USA Water Ski & Wake Sports

Barefoot - The Back To Front

Note: This article first appeared in the Summer 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


Back to FrontTurning on your feet from back-to-front is not for the faint of heart or beginner barefooter. First, I highly recommend becoming a strong barefooter with the ability to proficiently execute both front and back one-foots and toe-holds. Once you are, it is time to turn! Here are tips to help you learn.

1st Tip: Begin in a slightly modified backward position by doing these four things. 1.) Bring your legs and feet very close together. 2.) Bend your arms and bring your handle to your butt. 3.) Roll your shoulders back and bring your chest high. 4.) Bend your knees, bringing your legs under your hips. Having your chest high and legs under you allows you to have more weight on top of your feet.

2nd Tip: Initiate your turn by letting go with one hand and turning from your hips. Resist the urge to turn fast, especially with your upper body. Your shoulders should not come forward, instead they should stay back and just flip on themselves 180 degrees. Keep your core tight and resist the pull by having your arm on the handle bent and close to your hip. Bring your free arm to your side.

3rd Tip: Continue rotating, thinking about your hips turning first and your head last. Focus on turning slow and keeping your feet under you. This is a critical point where you do not want to allow your shoulders to come forward or your arm on the handle to get pulled out from you. Keep your arm bent and strong and flip your shoulders 180 degrees instead of letting them swing around to the front.

4th Tip: As you come to the front, reach your free hand to the handle. Keep your hips and knees strong; do not sit down. The slower you turn, the more control you will have to stay on your feet and in proper form.

5th Tip: At this point you should have both hands on the handle and be barefooting forward. If you resisted turning fast, you should still be on your feet and in great shape to ski it away.

6th Tip: Recover by getting in perfect front barefoot form with you head up, shoulders back, chest out, hips forward, knees bent, and ankles flexed and gliding under you. Congratulations you just did a back-to-front!

Key Tips: Maintain elbow bend throughout the turn. Turn slow and with your hips first. Keep shoulders back and flip them 180 degrees.

Confidence Booster: Before learning on your feet, first do a back-to-front on shoe skis. Shoe skis allow you to go at slower speeds (suggest 5 to 10 mph slower) while focusing on the correct form and technique.

Advance Technique: Learn to turn on the proper foot. This is critical when progressing to multiple turns and helps prevent potential falls from stepping around, through your spray, on the wrong foot. To help you learn, put one shoe ski on the foot you should turn on. When turning to the right (as pictured), most of your weight should be on your left foot; put the shoe ski on your left foot. Practice turning while going slower shoe ski speeds. This will force you to put more weight on the shoe ski foot rather than the bare foot.

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