions and the World Barefoot Center coach could help her cross the wake faster. Frustration was piling up, and Lauren began to sense that everyone was giving up on her as she struggled behind the boat. Finally, one day, she went out with A.J. Porreca (who is ranked sixth in the world) and A.J. gave her some advice that registered with her. “A.J. told me to ‘stomp’ my foot and it worked perfectly,” Lauren explained. “The word ‘stomp’ had a different meaning for me and it produced results.” Lauren entered five tournaments that year and qualified for the Worlds in Germany. She walked away with the Overall in her age division.
“Women today just need to go out there and do things,” said Lauren. “Be adventurous! Don’t let the guys have all the fun. Give it some effort–don’t just stand by and watch. Women can do anything that guys can do.”