The Fun Scale: Ep 1 // Barefoot Waterskiing

Activity: Barefoot Waterskiing

Fun Scale Level: Type 1.5 Fun

Barefooting is a water activity unlike any other. At 40+mph during the morning calm, you have the ability to walk on water. Episode 1 of The Fun Scale introduces you to Wes Gabel, a Wisconsin native that's been playing in the water his entire life. After joining the Minocqua Bat Amateur Waterski Club, he continued to hone his skills and develop an uncanny sense of poise at high speed.

While barefooting is incredibly fun and nearly anyone can learn to barefoot waterski, Wes did rate it a 1.5 on the fun scale, because to be frank, there is no easy way to stop barefooting. Your only option is a controlled crash landing. The quickest exit is to simply let go of the rope, but regardless of the dismount, it's a tumble.

Not sure what Type 1.5 Fun is? Read our Levels of Fun Ranking System >

Author, barefooting at sunrise

Author, barefooting at sunrise

I'd agree with the rating. As a barefooter myself, it's an absolutely addictive adrenaline rush to skip across the water at high speed on your bare feet. However, the rogue wave or segment of choppy water can sneak up from anywhere, snag your pinky toe, and send you into a cartwheeling splash. As you learn to read water and anticipate messy waves that might take you down, you get better at recognizing when to tuck and roll to avoid tomahawking faceplants.


How to Try Barefooting:

1. Go out in the early morning. Calm water is the most important part. Even small ripples from a soft breeze can cause problems when you're just learning.

2. Try a boom, or just use a ski rope. Some people think you have to learn with a boom, but the purists know how to get up "long-line" using a long rope and either stepping off a ski or starting in the water.

3. Floor it! The faster the better. There is no benefit in finding a sweet spot between 37 and 39 mph because you're scared to fall at higher speed. You're gonna fall no matter what, so if you go 42mph, at least you won't sink beforehand.

4. Feet wide, knees together, hips back. See the photo above? I look like I'm about to sit down and use a toilet. That's where you want to be. The farther back you can shift your weight and the longer you can keep your arms, the less likely you tomahawk.

5. Don't look down! There is nothing cool happening down at your feet. Your eyes need to be focused on the water in front of you. If you're getting spray in the eyes, try pulling your feet a little closer together and standing taller.