You’ve learned the results from 2023 U.S. Team Manager/Elite Skier Andrew Martin HERE. But we thought you might want to know the rest of the story… because every medal and result has a back story. And the 2023 Worlds were full of great performances and stories.
“We are so proud of every single member of the USA Delegation and all they accomplished down under. We can’t wait to see what this incredible group does next,” says American Barefoot Club President Lauren Ehlers.
The USA Delegation consisted of 18 barefoot water skiers, from teenage and 20-something newcomers to long-time competitors who were there at the dawn of barefoot water ski world competition. They all traveled together from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia, and then hit the road for the three-hour drive north to Mulwala, on the Murray River, which creates the border between the states of Victoria and New South Wales.
Mulwala is a vacation destination for Australians, and Lake Mulwala is a tree-filled lake used for flood control. The competition was held on a two-lake site just eight miles from Mulwala. The Max Kirwan Water Ski Park which is just lovely.
You may not know about the incredible support of the families and the fans who traveled with the USA crew. From the Moms who organized all the team meals to Michael Yoder’s large fan base from Ohio or the Dix Family who had a long, strange trip on their own but never gave up the quest to get to worlds.
Three divisions of competition were held in this world championships:
- Elite/Open (Any age, based on points)
- U23 (17-22 years old)
- Junior (16 & under)
The full results are HERE. Now that you know the lay of the land… let’s break it down. We can’t tell you all of the stories, but here are some hidden highlights in no particular order:
BRICE GOES INTO SLALOM BEAST MODE
This division is full of “big guns.” And 19-year-old USA Skier Brice Storman put the whole crew of legends on notice. Brice tied for the fifth and final spot in the open mens division slalom finals with Australian Barefoot Legend Pete O’Neill. A runoff was held between the two skiers in marginal water conditions. (The tournament was actually canceled for the rest of the day because of the wind.)
But when it was over… Brice earned the spot in the finals with Ken Derry, Keenan Derry, Brett Sands, and Fletcher Ball creating an incredible changing-of-the-guard moment between the two athletes on the dock.
Brice is an incredible sportsman; we are so proud of this young man! Brice ended up placing just off the podium in 4th place with an 18.6 in elite slalom. Brice also scored an incredible 18.4 to take the gold in the Under 23 Mens Slalom.
YOU GOTTA HAVE FAITH!
Women typically don’t get a ton of attention in barefooting, but Faith Dix is someone who worked so hard and went so far in such a short amount of time she deserves all of the accolades. She is a great athlete and a fantastic sportswoman who always remembers to lift other women and girls up, including the other three women in the U.S. Delegation.
Faith wanted to share her experience with her sister Alexis, and she made it her goal to ensure Alexis qualified for the 2023 junior world competition. Together, these young women took on the world!
Faith was a favorite personality on the dock, creating an atmosphere of fun and competition. And WOW… she cleaned up!
The only woman athlete named to the US Elite Team, Faith didn’t even compete in three-event barefooting two years ago. But in this worlds, in one of her first tournaments ever, she won an Open Team Bronze and an Open Slalom Bronze. In Under 23, she won tricks, jump, and the overall title!
But mainly, Faith is all about water skiing and sharing her love of the sport. Congratulations, Faith, for kicking butt, supporting the USA, and being an incredible athlete.
Faith is staying in Australia to be a star performer at Sea World – Gold Coast near Brisbane! Go Faith! We didn’t know how much we had to have Faith!
NOAH BREAKS THE 10,000-POINT CEILING IN TRICKS
He’s just 15, but Noah Kinnaman has joined an exclusive club of barefooters that have smashed through the 10,000-point mark in tricks. Noah scored 10,850 in the finals of junior boys tricks with a trick run that was a thing of beauty! He captured the gold in Junior Boys Tricks and qualified for the Finals of Elite Mens tricks!
The 10,000-point crew includes David Small, Keith St. Onge, Ben Groen, Ashleigh Stebbeings Groen, Brendan Paige, AJ Porreca, Andre DeVilliers, Brody Meskers, Heinrich Sam, and Jackson Gerard. The few that have smashed through the 10,000-point mark in tricks.
OUR FAVORITE DYNAMIC DUO
They are not on the US Team, but they trained nearly every member of the USA Delegation… and gosh, we love it when the good ones finish first! We are eternally grateful to these two champions who are developing the next generation of barefooters!
Ben Groen (New Zealand & Florida) won Elite Mens Tricks with 11,480-points, captured the silver in jump, and finished second in Elite men’s overall.
Ashleigh Stebbeings Groen (Australia & Florida) won Elite Womens Tricks, Slalom and Overall… plus broke her own world record in slalom like three times! It was the fifth world championship for Ash who just keeps getting better!
We can’t wait until these two have American babies! But until then, we thank Ben and Ash for investing in our team and our country! Once again, immigrants make it happen!
MAKE WAY FOR THE SWAN”BOMB”
Here’s a young man who skied out of his mind in all three events in the world championships. Brett Swanbom just keeps getting better! The flag bearer for the US Delegation finished on top of the Junior Boys division with some amazing performances in all three events.
Brett grabbed the gold in Junior Boys Jump and it seemed like he set a personal best every time he touched the water. His best jump in the tournament was a 22.6 meter jump! Brett won Gold in Junior Boys Slalom with an 18.4 and finished with Bronze in tricks… also setting a personal best of 9400 points. Unsurprisingly, he won the Junior Boys Overall Championship with all of these performances.
Brett also made the final round top five in Open Mens Tricks, finishing just off the podium in 4th. We love this young man, his work ethic, and his passion for barefooting! We can’t wait to see what he will do next!
NEW STAR IS NO LONGER “STUCK IN OHIO“
Michael Yoder was one of the international favorites in the 2023 World Barefoot Championships. A newcomer to three-event barefooting, he worked hard to qualify in all three events for the Under 23 Division and enjoyed every minute of it!
Michael, also known as “Berry Sam,” made it to the semi-finals in tricks and jump and finished 9th overall… not bad for a guy who landed his first jump in a tournament in December 2022!
He supported every US team member, came with his own fan club, and watched nearly every event! We just loved his spirit and can’t wait to see what he does in the next world championships!
TEAM SOUTH DAKOTA BY WAY OF TINLEG
USA Junior Girls Team Member Amara Bruns was inspired to attend the world championships by a chance visit to her home lake in South Dakota by Sam “Tinleg” Bell and his posse after the 2018 World Championships. They gave little Amara a poster for the 2020 Worlds, and she has kept it all this time! Her goal to
The group reunited at one of the medal ceremonies and celebrated with Amara!
Amara didn’t just compete. She made Tinleg and the crew proud! She won the gold in Junior Girls Tricks and the Silver in Slalom and jump! She also helped the Junior Team win Gold and she won the coveted Junior Girls Overall Championship. Congrats Amara!
But what we loved about Amara most was how she spent time with the junior competitors of nearly every country… an ambassador of our sport in the making! Go Amara!
OLDIE BUT A GOODIE IN THE ELITE DIVISION
He’s already in the USA Water Ski Hall of Fame and is a Legend in his own time… but Willie Farrell is expanding his resume by becoming the oldest competitor in the 2023 Worlds at 67 years old.
Willie is known for his eccentric wit, and freaky-cool surface turns. And despite a torn hammie, Willie turned it on in tricks and slalom and turned on the charm on the shore! Congrats Willie for continuing your Legendary Run at the Worlds!
HERE’S TO THE FUTURE
Massive thanks to Brody Meskers for being the Junior Team Coach and skiing in Open and Under 23 Divisions. WOW! Way to go! Congrats on winning the bronze in Slalom, Tricks, Jump and the Under 23 Overall title! WOOHOOO!
Finally, we want to call out ALL of the amazing junior barefooters of the USA Delegation! Not only did they win the team gold, they also won our hearts!
Carter Boerman, Amara Bruns, James Bruns, Orval Cyr, Martin Cyr, Alexis Dix, Noah Kinnaman, Brett Swanbom, and Cam Patton!
Keep barefooting and we will see you in 2024! Go USA!
And thanks Coach Dale Stevens and Manager Andrew Martin for keeping this team in line!
One person that didn’t get the press she deserved is our very own Betsy Andersen-Gilman. Betsy put in a stellar performance at worlds. She not only skied very well, she helped the entire team preform to the top of their ability. Thanks Betsy, for all you do!