Barefoot falls happen for a variety of reasons and I think I have experienced every one more than once. At least 3 out of 10 falls I see from every day footers are due to a driving error, what's more is that a good driver can actually keep you on the water when you fall due to your own mistakes.
As a barefooter of the year, quite often I blame the driver for falling off, though this strategy is risky because as the queen say’s “one, cannot take one’s self barefoot waterskiing,” and she would know.
Barefooting doesn’t have to be done flat out, boats don’t have to take off at full speed.
The following are five tips for your boat driver to help your barefooting become easy to enjoy and safe to perform.
It’s not a race and you’re not on the start line
Many footers have the words “hit it” rattling around inside their brain, but there is no need to take off at full speed. Back in the olden days when fluro wetsuits were cool and towers only existed in cities, boats weren’t that fast. So to barefoot, the driver would stamp on the throttle like his life depended on it. But now even a slow boat is fast enough. Accelerate smoothly, at a speed in-between a slalom skier and wakeboarder. Give your barefooter time to make corrections. If it’s to slow they can wait for speed, but if it’s too fast your footer has no chance and they’ll be swimming
Flat feet, not flat out
Unless you’re in a competition, 70 kph or 44 mph is an absolute maximum speed, and I would think that 65 kph or 40.5 mph is best. If you’re lighter than normal then go even slower.
Kids go even slower again as they're strong compared to their weight. If your footer is ploughing and covered in spray, then make sure their feet are flat and under their knees before you give them more speed. Falls hurt a lot less the slower you go,
Power turns; the route of all evil
Rolly water is not fun for anyone, and when your cruising along at speed there even worse, To make sure that your boat isn’t the cause, make sure that when your footer falls or just stops that you slow down in a straight line, idle to turn around and then take off to pick them up, Either idling of top speed is the best way to limit rollers and turning the boat around under speed will only cause rollers to flow into the water you plan to use.
Bump the speed
While barefooting it is normally important to keep a consistent speed, however, from time to time, dropping a few kph off the speed can really help out your footer. Examples are when you take off for a deep water start and the footer starts to bounce, slow down till their back in control, or if the footer gets stuck in a tumble, then bump off a few kph and help them out. It also helps to bump if your footer needs to ski over some rollers, maybe take off 5 to 10 kph to help them through the surf
Watch your lines
As a general rule, keep a straight line where you can. It's hard and tiring to foot around a corner, when you do need to turn, slow down, the turn will increase the footers speed out the back so take some off the boat and ease them through it.
Well good luck out there. Drive safely and work as a team with your skier, if you are the skier remember that driving isn’t easy and that constructive criticism is better than shouting.
See you out there on the water.