USA Water Ski & Wake Sports

Barefooting - The Front To Back

Note: This article first appeared in the Spring 2020 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 Lynn Novakofski


Learning The Front To BackIt’s important to be a solid forward and backward barefooter with a good, strong position before progressing to the front to back. A strong front barefoot position starts by having your head up, shoulders back, chest out, hips forward, knees bent, and ankles flexed and under your knees. Backward is similar by having your head up, shoulders rolled back, chest out, butt pushed to the handle, knees bent, and ankles flexed back and relaxed, not pushing on the water. Starting and ending in a strong position is key to a successful turn.


Once you have established your strong forward and backward barefoot positions, it is time to do a front to back. The most important things to think about when turning are: initiating the turn from the hips, turning slowly, and keeping the handle in. Here is a breakdown of five steps describing what to do in more detail.


Step 1. I like to start by practicing the lowering and raising of my hips, since this is how I initiate the turn. To do this, bend your elbow more and bring it closer to your hip. Bend your knees and lower your bottom to 90 degrees as shown in the first picture. Practice going down to 90 degrees and back up to barefoot position a few times before turning. This will help you develop a rhythm for a smooth turn. Keep a strong position with your elbow in and chest big – only your hip and knee bend should be changing.


Step 2. After you lower your bottom to 90 degrees, slowly come up and start turning at the same time. Initiate your turn by pushing your hip to the handle and pulling your handle to your hip. The turn should always start from your hips. Throughout the turn, keep your elbow bent and pull the handle into your hip. When turning to the left, your right hip should go to the handle. Remember to keep resistance on your legs by pushing your feet slightly in front of you as you turn.


Step 3. As you continue your turn focus on keeping your feet close together with slightly more weight on the foot you are turning toward. For example, if you are turning to the left, more weight will be on the left foot. Your head should stay up and eyes should focus on the horizon the whole way around.


Step 4. Keep the releasing arm close to the body throughout the turn. Also, remember to keep the arm holding the handle in by bending your elbow and bringing your hip to the handle. This will put you in the best position to grab the handle near your lower back.  


Step 5. Recover by bending your knees and focusing on a strong back barefoot position with your head up, chest out toward the spray, and butt pushed to the handle.


Although there are many key things to focus on when making a successful front to back, remember to start and end in a strong position, initiate the turn with your hips, turn slowly, and keep the handle in. If you do these key steps you will have success!


Rachel Normand is a 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