2017 U.S Barefoot Nationals: Turning Barefoot Water Skiing Upside Down

Brice Storman is 13-years-old and likes to push himself on the water.

In the week-long barefoot water skiing extravaganza that included Southern Regionals, U.S. Barefoot Nationals, the Water Warriors X-Games Tournament and Night Jump Jam on Lake Grew, behind USA Water Ski Headquarters in Polk City, Florida — Brice decided to make a statement early.

On Sunday’s Southern Regional Jump Event… Brice was going to go BIG or go home.  No more traditional barefoot jumping for him.  In the process of jumping inverted, Brice did a complete flip in the air (see photo) and if he would have held on… he could have rode the jump away!  This, just one day after the teenager scored 5800 points in tricks to move into the Open Pro Division.

It would be an omen of the week to come.

It seemed like competitors, officials and fans were focused on changing barefoot norms and attitudes.  The excitement was starting to build.

JIM BOYETTE SOUTHERN REGIONALS July 28-29 “The South rises again”

An incredible 54 competitors from more than six countries and every U.S Region took part in the two-day tournament, the largest Southern Regionals in recent memory.

Jackson Gerard, the 14-year-old Phenom from Babson Park, Florida, went head to head with his coaches, Keith St. Onge and David Small, in Open Pro Tricks.  Jackson went BIG… scoring 13,100 points in tricks.  He set a pending Mens World Record, Junior Boys World Record and captured bragging rights over Smallz who scored 12,850 and KSO who scored 12,350.

KSO came back in slalom, scoring 20.1 and setting a pending Senior Mens World Record.

South Florida was well represented with Mike Frankenbush returning to the water for the first time in five years to score 3100 points in tricks.   Zenon Bilas, 58, made a statement in wake slalom for the young guns, doing nine back crosses from the low pole for a total of 15.6.  And Mikey Caruso roared in the Open Pro Division with a 16 in slalom. And Ryan Boyd is BACK!  The former Beast of the East, now Fearsome Floridian, finished third in Open Mens Jump after taking just a handful of jump sets since 2007.

Florida’s own Logan “Man Child” Walter dominated the crowded Boys A Division winning Slalom, Tricks and Overall. Logan scored 2900 points in tricks to knock on the door of the Open Mens division.  And Winter Haven’s Stefan Lippelgoos won Boys A Jump and finished second overall. Boys B was all Brett “Slalom” Swanbom

Minnesota’s Ryleigh Stenson continued her PB streak with 1440 in Girls A tricks and Wisconsin’s Grace Petzold won Girls A slalom with a 5.9.  In Open Womens Tricks,  Ohio’s Lexi McCauley scored 3500 points and Michigan’s Alex Youngblood scored 2550 points in tricks. About 22 people participated in an early morning jump competition on Sunday… with the highlight being Brice’s inverted flip jump.


But then… Tropical Storm Emily decided to pay a visit… hitting Central Florida with a vengeance.  IMG_9489



After a soggy site familiarization, Tuesday dawned clear and calm and the U.S. Barefoot Nationals were underway. Nationals Sponsor Brent Payne brought his drones and his crew from Loud Interactive to document the entire competition.  Competitors were interviewed after they skied and everyone seemed to get used to the cameras and hype… very Big Time!IMG_9585

In the boat, judging and scoring was done the “Southern Region Way” eliminating half of the officials in each event.  In the Boat: one Judge, one scorer with an iPad to video, one videographer for HD Ship to shore video coverage of the tournament and one driver.  With the four person boat crew questions were immediately reviewed at the end of the lake.  The score coming out of the boat was instant and final.  This was used for every event but Open Pro Tricks.

Innovation was also happening on the water all week:

img_9544.jpgOPEN PRO MENS: Perennial Champion Keith St. Onge captured his 18th National Overall title and his 14th consecutive Mens Open Pro overall title. KSO also grabbed the gold in slalom and tricks setting another pending world record of 12,950.  Jason Lee won jump and his first national open pro gold medal! Jackson Gerard finished second overall.

OPEN MEN: Ryan Boyd made it happen on the water, despite not competing for years.  He won Open Mens jump and overall. Joe Lovato won slalom and  Jerry Kanawyer won tricks… finishing second overall.

OPEN WOMEN – Dynamic Duo Lexi McCauley and Alex Youngblood battled it out all week for the first two spots.  Alex won jump, Lexi won tricks with a 4000 point tricks run and slalom with a 14.2. 

img_9563.jpgINTERNATIONAL MEN – David Small did it for the Queen.  Britain’s Smallz dominated the International Mens division winning Slalom, Jump, Tricks and Overall with New Zealand’s Ben Groen and Canada’s Brem Allen close behind.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN – Ash Stebbeings was on fire winning all three events and overall with a 17.2 in slalom, 9550 in tricks and 20.7 meters in jump.  Belgium’s up-and-coming Super Star Celine Vrancx finished second.

img_9564.jpgThe Young Barefooters dominated the dock at Nationals… the early event allowed many to attend nationals before school activities began.  The new performance divisions made competition robust between the ages of 18-59 for the men and women.

BOYS A – Stefan Lippelgoos won tricks, jump and overall. Logan Walter won slalom.

BOYS B – Brett Swanbom won slalom, jump and overall.  Easton Olsen Won tricks with a score of 1640.

GIRLS A – Grace Petzold won tricks slalom and overall.

MENS A – Rick Stenson won Jump and Overall, Mark McCauley won tricks and slalom.

MENS B – Eric Friedle is back and won tricks, jump and overall.

MENS C – Newcomer Dillon Brouch won slalom and overall.  Clif Martin won tricks.

WOMEN A – Lauren Ehlers won slalom, jump and overall. Elizabeth Davison won tricks.

WOMEN B – Lynae Newby is a newbie now more.  The West Coast Warrior won slalom, tricks and overall.

60+ DIVISIONS img_9518.jpg

Master Men – Jimmy Taurus won tricks, jump and overall.  Joe Knapp won slalom.

Master Women – Carol Jackson won Slalom and Overall. Claudia Landon won tricks.

Senior Men – Gene Burrish won tricks, slalom and overall.

Veteran Men – Al Hager won tricks, slalom and overall.

Veteran Women – Sharon Carlson won tricks, slalom and overall.

Super Veteran Men – Don Simon won tricks, slalom and overall. He also set a pending Mens 9 national record in tricks of 470.  And Jim Boyette finished second with an outstanding run on the boom in front of hundreds of adoring fans.


DIVISIONAL FINALS – The top five men and women age and performance divisions barefooters were given the opportunity to ski again on Saturday in Divisional Finals.  Girls and women, boys and men went head to head in a fun event that featured a boat parade and fierce competition. img_3141.jpg

For the women, Sarah Molepske won Slalom, Ryleigh Stenson won tricks and Lauren Ehlers won jump.  In the mens competition, Logan Walter won slalom, Stefan Lippelgoos won tricks and jump.


In addition to traditional national competition, the Southern Region worked with the International Barefoot Association to provide some more barefooting and fun for all.

img_9636.jpgIBA Warriors of the Water –  Brendan Paige won $300 in the two-day double elimination x-games format event that featured a noodle hurdle and fun by all.  Brendan managed to make this happen despite running the pick up jetski all week!

SATURDAY NIGHT JUMP JAM- Jumpers of all abilities participated in a fabulous Saturday night Jump Jam. Two teams, the Iron Man team captained by David Small and the Captain America Team captained by KSO went head-to-head.  In was close, but the Captain America Team won… and each team member won $60.

BAREFOOT-N-BBQ – Polk County, Florida loves BBQ and while the skiing was going on… A steak and wings contest was happening on the lake.  Barefooters Lee Stone and Ryan Boyd beat the BBQ pros to win the People’s Choice award for wings!  With BBQ and Music… it was a festival atmosphere.


The site and date for next year’s Nationals is not yet set… but stay tuned for an announcement soon!

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