Sherrills Ford, N.C. – January 4, 2016 – Calm wind, mild temperatures, and an enthusiastic crowd helped 25 contestants deliver impressive performances at the 38th Annual New Year’s Day Barefoot Tournament held at Lake Norman Marina in Sherrills Ford, N.C.
Contestants from age nine to 75 challenged the grueling circle course scoring points by the degree of difficulty of their start, tricks performed, and time they stay on their bare feet. The wakes produced by the towboat’s circle pattern created rough water conditions, adding to the difficulty. It is one of the longest running and unique barefoot skiing tournaments in the world. Participants also say it is one of the most fun.
“This is one of my favorite events of the year,” said contestant Don Simon of Kingston, T.N. “I’ve been involved in barefoot competitions for over 25 years, and this event is unique for a few reasons: no other barefoot event we know of in the world combines starts, tricks, and endurance all in one single run; the rules and scoring somewhat levels the competition, so even a moderately skilled barefooter can compete against national level competitors; and the fun of coming together in the middle of the off-season in cold North Carolina for this light-hearted and spirited event creates fantastic camaraderie among all the participants.”
The tournament was divided into boom, men’s, and open divisions. Four contestants age 12 and under competed in the boom division. In the boom division, each barefooter holds onto a pole – the boom – sticking out the side of the boat, which adds stability and support. This division was won with a score of 62 points by Brooke Kara of Fort Mill, S.C., who was also the only female in the entire tournament.
Way out in front in the men’s division were newcomers Logan Walter, age 16 from Orange Park, F.L., and Fred Steinbaum, age 73 from Hopatcong, N.J. Steinbaum demonstrated that age doesn’t necessarily hinder endurance by hanging on for 274 seconds, the second-longest run of the day. His time combined with his 50-point flying dock start gave him a total of 324 points for second place. For the first time in the history of the event, Walter perfectly executed a forward toehold deepwater start – a toe-up – earning him 225 points. After an additional 100 points in tricks were added to his 70-second run, Walter clinched the division with 395 points.
Two men similarly were way out in front in the Open Division. One of the top barefoot endurance contestants in the country, Marc Donohue of Monticello, I.N., made his second appearance at the New Year’s Day Tournament. In 2016, Donohue found the right speed and position in the boat’s wake to hang on for an impressive 320 seconds, marking one of the longest runs in the event’s recent history. Combined with a flying dock start and several one-foot tricks, Donohue posted the highest score of the day at 460 points. Long-time contestant Travis Shulenberger of Salisbury, N.C. racked up 339 points with a number of tricks including spectacular tumble turns.
Former U.S. World Barefoot Team Members and current N.C. residents Rachel George-Normand and John Gillette provided commentary on the day’s performances as well as information about the sport of barefoot water skiing for approximately 200 spectators.
The Carolina Show Ski Team organized the event and provided concessions. Lake Norman Marina provided the site and a Cobalt 220 as the towboat. “Though not a competition ski boat, the Cobalt 220 powered by a 280-HP Volvo Duoprop demonstrated that this luxury sterndrive bowrider is also a great ski boat,” said Mark Kale, owner of Lake Norman Marina.
The tournament partnered with Samaritan’s Feet, a 501(c)(3) charity that provides shoes to millions of people without otherwise would not have them, putting them at risk for foot-born infections and diseases. Lake Norman Marina and the newly formed Lake Norman Boat Club pledged to donate ten cents per point scored by contestants to Samaritan’s Feet. Including other donations, almost $700 was raised for the cause.