How Fast Should I Barefoot Water Ski?

How Fast Should I Barefoot Water Ski

Barefoot water skiing is one of a kind sport. To be honest, this is always my best sport when it comes to skiing on the water. 

I like how it challenges me enough to stay engaged throughout the game. 

But there is much more to enjoy when barefooting, depending on your perspective and what you love. 

Think of the speed, boat noise, and the water spray that follows you as you ski. All these can give an adrenaline rush, right? 

Personally, I find the acceleration and wake to be quite thrilling. With my feet gliding on the water and being able to stand, jump, or tumble turn at high speeds, the feeling is always priceless. 

Now, in this exciting sport, a lot of people think that the skier has to travel extremely fast to achieve flotation. 

But this is not always the case. 

How fast you should barefoot water ski will depend on a number of factors. I’ve even seen some skiers barefooting successfully at relatively low speeds, and they were able to stand on the water. 

In this article, we’ll talk about how fast you should barefoot ski and the factors that determine the appropriate speed to remain on the water surface. I’ll also give some essential tips on how to barefoot ski.

But before we get on the tips, let’s catch some history of this gratifying hobby.

History of Barefoot Skiing

Barefooting started in Winter Haven, Florida, in 1947. The event witnesses saw a 17-year old skier, A.G. Hancock, barefoot ski for the first time.

In the same year, another skier, Dick Pole Jr, became the first person to be photographed barefoot skiing. He stepped off his one ski on a preparation boom. 

Three years later, a barefooting competition happened in Cypress Gardens where Dick Pope and a Mexican skier competed. 

In 1951, Charlene Zint became the first woman to barefoot ski. And throughout that decade, several barefoot skiing tricks and techniques were discovered, including two-ski jump out and deep water start.

While Randy Rabe was the first backward barefoot skier, the technique became famous in 1961 when Don Thompson did both back to front and front to back retraction at Cypress Garden. 

Australians were also barefoot water skiing during this time, and in 1963, they held their first national competition with about 38 competitors. 

They were the first to do a barefoot jump, a trick that is still used in modern bare foot skiing competitions. 

Over the years, barefoot skiers from different countries have developed many tricks that no one would ever think of the possibility.  

There are three events mainly used in traditional barefoot waterskiing competitions, including tricks, slalom and jump. 

Keith St. Onge, who was able to cross the wake forwards and backwards on both one foot and two feet in 2006, holds the slalom world record for men’s open division. 

David Small holds the current world record for tricks (2018) and jump (2010) for men’s open division. 

Tips on How to Barefoot Water Ski

Tips on How to Barefoot Water Ski

Practice Beforehand

Before you head out on the water, it’s important to practice on land first and ensure that you start on the right foot. 

You can tie up your ski rope and try to go through the motions. Start by sitting upright with your feet up. Then stand up and ensure that your knees remain together. 

Your feet should also be slightly wider, and your arms straight and back curved as you get up. 

Then shift to a sitting position, ensuring that your knees are bent at about 90 degrees angle. Repeat the whole process a few times before trying to master the three-point stance. 

Learning the three-point stance position will come in handy when transitioning from a barefoot deep water start position to standing. 

The three-point stance is crucial for standing from deep water starts. With your butt in the water and feet facing upright, bend your knees and pull them together, and you stand up. 

Always Perform Some Stretches Before Starting

This is from firsthand experience. Stretching my body before barefooting has always helped my muscles during and after the skis. 

It’s essential to stretch your arms, quads, back, and abdomen as these parts will be engaged throughout the ski. 

This way, your body will be flexible, and you won’t experience extreme fatigue even when skiing on one foot. 

Use the Appropriate Boat Speed 

When barefooting, the driving pace matters a lot. It could mean the success or failure of your skis. 

So, it’s important to use the appropriate speed. But how do you know the ideal pace your boat should travel at for effective skiing? 

It’s simple. Just divide your weight by ten, then add 20 to the result to find your appropriate pace in miles per hour. 

Avoid the Common Beginner Mistakes 

While barefoot skiing is one of the most enjoyable sports in the world, it’s not the easiest. And there are several mistakes that most beginners make. 

These faults can sabotage your success in barefoot skiing and even injuries on the water. 

Using incorrect posture when barefooting is a common mistake among beginners. You should always keep in mind that your posture is your foundation when skiing. 

The correct posture should be posture back with hips forward. This will save you from unnecessary tumbling and keep you comfortable when barefoot waterskiing. 

Another mistake is failure to breathe. Some barefooters also forget to breathe while on the water, which always significantly affects the overall performance. 

You should keep breathing properly throughout the ski for good energy and a better ability to think calmly to make the right decisions. 

What is the Best Boat Speed for Barefoot Skiing?

What is the Best Boat Speed for Barefoot Skiing

Barefoot skiing requires skiers to travel at pretty high boat speeds, usually between 50 to 70 km/hour (30 to 45mph). 

This speed is relatively high compared to conventional water skiing games like trick skiing, where the boat drives 10 to 20mph. 

High speed is needed when barefooting to keep you upright during the sport and ensure that you don’t sink. 

Some of the factors that determine how fast you should go when bare footing are weight and the boat you are working with. 


Your weight is a crucial factor determining how fast you should barefoot water ski. 

So, if you are wondering whether your boat will support boat skiing, use the following formula to know how fast you’ll need to go for a successful barefooting:

(W/10) + 20. 

In this formula, W represents the skier’s weight in pounds, and the answer is in miles per hour (mph). It’s a safe formula that should give you an ideal estimation of the right barefooting speed. 

For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, your ideal travel pace for a successful and enjoyable barefooting is 36mph. 

As you can see, people with more weight will need a faster motorboat to achieve the fast pace necessary to keep them upright. 

Obviously, someone weighing 250 pounds may not barefoot ski successfully when traveling at 20 mph. 

In such cases, you may need a boat specifically designed for barefoot skiing as it would help you travel faster to achieve flotation. 

So, the question is, will lighter people barefoot ski effectively behind a slower watercraft? 

Absolutely! If you weigh only 100 pounds, it’s possible to barefoot magnificently behind the boat traveling at about 30 mph. 

Your boat driver can steadily accelerate once you are in your 2-feet position for an ultimate skiing experience. 

The Type of Boat You Have 

If you are working with a motorboat specifically designed for barefooting, you won’t have to worry about the pace. Such boats can drive at the high speeds needed for this sport. 

But what about pontoon boats or other slower watercrafts? Is it possible to barefoot behind them? 

Well, I think this will depend on your bodyweight, again, considering that you need more speed to remain upright if you weigh more. 

For lighter skiers, though, it’s possible to barefoot behind such boats as they don’t need to travel at lightning speeds. 



Q: How Fast Should You Pull a Water Skier?

A: How fast you should skier will depend on how much they weigh. The formula for calculating the pulling speed for barefoot water skiing is W/10 + 20. 

If a water skier weighs 200 pounds, you should pull them at a speed of 40 mph. 

For regular water skis, moving at around 25 to 30 mph is a decent speed, and the skier should be comfortable with that pace. 

Q: What Equipment is Needed for Barefoot Skiing 

A: You’ll need the following gear for effective barefoot skiing: 

Motor Boat

Barefoot water skiing requires a motorboat or any other towing watercraft that can ride at a speed of 30 to 45 mph. 

Luckily, there are many boats that are specifically made for this activity. They have small wakes and drive as fast as needed in barefoot skiing.

Barefoot Wetsuit

Every barefoot skier should wear a padded wetsuit for extra safety. The barefoot wetsuit will not only keep you safe but will also help you perform more tricks. 

Sure, you could barefoot ski with a Coast Guard Vest, but it won’t pad you well and might hinder you from performing various barefoot tricks. 

Padded Shorts

While they may not be really necessary, padded shorts are essential for your buttock’s safety. They are also crucial when it comes to performing the deepwater start and tumble turns. Be sure to wear them underneath your barefoot suit for a perfect experience.

Bare Foot Boom

Boom is a long pole that suspends over the boat’s edge, allowing you to ski directly beside the watercraft. 

Barefoot booms are very useful when you want to step off the boat for a deep water start or try some new barefoot tricks. 

Ski Rope and Handle 

You can use a handled ski rope if you don’t have a boom. And while it’s possible to barefoot ski with a standard 75 ft nylon tow rope, I recommend using a special rope made from Poly-E or Spectra for extra safety and fun. 

Special skiing ropes reduce the spring and prevent rope burn when barefoot water skiing with feet wrapped around the handle.  

Personal Flotation Device 

Like other water sports, barefoot skiing comes with its share of risks. A personal flotation device will come in handy in cases where your bare feet tumbles, and you lose control. 

Q: Is Barefoot Skiing Dangerous? 

A: No, Barefoot skiing is not really dangerous, but it has its own set of risks, just like any other water activity. It’s actually less risky than regular skiing, especially if you have the right equipment.

However, if you don’t have the right gear needed for successful barefoot skiing, you may end up falling after catching a toe. 

Don’t panic yet. This isn’t fatal, but I recommend bringing all the equipment needed for maximum safety as explained above.

Keep in mind that when you fall, and your legs are caught in a funny position, you may leave the ocean with a damaged joint. 

The best thing about barefoot skiing is that you have a driver and an observer who ensures your safety and survival throughout the game. 

And if you know how to swim well, it increases your odds of survival in cases of accidents or slipping off. 

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Overall, the right bare foot skiing speed ranges from 30 to 45 mph. It all comes down to your weight, comfort level, and the type of boat you are working with. 

If you trust your boat operator and have a good observer who gives the appropriate signals when needed, you are good to go. 

Remember to use the formula provided above and find out the right speed. Using the right pace will ensure that the surface area of your feet keeps you on the water.

If you are just getting started, be sure to practice on land beforehand and have calm water to barefoot on. Once you feel that you are ready for the game, take it to the ocean for unmatched fun!

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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