New Year’s Day Barefooting for Comradery and a Cause

JANUARY 1, 2017, Sherrills Ford – A rainy weather forecast didn’t keep 28 barefoot skiers from Canada, New Jersey, Indiana, Florida and North Carolina from making the trek to Lake Norman Marina for the 39th Annual New Year’s Day Barefoot Tournament. Other than an occasional light rain or mist, the heavier rain held off until the final contestant had just completed his run.

The event is recognized as one of the most unique barefoot tournaments in the country, combining points for the contestant’s start method, tricks and endurance. The tight circle pattern, rough water and cold New Year’s Day temperatures add to the challenge.

The temperature was a cool 46 degrees, but the competition was hot! In the Men’s Division, first time participant, John Cornish of Addison, PA, set the pace with a 278 point run. Cornish, 65, has been a key leader in the sport of barefooting, serving as coach of the US Barefoot Team, President of the American Barefoot Club, judge at the national and world level and a high level competitor himself.

Cornish said, “This was my first time entering a tournament with this kind of format.  It was great fun along with some friendly competition all for a good cause. The friendship and comradery with the skiers and spectators, some I have known for more than 35 years, is the icing on the cake. Anytime you get to ski things are good.” Cornish boosted his score to 343 points during the second round.

Another first time contestant, Wayne King of Winnipeg, Canada, finished a close second with 324 points. Third place went to Mark Dougherty of Cicero, Indiana, with 269 points.

Next up was the Open Division, which are the top level skiers who have either won the Men’s Division in the past, or are nationally ranked barefooters. The order of contestants was seeded based on contestants past scores at the tournament. This added to the drama as the skill of the contestants increased through the event. The seeding proved accurate as the three final contestants had the top three scores of the tournament.

Marc Donohue of Monticello, Indiana, is known nationwide for his barefoot endurance capabilities, having won the famous Footstock figure barefoot tournament in Cranden, WI. Marc won last year’s Lake Norman Tournament with one of the longest endurance runs in the tournaments history of five minutes and 20 seconds. This year Donahue finished third with 235 seconds plus 140 points in tricks for a total score of 375.

17 year old Logan Walter of Orange Park, Florida, returned for his second year at the tournament. Last year he surprised everyone by successfully starting his run with a toehold deepwater start, standing up on one foot while holding the rope with his other foot. Walter pulled it off again this year coupled with 110 points in tricks and a 91 second run earning him second place with 426 points.

Course record holder (816 points set in 2011) and local Mooresville, North Carolina resident, Jeff Blair, was the final contestant of the Open Division. Blair did not disappoint, performing a flawless and spectacular run starting with a backward dock start, multiple backward one foots, backward hop, back-to-front turnaround, front one foots and eight tumbleturns plus 85 seconds on his bare feet for a winning score of 785 points!

The tournament also provided a Boom Division for less experienced barefooters. These contestants can barefoot while holding onto a boom; a pole sticking out of the side of the boat giving the skier added support and stability. Five young men ages 10-14 and one 36 year old woman competed on the boom. Jeff Blair’s son Will placed third with 44 points, Hudson Fox of Mooresville, NC placed third with 55 points, and Alex Wulfhorst of Denver, North Carolina finished first with 53 points.

A “Faceplant Award” was given for the most spectacular fall. Tournament judge and former women’s World Barefoot Champion, Rachel George Normand, explained, “There were numerous spectacular falls, mostly the typical forward roll or cartwheel. But Jeff Kusz’s fall more resembled a unique diving flip, earning him the award.” The World Barefoot Center barefoot training school in Florida donated a full day of training as the Faceplant Award.

Lake Norman Marina who hosted the event and the Lake Norman Boat Club committed to donate to Samaritan’s Feet ten cents for every point earned by all contestants. Samaritan’s Feet is an international organization based in Charlotte, NC, who provides shoes to impoverished people around the world. The total 4,369 points scored earned Samaritan’s Feet $436.90. An additional $450 in donations from LuLaRoeClt and other private individuals increased the total amount donated to $886.90!

Though the weather was cold and dreary, the comradery was warm and cheerful. All contestants expressed their appreciation to the Carolina Show Ski Team for organizing the event and to Lake Norman Marina for hosting it. Many said they plan to be back next year and bring other barefooters with them.

The Carolina Show Ski Team is a competitive, entertaining, family-oriented team that performs water ski shows throughout the summer at Windjammer Beach Park in Tega Cay, SC and other events around the Carolinas

Founded in 1974, Lake Norman Marina provides the community with sales, service, storage, rentals and the Lake Norman Boat Club. They are a dealer for Cobalt boats and Bennington pontoons.



Attached are five images from the event. Photo credit Allison Blair.

  • 1Boomwinners.jpg (winners of Boom Division)
  • 2Menwinners (winners of Men’s Division)
  • 3Openwinners (winners of Open Division)
  • 4JeffKuszFaceplantaward (Jeff Kusz winner of Faceplant Award)
  • 5Participants (tournament participants)
  • 6Jeffdockstart (Jeff Blair flying backward dock start)
  • 7Blair (Jeff Blair)
  • 8Jeffandyoungsters (Jeff Blair posing with Boom Division boys)



John Gillette

(704) 483-5546


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