wake boarding

GB Barefoot skiing history

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In 1971, the British Barefoot Club was officially formed by the British Water Ski Federation. Before that, barefooting in the UK was a rare and elitist art, mostly seen as demonstrations during classic water ski tournaments.

Prominent amongst the pioneers was Charles Ramsey, a KLM airline pilot. Then John Doherty of the 3T's club at Standlake encouraged a whole group of likely lads and lasses to take up the call.

An early and able administrator was Graham Stevens of Gloucestershire, who was largely responsible for corralling the wild elements of pre 1971 into the structured British barefoot scene of 1974, with the first major step forward. That year saw the first nationals championships at Bomere Pool near Shrewsbury, with Denis Atkins winning tricks with a breathtaking 100 points and also taking the overall !

Two Spaniards (Paco Fernandez and Victor Pavillard) and two Australian (Steve Curtis and Rob Lyne) were included amongst the competitors, caused this first nationals combined with an international event. In addition, a team was sent to Spain for another international event where Jackie Crawford won gold in jump with a feet to feet (worth 30 % extra length at that time).

Again in 1974, John Doherty set a barefoot endurance record of over one hour!


In 1976, came the first European Championships, held at Princes Club and with full TV coverage throughout. Team from the continent came in force, but Great Britain won the team event, as well as each individual event with Mike Thomas as the first European champion. In 1977, the British team came second again at Princes, when the South Africans sent a highly talented team, who won both team event and individual men title, before being banned from international scene for political reasons. 1977 was a very significant year for the barefoot scene, as John and Margaret Hacker toured Europe, coaching many teams and spent almost a whole summer in Great Britain. John introduced the full use of the boom, modern training methods and produced one of the first instruction handbook. Peter Pearl and Colin Black were named in the Group II Barefoot Council, created the same year.

A team from United Kingdom entered the first World Barefoot Championships in 1978, finishing at fourth place. The first World medal was given by Chris Harris, bronze medallist in the 1980 jump event. In 1986 Chris Harris got anew the bronze in jump, as well as the team, and Michelle Doherty - the daughter from John - won the gold medal in the first women World jump competition.

Other gold medallists at a World level are Lucy Scopes (1997 junior tricks) and David Small (1999 junior overall, 2002 open jump and overall, 2004 open tricks, jump and overall, 2006 and 2009 open jump, 2010 and 2012 open jump and overall). In addition, Richard Mainwaring broke the World jump record in August 1994 with 27.50 m, as well as David Small in February 2004 with 27.40 m (new measurement system).