2021 American Barefoot Club Award Winners



Jennifer Odom Spirit Award – Awarded to junior barefoot skiers (16 years and under) who display a spirit of helpfulness, a positive attitude, enthusiasm, the ability to get along well with other skiers and officials, good sportsmanship, and a willingness to share positive experiences with peers. Candidates do not necessarily have to be champion skiers.

  • Anyone who meets Cameron Patton knows how respectful he is, always responding with a “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” and will look you in the eyes. He’s an inspiring skier to be around as well.  When he crashes he asks to try it again. He always seems to believe he can do something and just has abundant positivity. Cam enthusiastically helps out videoing or handling ropes at tournaments and happily chats with the other juniors and adults alike. Cam just naturally adds a good spirit everywhere he goes!

Banana George Blair Barefooter of the Year Award – This award is given annually to a person or organization in recognition of accomplishments, contributions, and service to the sport of barefoot-waterskiing both on and off the water over the past year. The award recipient represents a true ambassador to our sport – someone who has distinguished himself/herself above and beyond all others in serving the sport.

  • Sean Qualey not only volunteers his time off the water as the current Midwest Regional Director and Skier Development Co-Chair. He is also all hands on deck to set up tournaments which are actually still quite large. He is the first to arrive and last to leave, helping put in Jump courses and get everyone registered online. He has even bought a jet ski to ensure that there is a pick up boat! He encourages new and old skiers to get on the water as a true ambassador of the sport. He developed his own spreadsheet for us to calculate overall awards which we’ve used for this tournament, thank you Sean Qualey! 

Stew McDonald Long Time Service Award – This award is given annually to recognize the person(s) who has contributed to the sport of barefooting for at least ten years. The award recipient is someone who has distinguished himself/herself above and beyond all other individuals in serving the sport. 

  • With a little over 20 years in the sport of barefoot waterskiing, Andrew Martin has done more for our sport than most. He may be soft spoken, but what is going on in his head is great for our sport. He currently serves as Secretary AND President for the American Barefoot Club Executive Board, he now was a Director for the Western Region, and is the Committee Chair for the Technology Committee. He is always the first person to volunteer his time, even when his time is limited. I cannot count the times he has asked me this tournament if I need any help! He was Chief Video at the 2018 World Championships and can also be found in the video trailer or lending a helping hand at countless other tournaments. He only stops when it’s his turn to ski!

Award of Distinction – This award recognizes outstanding achievement in the sport. On the water or off, these people have given all to barefoot water skiing and are deserving of special recognition.

  • If you know Paul Adams, you know you have never seen him sitting still. Actually, in all of my memories he is literally running to the next task to help a tournament run smoothly or cheer on another skier. He makes sure the Jump course is set up correctly and safety measures are in place. He’s the jet ski pick up driver you want to have for a big smile and an encouraging word. He’s on top of organizing all the equipment, generator, registration, ropes and handles for local tournaments and for tournaments like this one that he shows up to. He does it all and somehow still has energy to ski! We applaud you and are forever grateful for you Paul Adams. 

Barefoot Community Champion – Not every barefoot champion is a household name like Scarpa or St.Onge.  This award recognizes the people who are building the sport at the grassroots… one barefooter at a time.

  • Who is Barefoot Water-skiings biggest Hype Woman? Betsy Gilman! She’s got all the cheer, gear, and beer (*after skiing) you need to have a good time on the water! She embodies life on the water, getting skiers of all ages in her boat and up on their feet, skis, or whatever they are capable of doing. Everyone wants to be in Betsy’s boat with her Energy and Positive attitude! Thank you for all that you are doing for the sport, it is truly an inspiration and your own community and each of ours. We love you, Betsy Gilman! 

ABC Barb Knight Junior Girls Athletic Grant

Claire Flowers

This grant is intended to assist junior girls with costs associated with the sport of barefoot water skiing, such as lessons, equipment, travel costs, tournament registration, etc.

ABC Jim Boyette Award

Sharon Carlson

Jim Boyette made it a priority to attend the U.S. Barefoot Nationals. He competed in 41 of the 42 nationals held during his lifetime, an ever-present force of the Greatest Generation.  This award honors Jim’s legacy by recognizing the oldest competitor at the Barefoot Nationals each year.


ABC Athlete of the Year (Awarded in January)

Consider this barefooting’s MVP award. The ABC Athlete of the Year Award is given in recognition of outstanding athletic accomplishments and sportsmanship on the water.  While participation in all parts of barefooting is recognized, the criteria of this award is based upon athletic performance— Barefooters who have distinguished themselves on a national and/or international stage. The recipients can be nominated by anyone and are voted on by the ABC Board of Directors.  The award is given out at the USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Annual Awards Banquet in January.

Male Athlete of the Year: 

  • Brody Meskers – Brody has been competing at barefoot events since he was 6 years old. Since then, his goal has always been to be the Open Pro National Champion. The biggest challenge over the years in his pursuit to be the number one Barefoot Water-skier in the country has been the cold winter months in Wisconsin, the shorter training season made it difficult to keep pace with the top skiers. After finishing a strong 2020 season, Brody decided to move to Florida for the summer and train at the World Barefoot Center. While spending the summer at the WBC, Brody not only focused on his own time on the water, he also trained many of the young up and coming skiers like Cameron Patton, Noah Kinniman and Carter Boerman. When the 2021 Barefoot Nationals arrived, Brody had to put his work on the water. Even with the pressure of competing at the elite level, Brody had a positive attitude, supported his students, and volunteered his time on the pickup jetski and dock starting. Even with the distractions off the water, Brody crushed his performance on the water, walking away with Gold in Tricks, Slalom, Jump, and Overall. He swept the podium!

Female Athlete of the Year:

  • Lauren Ehlers – The American Barefoot Club defines an athlete of the year as barefooting’s MVP for outstanding athletic accomplishments and sportsmanship on the water. Lauren may be most known for her time off the water volunteering in numerous leadership roles, but this year her 2021 performances were also exceptional. She serves as the ABC Treasurer and was not only the tournament registrar for the 2021 Barefoot National Championships in Conroe, TX, she was also the chief judge. Regardless of her responsibilities, Lauren hit the water with some strong skiing and a good attitude. She was the first and only skier to attempt and also successfully execute the newest trick in the rulebook this year, a toe negative. This landed her a personal best in tricks at Nationals. She also received a personal best in slalom at the Monster Mash and a PB in jump at Regionals. These scores were enough to elevate her to the current rankings of the #1 women’s overall skier in the US and #4 in the world. Her sportsmanship is unmatched as well; at Nationals she was seen cheering on her closest competitor (Megan) and was clearly excited when Megan did well enough to beat her!

ABC Rising Superstar: 

Noah Kinnaman – Noah is a natural athlete, taking to barefooting quickly, improving his performance competition after competition and is currently ranked 10th in the world. But it’s not because his parents push him, Noah is a self-starter with a love for barefoot water skiing that comes from deep in his heart. The kid loves to barefoot!

Noah doesn’t get in the boat without a new goal in mind or the determination to get it done. He spends all his free-time training and has risen to an elite level in tricks in just a year by perfecting his multiple surface turns.Off the water, Noah is a shining light at any tournament. He chats with everyone, and is a positive force on the dock, encouraging everyone to do their best. He always introduces himself to new competitors and tournament organizers and is on time with a smile. One tournament organizer described him “as the son she never had… polite, courteous and funny.”

Noah always offers to pitch in and help in the boat crews, with video, hauling ice & water, under the scoring tent, or on shore. He is learning to do judging, scoring and even homologation. When he is old enough to become an ABC official, he will be great!

Expect to see more of Noah as he climbs the ranks of barefooting and in our hearts!

Volunteer of the Year: 

Ashleigh Stebbeings – The past couple years of the pandemic have been tough for barefoot water skiing, but Ash continues to travel and make the effort to participate and officiate competitions around the country and in her home state of Florida. As the best woman barefoot water skier in history, holding all of the world records and dozens of world titles, she could easily just attend tournaments, not organize, and officiate them. She is the official who does it all and then patiently teaches and instructs new officials how to score, judge and drive. And when you learn to officiate from Ash, you know you have learned from the best.

A quiet leader, Ash inspires the Southern Region to do things differently and better. From maintaining and cleaning the region’s equipment trailer, to ordering t-shirts, organizing paperwork, Ash is the motor behind Southern Region’s growth.

Nationwide, Ash is always behind the scenes to push us to do more tournaments and events to motivate barefoot water skiers, especially women. She gives all women and girls in our sport a voice and positive role model.

As an athlete, Ash is the best. But in the American Barefoot Club, Ash is our hero. We would not be the same without her support and incredible volunteerism this year and every year.

Coach of the Year:

Ben Groen – Ben’s love of barefooting is infectious. Whether you are seven or 70, chances are if you have been coached by Ben Groen and he has helped you reach a personal best score and then celebrated with you. Often, his own personal tournament performance is secondary to him as he invests his energy into the success of others.

Ben has not only helped coach multiple national and world champions, he has also spent countless hours traveling around the western hemisphere coaching clinics with barefooters of all ages and skill levels. But it’s about so much more than a paycheck… he truly loves to coach and see people succeed.

Since he can’t be everywhere, he has spread his love of barefoot water skiing around the world by becoming a TikTok Influencer. Hundreds of millions of people have watched him instruct and generally have a blast barefoot water skiing. His goal is always to the promote and teach the sport of barefoot water-skiing around the world.

A feature story in Newsweek Magazine this past summer talked about Ben’s influence in viral videos from barefooting to hand skiing. The article was titled: “Man Does Push-Ups on Water in Incredible Video As People Compare Him to Jesus.” While he may not be the second coming, Ben is truly a savior of our sport.

He humbly skis at the most elite level in the world, while cheering on and genuinely befriending and coaching the entire barefoot community from the American Barefoot Club and beyond.

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