USA Water Ski & Wake Sports

Barefoot - Front Deep Water Start Behind The Boat

Note: This article first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of The Water Skier magazine, the official publication of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports. If you are not a member of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports and you are interested in receiving the quarterly magazine, join now.


Written by Rachel Normand

Photography by Scott Normand


Barefooting behind the boat is an amazing achievement that gives you more freedom of movement, is required to compete in tournaments, and feels like you are flying! If you have mastered a deep water start on the boom with a short rope, it is time to learn behind the boat. A few things to consider that can greatly increase your success: wearing a barefoot wetsuit layered with padded shorts underneath, using a non-stretch 70-foot rope with a 5-foot handle, and having a tower or extended pylon to make the pull of the rope higher.


1. Begin by floating on your back with your head relaxed back and hips up. Put one foot on the rope by pointing your toes and putting the arch of your foot on the rope (do not put your heel over the rope). Keep your knees straight with your free foot close to the rope. Have your handle pulled tight against your waist.


2. As your boat driver gives you a steady acceleration, arch your back by pushing the back of your head and shoulders down on the water. Keep your handle at your waist and hinge back from there. Yes, you will get a little water in your face! To prevent getting excess water in your nose, tape your nose closed with flexible clear tape (Nexcare) and tilt your head back. The initial plume of water will only last a few seconds. As you arch back count one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, then slowly sit up to your butt. 

Rachel Normand barefoot water skiing front deep water start3. Once you are on your butt, you should be able to open your eyes and look around. Your driver should slowly increase your speed, getting you over the boat’s stern rollers, then accelerate to 25-30 mph (not too fast) while you cut outside the wake. It is best to learn how to cut out into the smooth curl of the wake to avoid standing up in the roughness directly behind the boat. Cut out by pointing your free foot in the direction you want to go, transfer your weight, leaning to the same side as your free foot. Having one foot off the rope aids as a balancing point and allows you to lean further giving you a better cut. Keep cutting until you are all the way outside the wake. *If you are having trouble getting outside the wake, cut in the opposite direction first to give you more momentum in the direction you want to go.


4. Once you are outside the wake, stabilize in the curl by squaring your hips forward and bringing your free leg close to the rope. You may sling side to side a few times before settling into the curl. Be patient. This is where padded barefoot shorts protect you and allow you to ride on your butt as long as needed! Keep your handle into your waist and eyes looking forward.


5. Next, transition into your 3-point position (3-points are butt and two feet). Focus on a smooth continuous motion by simultaneously doing these three steps: 1. Flex your feet back bringing your heels to either side of your butt 2. Bend your knees up toward your chest while keeping them together. 3. Move your handle from your waist to the tops of your knees by straightening your arms and bringing your chest forward. It is important to not drop your legs, but to use your core strength to control and make every movement intentional. 


6. Finally, it is time to stand up. As your boat driver increases speed (30-35 mph depending on weight), keep your chest up, squeeze your legs together, and push down on your heels to stand up. Imagine someone putting a hook in your ribcage and pulling you up. In your final barefooting position, you should have your head up and looking forward, shoulders back with a superman chest, hips forward, and knees bent with your feet flexed back and gliding under your knees. Enjoy the ride and your big accomplishment. Now you are ready to compete in a tournament!

Rachel Normand is a USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Foundation Water Ski Hall of Fame inductee, five-time world individual champion, and four-time world team gold medalist. She lives, trains and coaches on Lake Wylie in Tega Cay, S.C. The World Barefoot Center and Barefoot International sponsor Rachel. You can contact her at