North Carolina Barefooters bring in the New Year with fun and some cold water footin!

By Rachel George Normand

The 41st annual New Year’s Day Barefoot Tournament is definitely one to remember after an incredible performance by some of the Legends of Barefoot Waterskiing.  A total of 32 barefooters hit the water of Lake Norman, North Carolina mid-day on January 1st… with good cheer for the new year.  It was one of the biggest turnouts ever including headliners as Keith St. Onge, Rachel Normand and John Cornish. All three barefooters are present and future members of the USA Water Ski Hall of Fame.

Happy New Year Crew at Lake Norman!

This year, the air temperatures were in the mid 60s and the sun was out. But the water temperature was only a whopping 49.6 degrees! Several skiers described it as ICY!

The New Year’s Day Tournament is different than a traditional three event barefoot tournament with only one event combining starts, endurance, and tricks while barefooting in a circle.

Keith St. Onge rounding the circle at Lake Norman Marina.


Skiers are awarded points for their starts and tricks while earning one point for every second they are on their feet. Every trick can be performed a maximum of two times with the reverse following a basic trick. There are two rounds with the second round being optional and the best score advances.

The Jersey boys made their annual appearance with Sparky Wicks barefooting in his traditional red suit and Santa hat.  Never a dull moment around these boys.

Danny “Sparky” Wicks in a Festive Faceplant.

Water Ski Hall of Famer John Gillette was the head announcer with Rachel Normand, Keith St. Onge, and John Cornish filling in occasionally as his sidekicks.  Once again, the Harley drivers showed up to support the tournament as well as many other locals.

The Future of Barefoot Waterskiing on the dock… the boom division!

The event started at 12:00pm with the boom exhibition.  Five amazing kids wowed the crowds as they went by skimming on their feet.

Focus, Focus, Focus. Men’s Division Champion Fred Steinbaum with his eyes on the prize.

Next was the men’s division with the largest number of participants at 19. Fred Steinbaum put out an impressive first round score of 201. Several men opted to take a second round to try and better Fred’s score, but no one was able to catch him. It was a tight race for second and third place. In the second round Nick Wentworth managed to edge out Mark Dougherty getting 184 points and Mark getting 165 points and third place.

Stephanie Christopher represented the women well and swept the women’s division with 36 points.

Women’s Champion Stephanie Christopher steps off with a fierce grace.

Open was the last and most anticipated event. To qualify for the open division a skier has to have either won a previous year’s age division or have competed in a traditional barefoot tournament. This division is for both men and women.

Seven people participated in the open division this year with six men and one woman. World champion Keith St. Onge made the trip up from Florida to participate for the first time. World teammate Rachel Normand was competing for her second time. This was the first time the teammates had to compete head-to-head.

Backwards all day… Rachel Normand didn’t seem like she was going to stop… ever.

In the first round Rachel put up an impressive score of 522 points going backwards for two minutes and 57 seconds. Keith fell early and was forced to ski again. In the second round Keith put down a course record score of 1102 points throwing several back-to-fronts and front-to-backs and staying on his feet for four minutes and 22 seconds!

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The Open Champions: Keith St. Onge, with #1 Fan Zyla, Rachel Normand and John Cornish.

Several men skied second rounds but in the end… Keith won first, Rachel second and Mr. John Cornish’s first round score of 295 points held for third.

Several young and veteran barefooters also earned their American Barefoot Club Barefoot Badges at the New Year’s Day Tournament.  To find out more about how you can get your badge… click here.

2019 American Barefoot Club Badge Winners

Massive thanks to Tournament director and boat judge: Justin Landers,  Boat Timer: Susan Hines, Boat Driver: Russ Frase, Pickup boat driver: Tommer Catlin and of course for the concessions and many other helpers from Carolina Show Ski Team! And a special thanks to John Cornish for providing the tow boat!

Follow this link for complete tournament results !

The New Year’s Day Barefoot Tournament is an event to remember and one you should come to see and participate in next year. You never know who might show up!   We hope to see you all next year!

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