It was a bone chillingly cold early morning in November 1987. Fog rose off the water so thick it was difficult to see the lake’s shore. Two boats, loaded with adrenaline-pumped barefooters, took their places at Tom Miller Dam, the starting line. The gauntlet thrown down, the challenge made. The team that could ski the fastest from one end of Lake Austin to the other would have ultimate bragging rights. The losing team would cook breakfast. Twenty miles and more than an hour later, the first Austin Barefoot Ski Club Dam to Dam Race was history.
Since that epic day 30 years ago, the race has since become known around the country and the world, spawning dozens of similar events held in New Zealand, Australia and Africa. The Dam to Dam also laid the ground work for a professional barefoot racing league with teams using specialized racing boats and equipment, traveling the country to earn points as they compete, NASCAR style.
Back in Austin, Texas the race continues to flourish, it was dubbed “Barefooting’s Toughest Race” by Water-Ski Magazine in 1998 and has since become a fun event for amateur barefooters to ski in hopes of just finishing the race. The Dam to Dam race proceeds benefit the Austin Barefoot Ski Club which in turn helps fund junior development clinics, the South Central Region and the American Barefoot Club.
This year marked the 30th Anniversary for the Dam to Dam race and consisted of 11 teams and 47 competitors coming from all over the country, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan and even someone from Canada! As in past years, there was a competitive heat and a survivor heat. The competitive heat consisted of seven teams who all thought they had what it took to win “Barefooting’s Toughest Race,” however, there was only one winner: Top Gun, finishing in 23 mins and 47 seconds. Screamin Seamen came in a semi-close second at 27:12, then Footin.com at 29:19, Aggies and Saggies at 30:00, Jimmy’s Team at 36:26, The Kids Team at 40:06, and the Arizona Team at 43:36.
The “fun” heat consisted of four colorful teams who braved the worst water and arguably had the best time! The teams were the Drinkers and Cheaters who technically finished faster than the last team in the competitive heat at 43:24, the “Badass Barefoot Babes” skiing almost the entire race directly on the boom, Team “Not Very Good skiing” neck and neck with the barefoot babes laughing at them flopping around on the boom, and “Warren Wilke’s” team of three whole generations of barefooters!
After the race, the competitors and their families gathered together for an after party to celebrate everyone’s survival and hand out trophies, medals, t-shirts, and some good ole’ Texas BBQ!
The Austin Barefoot Ski Club was honored this year to have a professional film crew from Loud Interactive donate their time and document the entire race with multiple drones, GoPros, and Handycams. It was the first time in history that a barefooting race was live streamed from multiple cameras with commentary and marks a huge step forward for Barefoot water-skiing and action sports in general. The footage can be seen on Footin.com and the Footin.com Facebook Page!
Story submitted By Landen Ehlers, Barefoot Demigod and American Barefoot Club’s South Central Executive Regional Director.