When I arrived at the World Barefoot Center for Women’s Barefoot Week in early November– I had a goal plastered on my vision board: I wanted to learn to barefoot water ski– backwards. 67-year-old Judy Myers first planted that idea in my head back in June. I had just accomplished a deep-water start (behind a jet ski!)– something that I had not done since the summer I turned 19. Judy texted me some congratulations and said “Backwards, here we come!”
Backwards barefooting? Was she crazy? I had just gotten back on the water 25 years after becoming deaf from a fall while crossing the wake. The last time that I successfully barefooted was years and years ago– and that was for less than a minute. And now this gal was trying to convince me that at the age of 45, I could learn another new trick.
Judy ought to know– Judy started barefooting when she was 53 years-old. They call her the “Old Lady,” but she looks like a 21-year-old out on the water: doing one foots, tumble turns, slalom and yes– backwards. She competed in the World Barefoot Championships in Germany this summer. Judy works at the World Barefoot Center and she organized the Women’s Barefoot Week.
Judy introduced me to 61-year-old Joann O’Connor and I barefooted with her for three days back in August. Joann was another one who convinced me that I could learn to barefoot backwards. She herself had learned to barefoot backwards just two years ago. Between the two of them, I experienced some friendly peer pressure and encouragement. If these two “old ladies” could barefoot water ski backwards, then surely I could learn. I posted on my blog and Twitter that I had the goal of learning how to glide on the water backwards. I added a picture of Judy barefooting backwards to my vision board.
On Monday afternoon of Women’s Week, Keith St. Onge called me up to the hull of the boat and walked me through the first steps of what Joann dubbed “cockroaching.” Judy sat in front of me and repeated everything Keith said so that I could lipread her. The first thing to learn was how to ride on my stomach backwards with my feet crossed over the rope. The next step was the “cockroaching”– learning to plant one foot at a time in the water.
By Wednesday morning, I briefly stood up on shoes. By Wednesday afternoon, I experienced my first ride around the lake– backwards. What a thrill!
I still have a ways to go to catch up to Judy and Joann. They can both do one foot backwards with the other foot in the handle and their hands in the air. But I figure I have 20+ years ahead of me to catch up to them.
61-year-old Joann O’Connor on one foot, no hands!
67-year-old Judy Myers, backwards on one foot!