By John Cornish
It is without a doubt that water skiers and wake enthusiasts are passionate about their sport. It doesn’t matter which discipline of any of the water sports, the participants are always seeking the next “thing” or trick, the next level, a personal best or whatever they can conjure up to attempt to accomplish.
One such barefoot water skier has long been chasing his own goals. Dan Wicks, A.K.A. “Sparky,” who is one of the Jersey Boys Barefoot Water Skiers is an avid goal chasing barefoot water skier.
Sparky set a personal goal to barefoot every month and was successful for 17 years, (204 months) until a shoulder injury in the 2018 Lake Norman New Year’s Day Barefoot Tournament interrupted his string.
To be able to continue his monthly quest, Sparky traveled about the United States to find warmer temperatures and ski sites that were not frozen over as was his home state of New Jersey where he worked as a railroad machine operator and welder; hence “Sparky.”
This prompted him to record every state he had barefooted in and also laid out a plan to barefoot in all 50 states. His first recorded state was Florida in 2002 at the home of George Blair, an icon of barefooting who is recorded as the only person to have barefoot water skied on all seven continents.
George has been an inspiration for many barefoot water skiers and water skiers in general. Sparky actually bought George’s 2003 Sanger on George’s 90th birthday in 2005. George’s inspiration enlightened him to begin his 50 state quest. Honoring George along with the safety aspect of visibility and to match his Sanger, Sparky also rides a bright yellow motorcycle.
That yellow motorcycle carried Sparky to several of his states where he barefooted on different trips he planned. He drove to 49 states whether it was for a tournament or a race or to a ski site that he set up with the help of fellow barefoot water skiers and skiers in each state. Hawaii obviously required him to board a plane. Establishing a state ski site with a tow boat and crew took coordination and a great deal of effort from a large group of people. These people and places are now part of the memories, especially Sparky’s and his supportive wife Carol who accompanied him on many of his trips.
Arizona in 2020 on Bartlett Lake is one of his most memorable states. While Sparky was skiing with Dan Matock, Dan’s truck was involved in an accident in the parking lot and saved an individual’s life.
Another memorable feat was ticking off 6% of the states in one morning. Sparky arranged to visit John Cornish and Jack VandeVisse on Youghiogheny River Lake in Pennsylvania in 2019. That particular lake extends into Maryland. So Sparky got up on his feet in Pennsylvania and barefooted right into Maryland.
After that, they trailered the boat about an hour Southwest to Cheat Lake near Morgantown, West Virginia. Just as the boat hit the water they hit a log due to the torrent rain that had recently fallen. The boat vibration was not enough to stop them from picking up the 3rd state that morning.
His last state, New Mexico was the hardest to check off. He worked through the network of the water skiers for over a year till he found Blake Carlisle from Oklahoma and Joel Force from Kansas. The two skiers towed their Sanger boats seven and nine hours one way to Eagle Nest Lake, New Mexico to make this 50 state quest a reality. They brought two boats so they had one as a back-up in case something went wrong.
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Eagle Nest Lake sits at an altitude of about 8300 feet above sea level. It was supposedly the first time anyone has skied on that lake. The boats had to be inspected before entering the water to prevent any contamination. Another consideration was getting the power and speed at that altitude. It was a chore for the 409’s.
There is an extensive list of individuals that helped make this dream a reality. A list of the states, dates and people that towed him follows. Sparky has extended his thanks and gratitude to all those listed and all those not listed that helped in any way to achieve his goal. Congratulations Sparky!
The water skiing community is a wonderful passionate group that will pull together to achieve that “next thing”.
What is your next goal?
|Alabama||Clearwater Subdivision||Patrick Passler||10/13/19|
|Alaska||King Lake||Thomas Wayne||6/28/18|
|Arizona||Bartlett Lake||Dan Matock||9/14/20|
|Arkansas||Greer Ferry Lake||Malcom Bobo||10/27/19|
|California||CA Deltas||Mike Temby & Scott Pellaton||7/31/18|
|Colorado||O Street Lake||Peter Evanstad||8/8/18|
|Connecticut||Connecticut River||Dino Tine||11/3/12|
|Delaware||Givens Pond||Hunter Philups||6/28/08|
|Florida||Lake Silver||George Blair||10/2002|
|Georgia||Lake Lanier||Betsy Anderson Gilman||10/15/19|
|Hawaii||Kauai, Wailua River||Ernest Jimenez||1/ /2012|
|Ilinois||Lake Shannon||James Melter||8/13/18|
|Idaho||Cedar Rapids River||Karen Griffard Putz & Alex Drenzes||5/18/18|
|Indiana||Lake Freeman||Marc Donahue||9/14/12|
|Iowa||Ririe Reservoir||Kellen Birch||6/28/20|
|Kansas||Pomona Lake||Kevin & Kate Clark||8/11/18|
|Kentucky||Patriot Lake||Eric Kelley||11/1/19|
|Louisana||Pearl River||William (Doc) Kutun||10/26/19|
|Maine||Sebago Lake||Gregg Fossett||7/2/19|
|Maryland||Youghiogheny River Lake||John Cornish||7/24/19|
|Massachusetts||Ashmere Lake||Martin Levine||6/24/19|
|Michigan||Scott Lake||Matt Milchalski||5/26/18|
|Minnesota||Twin Lakes||Paul Oman||5/30/18|
|Mississippi||Mississippi River||Dicky Robertson||10/26/12|
|Missouri||Mississippi River||Jim Swanson||9/15/12|
|Montana||No Wake Lake||Brian Heeney||6/9/18|
|Nebraska||Fremont state Lake||Bill Kreikemeier||6/30/20|
|Nevada||Lahonean Reservoir||Deb Allen||8/3/18|
|New Hampshire||Little Squam Lake||Don Stoppe||7/2/19|
|New Jersey||Budd Lake||The Jersey Boys||6/8/21|
|New Mexico||Eagle Nest Lake||Blake Carlisle & Joel Force||6/20/21|
|New York||Lake Cuba||Bill Knab||9/19/16|
|North Carolina||Lake Norman||Greg Fossett, New Year’s Day Tour.||1/1/15|
|North Dakota||Lake Elsie||Louis Niggs||6/26/20|
|Ohio||Maumee River||Patrick Felgner||8/25/18|
|Oklahoma||Canton Lake||Blake Carlisle & Joel Force||9/13/20|
|Oregon||Big Lake||Joe Lavato||7/23/18|
|Pennsylvania||Youghiogheny River Lake||John Cornish||7/24/19|
|Rhode Island||Johnson’s Lake||Rick Soubilere||8/15/19|
|South Carolina||Lake Murray||Vince Dougherty||10/ /2003|
|South Dakota||Catfish Bay||Jim Brunn||5/30/18|
|Tennessee||Clinch & Emery River||Don Simon||5/19/10|
|Texas||Perdenales River||Lee Stone||11/4/17|
|Utah||Last Chance Lakes||Hank Cobb||8/5/18|
|Vermont||Willoughby Lake||Jill Broderick||8/28/19|
|Virginia||Lake Anna||Jeff Hardin||6/12/21|
|Washington||Lake Silverado||Doug Jordan||7/21/18|
|West Virginia||Cheat Lake||John Cornish||7/24/19|
|Wisconsin||Blue Moo||2015 Nationals||8/11/15|
|Wyoming||Grey Bull||Tom Pipps||6/3/18|