Shortly after turning 50, I wanted to do something fun for my 50s. I wanted to travel, I wanted to write, I wanted to meet new people … and I wanted to barefoot water ski.
Out of all those passions, a quest was born. I wanted to barefoot water ski in all 50 states! I was going to give myself a full 10 years to complete the quest and enjoy every aspect of it.
In January, I became part of the inaugural #SouthwestStorytellers team—a mission that perfectly lined up with the #barefooting50states quest. After all, I was flying Southwest every chance I could because I could bring my wetsuit gear at no extra cost!
The hubby and I wanted a break from the endless Chicago cold, so we took off for South Carolina and North Carolina.
In South Carolina we met up with Rachel Normand, a Hall of Fame barefoot water skier. Rachel competed in the Barefoot World Championships in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. I was so excited to meet her (and her two adorable kids)! At the age of 38, she’s planning to make a comeback and compete again. I also had the opportunity to meet Greg Forsett, another barefooter that I previously had only known through Facebook. My friend Hope Turpin also joined us in the boat.
It was a beautiful, sunny morning in Tega Cay and the water was pretty darn cold once I jumped in, but the minute I stood up on the water my body started to warm up. There’s nothing quite like that adrenaline rush when you’re moving at 41 mph across the water on your own feet. South Carolina became my 13th state on the #Barefooting50States quest.
After lunch, the hubby and I took off for Lake Norman, North Carolina to meet with John Gillette. John was a Hall of Fame barefooter who skied in the 1978 and 1980 World Barefoot Championships.
Way back when I was a teen, I purchased John’s book, “Barefooting.” I had just discovered the sport (my older brother was a barefooter) and I wanted to learn it. My brother wasn’t around to teach me, so I studied the instructions in the book and went out on the water to try it. I endured face-plant after face-plant until one day I finally put my feet in the water, stood up, and rode halfway across our lake.
It was an amazing honor to shake John’s hand and have him sign my copy of “Barefooting.” We jumped in a boat and went searching for calm water. By this time, the clouds had moved in, the temperature had dropped in the 50s and the wind was blowing in gusts. Not the most optimal conditions for a sport that requires flat water, but there was no way I was going to leave until my feet touched the water and I had a picture documenting my 14th state. It took me three tries before I could stand up in the choppy water and ride it away.
I’ve barefoot water skied in 14 states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Florida, California, New Hampshire, Texas, Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado, South Carolina, North Carolina—and every state has wonderful memories connected with each of them. Follow #SouthwestStorytellers to see where Southwest takes me next!