When I first met Claudia Landon at the Women’s Barefoot Week at the World Barefoot Center last November, I was in awe as I watched her come out of the water gracefully on her feet– backwards. “You’re pure poetry on water,” I told 58-year-old Claudia as she climbed into the boat.
Claudia didn’t start barefoot water skiing until she was 37 years old. She spent years driving the boat while her husband and son went barefooting and then one day, she decided to join in on the fun. She donned her husband’s wetwuit and hung on to the boom. Once she put her feet in the water, a huge smile came over her face and she knew her boat driving days were over. It was now her turn to enjoy the sport.
“I stayed on the boom for a long time,” said Claudia. “I finally decided to try the short line off the boom and I got up on my first try. My husband, Dave, was so surprised– he didn’t think I could do it!”
Claudia achieved the same result two years later when she moved behind the boat using a 75-foot line: she got up on her first try and barefooted away. Claudia and Dave attended barefoot tournaments for years before she finally decided to enter a tournament herself at the age of 47. “I never thought I would compete myself,” Claudia recalled. “I was completely nervous and scared to death! I accomplished everything I planned to do in my two runs and was so excited afterwards.” Even a judge from the boat noticed. “You look so happy!” he told her.
Claudia continued to compete and rack up medals. “There are few women in my age division, so I often received a medal automatically. However, there is one tournament I’m especially proud of– I won the Overall at the 2004 Nationals with five others in my age group. I was really excited because I actually earned it with my skiing.” Claudia and Dave traveled to New Zealand to compete in the Worlds in 2009.
As her barefooting journey developed, Claudia racked up a few injuries. She ruptured her ear drum several times until finally, a doctor told her what she had to do to protect her ears and allow them to heal: ear plugs, a swim cap, a head band and then a helmet over the whole thing. One morning, during a simple run, Claudia fell and broke her wrist. “I think my hand came up near my helmet, it may have been the helmet that caused it to break,” she explained. Dave was recovering from double carpel tunnel surgery so they took some time off the water. Today, they’re both back on the water, skiing again. “There are not many married couples that barefoot together,” said Claudia. “Many people tell me how lucky we are to be able to enjoy a sport together. It’s awesome to be able to share that together.”
Dave and Claudia do not plan to give up this extreme sport anytime soon. They’re inspired by Judy Myers (68) and John McDonald (81) who are still competing.
“Besides,” said Claudia, “Barefooting across a lake that looks like a mirror on a warm, sunny morning is good for the soul.”