Banana George Blairfoot Bananza raises $4000 for the USA-WWF Banana George Blair Ambassador Scholarship

Every once in a while… “Going Bananas” is a good thing!

We could all feel the spirit of Banana George Blair at Lake Silver in Winter Haven, Florida as the tournament George started, made a comeback on October 24th and 25th! 

We Do it for George!

It had been several years since the Banana George Blairfoot Bananza had been held and the American Barefoot Club’s Southern Regional Director Mikey Caruso thought it was time for a “Bananza Intervention.” 

Brett Swanbom and Mikey Caruso get ready to go head-to-head in Saturday’s Figure 8

“It just had to happen,” says Caruso, a former Junior Barefoot World Champion and member of the 2020 US Elite Barefoot Team.  “We had to do it for George and everyone who loves him.”

John Friede manages the Brackets!

Caruso gathered a new Bananza Committee which started meeting early this year.  And despite a pandemic… the Bananza is Back!  In a BIG WAY!

More than 40 barefoot water skiers ranging in age from 7 to 80 years old gathered at a safe, social distance to celebrate the memory of George and ski their butts off in the two-day Figure 8 and Endurance Tournament at Lake Silver.

But it wasn’t just about barefooting, the two-day event raised $4000 for The USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Foundation’s Banana George Blair Ambassador College Scholarship.  A check was presented to USA-WWF Scholarship Administrator Jeff Clark at the tournament Saturday night. If you are a College-Age Water Sports Athlete… APPLY HERE for the Banana George and other Foundation Scholarships.

Van Jantzen of South Carolina dominated the Junior Division winning both Saturday’s Figure 8 and Sunday’s Endurance Contests.

Billy Nichols and Marc Donahue get ready to go head-to-head in Saturday’s Figure 8

While Perennial Footstock Winner Marc Donahue of Florida won both the Figure 8 and Endurance. 

And in the Senior Division, Don Simon, 80, of Florida  won the Figure 8 and New Jersey Young Gun Sparky Wicks won the Endurance contest.

Winners received a super cool trophy, a Masterline Ski Handle and amazing framed photos from George Blair’s Office donated and presented by Donna Blair who also helped sponsor the tournament!  Donna also gave every competitor a copy of the Banana George book by Karen Putz!

Hayleigh & Donna Blair

George’s Great-Granddaughter, Hayleigh Blair, helped present the awards and even participated in the Boom Division!  We can’t wait to see the new yellow wetsuit Hayleigh ordered from Ashleigh Stebbeings at the World Barefoot Center, who also helped sponsor the event.


T-shirts will still be available until November 15… so order yours today! ORDER HERE

Saturday Figure 8 – Head-to-Head

Juniors (16 and under)

  1. Van Jantzen, South Carolina
  2. Owen Schattschneider, Wisconsin
  3. Claire Flowers, South Carolina
Don Simon, Sparky Wicks, Chuck Bender and Hayleigh Blair

Seniors (60 and up)

  1. Don Simon, 80, Florida
  2. Danny “Sparky” Wicks, New Jersey
  3. Chuck Bender, Wisconsin
Paul Miller, Wayne King and Marc Donahue

Adults (17-60)

  1. Marc Donahue, Florida
  2. Wayne King, Canada
  3. Paul Miller, Indiana
Hayleigh, Silas, Micah & Spencer participate in the Boom Division!

Boom Division:

  • Hayleigh Blair, Georgia
  • Spencer Barrington-Hughes, South Carolina
  • Silas Walliser, Florida
  • Micah Walliser, Florida

Sunday Endurance – Timed Circles

Juniors (16 and under)

  1. Van Jantzen, South Carolina 7:25
  2. Noah Kinnaman, Missouri 7:02
  3. Owen Schattschneider, Wisconsin 5:03

Adults (17-60)

  1. Marc Donahue, Florida 9:55
  2. Wayne King, Canada 9:36
  3. Paul Miller, Indiana 7:35
Ron Coonse, Sparky Wicks and Al Hager

Seniors (60 and up)

  1. Danny “Sparky” Wicks, New Jersey 2:37
  2. Ron Coonse, Indiana 2:26
  3. Al Hager, Florida 1:43

American Barefoot Club Community Champion Award

As part of the award ceremony on Saturday Night… Blairfoot competitor Lance Smith was presented the 2020 ABC Community Champion Award by Ben Groen.

Lance Smith is an avid barefoot water skier and truly one of the top ambassadors of the sport today. Starting out as a recreational footer, has become a strong figure 8 footer, and has even shown interest in three-event tournaments.

In 2019, Lance sponsored both the US nationals, as well as the 2020 Junior Team on their journey to Australia, before the shutdown. This year in 2020, he sponsored a five-day clinic with Ben Groen in his area, with the main focus being on young kids that needed to learn how to foot correctly, and didn’t ask for anything I return.

Any excuse he can, Lance will try to bring barefoot water skiing into the media, icluding using his plumbing company as a platform to feature barefooting in mainstream advertising. His mind frame, creativity, and passion for the sport, runs extremely in line with that of Banana George Blair himself, and I can only see Lance continuing his journey to support and build this sport for many years to come. 

Let’s go Bananas again in 2021!

The Bananza Committee wants to make this happen again in 2021… email if you want to join the planning!

Thanks to our sponsors: Visit Central Florida/Polk County Sports Marketing, Delray Beach Executive Suites, Joanne Blair, Donna Blair, Georgia Blair, Carrie Blair, Robin Blair, Ted Blair, John Cornish, Masterline, Celcius, ABC Southern Region, Just Add Water Media, American Barefoot Club, World Barefoot Center, Patrick & Charlotte Stewart, Don Stoppe, The Jersey Boys, Bob Swanbom and Adrienne Rundell.

Massive thanks to Polk County’s Guy Friday, Hank Longo, Chief Judge Justin Landers, Boat Wrangler Don Simon, Chief Driver Ben Groen, Announcer Jared “The Golden Voice of Water Skiing” Lippelgoos, Chief Safety Char Portman, Bracket Men Al Hager and John Friede, COVID Sanitation Officer Deanna Dean, Ice Man Chuck Bender and Chief Registrar Alyx Matheny! 

And of course, The Bananza Committee: Chuck Bender, Mikey Caruso, Tim Collette, Deanna Dean, Ted Eisenstat, John Gillette, Betsy Gilman, Ben Groen, Al Hager, Justin Landers, Marty Levine, Jared Lippelgoos, Rob Scott, Don Simon, Steve Shannon, Lance Smith and Bruce Walter.

We can’t wait for next year… bigger and better!  Stay Tuned for details at!

-Betsy Gilman

Barefoot Ninja


  1. It took a team who all pitched in to bring it back plus a venue At the right location with a lot of fun footing Motto NO SKIER LEFT ON THE BEACH Thanks to All. Thanks to all the Legends who showed up to mix meet & mingle

    Sent from my iPhone



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