By Rich Kaufman and Alex Youngblood
The Pan American Barefoot Championships are back after a generation! And this time around it was held in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico… the first time ever in South of the Border!
The two-day tournament loaded with fun and awesome skiing. Competition was held at the Boca Laguna Ski Club. This private lake has 15 foot gates and a beautiful paved brick road alongside of the lake. As you look down the lake you see the tall mountains in the background which makes for an awesome view.
Several people worked non-stop to get things ready, from driving 10 hours to deliver the jump ramp and boats to setting the jump course in an unfamiliar lake for the first time. The task became a bit bigger when we had to send someone to buy rope and borrow spare buoys from Boca Laguna to make it happen.
Since rain was forecasted for Saturday, skiers decided to start the jump Thursday afternoon. Brody Meskers (USA), Alexis McCauley (USA), Alex Youngblood (USA), Don Stoppe (USA), Chad Sullivan (USA), and Andrew Martin (USA) made history, being the first ever barefoot water skiers to jump at Boca Laguna Water Ski Club.
The slippery water at Boca Laguna felt a little like greased-lightning, the smooth ramp surface was slightly different as it was really smooth and slick even without the slippery water. Brody’s first inverted jump at the lake was a really low inverted jump that ended with a hard crash. He adjusted a little for the slippery water and absolutely launched it!
On Friday, Footers were ripping down the lake with the awesome mountains in the background. In this November tournament, a little off-season, skiers were scoring toe-ups, line position tricks, and multiple turns.
In the Open Women’s division, in second place was Alex Youngblood (USA), and sweeping first place was Alexis McCauley (USA).
In the Open Men, finishing in first place and sweeping his whole division was Brody Meskers (USA), followed by Andrew Martin (USA) and Don Stoppe (USA).
Taking the first place spot for the Junior Boys was Enrique Reyes Retana (MEX).
In the Senior division, Don Stoppe (USA) won first place followed by Rich Kaufman (USA), Mike Molepske (USA), Gustavo Serrano (MEX), Patricio Alvarez (MEX), Chad Sullivan (USA) and Jorge Presas (ARG.)
Jorge and Juan Lucas Presas (ARG) showed up after a traveling a crazy 25+ hours to get there to compete. We love these guys!
Saturday, the footers had free time to do some sight-seeing around the city of Chapala. Day of the Dead Celebrations were underway making downtown an amazing place to be with flowers, music, and decorations everywhere.
Vicki Kaufman was in the full spirit and full make-up! Wow!
Later in the day, fun skiing consisted of dual flying dock starts, dual line step turns, and even barefoot runs by the IWWF President Jose Antonio Perez Priego!
Natalia Carlos (Mexico’s youngest skier), Alex Youngblood, and Alexis McCauley all did a fun set together as well. Then all the skiers finished off the last day reconvening at the evening banquet, listening to music and enjoying the Barefoot family.
The US had the largest presence in both officials and skiers. While this was a small tournament it made it easy for everyone to interact with everyone. If you missed it you missed this one, you missed a great event.
I want to thank Carlos LaMadrid for inviting the Barefooters come and enjoy his private lake. Thank all of the Officials who worked the tournament and did not ski: Ben Groen, Richard Gray and Andrea Formella.
Thanks to the officials who skied and officiated, the semi-pro mechanics Don Stoppe, Rich Kaufman, and the pro-Mexican mechanic for the work and parts.
The Mexican Local Organizing Committee Gustavo Serrano and Juan Carlos providing the boats, barefoot jump, and connections to the lake. To all of the family members who tag along and support the Footers and all the crazy things we do!
We can’t wait for the NEXT Pan Am!