Jim Boyette passed away on July 19th at the age of 92. He will be missed by the barefoot community and scores of friends around the country and the world. This was written by his friend and neighbor in Orlando. As you can imagine, Jim was a popular person on Lake Holden.
By Diana Robbins
If you have lived on Lake Holden for any length of time, you may have been privy to his amazing presence on the lake. In the early morning hours of any given day, just after the sun had risen and spread its light on the lake, you could hear the gentle rumble of a boat engine. If you were curious enough, you made your way to a window or even outside to look across your lakefront. There you would have seen the red, white, and blue Nautique speeding across the water with a very intense white waterfall spray not far behind it. Hidden in that spray of white was Jim Boyette, gliding across the lake with nothing between him and the water.
Jim was a Florida boy, born in November 1927 and growing up in Tampa. Inspired by his nephew, Eddie Boyette, at the age of 45 Jim self-taught himself how to barefoot using a long line step off. At his first Nationals at the age of 50, Stew McDonald, Chief Judge at the tournament, talked Jim into “jumping” in the tournament, something Jim had never done. Hitting the ramp Jim lost his balance on the landing and crashed. He went to the hospital where they popped his rib back into place and then went back to the tournament where he proceeded to do a “flying dock start” to win slalom, tricks and the overall title!
In 2007 Jim was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder, a debilitating nerve disease. But even as the disease progressed, he persevered and continued to compete and WIN!! He was also the oldest to do a “tumble-up start” – taking off on his stomach, rolling to his back, and standing up. At age 82 he was the oldest to do a “flying dock start”, or, how about this one . . . a deep-water backward start coming up on his toes!! He literally walked on water!!
His accolades are innumerable, having won over 70 National Championship Titles, including 23 Overall. He held the Men’s IV Nationals Trick Record for seven years and set 30 national records. He also was featured in Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd” four times, was nominated for USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Award of Distinction two times, and was the recipient of the Stew McDonald Longtime Service Award. In 2012, the Southern Regional Tournament was renamed in his honor to the Jim Boyette Southern Regionals Tournament.
At the newly named Southern Regionals Jim made history once again as he started in the tricks event at the age of 85 to become the oldest person to ski the tournament, beating “Banana” George Blair by three months! In his last competition at the age of 89 in the 2018 Nationals, Jim won the Gold in the Super Veteran’s Men’s, being the only competitor in history allowed to compete using the boom, as at this point his physical health was seriously deteriorating.
Jim’s passion was barefooting and competing in tournaments. As any skier knows, they are only as good as their drivers, as they are an integral part of the process. Here on the lake, Mike Powell was his driver and closest friend. Jim once told me that he probably would not have competed in as many national tournaments had it not been for Mike. Mike and his wife, Margaret, also accompanied him to many tournaments and were no doubt his biggest fans!
I asked Jim what did it feel like the very first time you stepped off and planted both feet . . . he replied, “I felt like I was King of the mountain!” . . . and his reign never ended.
There will be a Tribute to honor Jim on Saturday, August 29th, here on Lake Holden. The Tribute will include a presentation of the Missing Man Formation and recognition of Jim by various representatives of the ski industry and fellow competitors including Ron Scarpa, Peter Fleck and Don Simon.
More information about the Jim Boyette Tribute will follow in the coming weeks as plans are solidified. For more information on Jim’s life and final arrangements click HERE.