Brett Swanbom is just 11-years-old and learning to fly a plane with his big brother Brandon who is in the U.S. Air Force. But Brett says he really wants to fly in Barefoot Waterski Jumping.
Brett learned to barefoot when he was 10 and has not looked back. In just a year and a half, Brett has gone from learning to barefoot, to dominating the Boys B Division at the 2017 U.S. Barefoot Nationals winning slalom, jumping and the overall.
The small, but fierce, champion says barefooting seemed to come easy to him. When his family moved from Texas in August of 2015, Brett learned to ski with the Tampa Bay Water Ski Club in Oldsmar, Florida.
Ironically, Brett now lives on Lake Padgett, the lake where barefoot phenom Don Mixon, Junior lived and trained on when he was competing decades ago.
Just like Don Junior had a large fan base, Brett has his own strong and loyal following of friends and family who attend tournaments. The “FOB’s” of “Fans of Brett” are led by his brother and of course, his dad, Bob.
“I inherited my love of water skiing and barefooting from my dad who skied with Tommy Bartlett,” says Brett.
Brett’s skill at barefoot jumping also prompted the American Barefoot Club to change the rules for junior skiers. Competitors under 12 years old were never able to jump in tournaments and Brett was not allowed to jump at the 2017 Southern Regional Tournament. But after Brett appealed to the ABC Board, all ages are now able jump competitively.
The U.S. Barefoot Nationals was the first tournament that allowed this incredible young man to go airborne and show the world he was beyond ready to fly. He jumped 10.4 meters and finished in the top five of all jumpers in the performance divisions.
“It felt good to be able to jump at nationals…. I was happy!” says Brett.
Brett’s favorite event is slalom and thus the nickname he received at a tournament in Texas this year: “Brett Slalom.” His personal bests include 8.3 in wake slalom, 1300 points in tricks and 10.4 meters in jump. But that is just the beginning for a kid who has already rewritten barefoot history.
“My goal for 2018 is to qualify and compete in the World Championships in Canada. I have already qualified in slalom,” says Brett.
In February, Brett will turn 12. He likes playing basketball, baseball and football… but he loves barefoot water skiing. His favorite tricks are front and back toe holds. When asked what he wants to be doing five years from now: “Everything.”