Champion skier Becky Moynes Meyer, MPT’17, has seemingly had a leg up – or, rather, barefoot up – on the competition from the start.
“When I was a baby, my dad would get up on two skis, holding us up. That was how my sisters and I learned how to ski,” said Moynes Meyer, who joined the Belleville Physiotherapy & Sports Injuries Clinic last year after completing her Master of Physical Therapy at Western.
“We were on our own skis by the time we were 4. Then some of our friends taught my dad how to barefoot ski one day. I was 5 at the time and said, ‘I want to try that.’”
Two decades later, Moynes Meyer finds herself atop sport that looks more like the result of a dare than an intentional competition.
Growing up on a farm in Prince Edward County, located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, Moynes Meyer was always active, playing competitive hockey and competing in gymnastics. But her proximity to the water pulled her towards skiing.
“I did it recreationally at our cottage for a few years,” she said, adding her interest started when she connected with a few people going barefooting after a water ski tournament one summer afternoon.
“I decided to go out with them and they began telling me I had to come out to one of their tournaments. With some encouragement from others – and it’s a small close-knit community – I went to one tournament and that led to another. It’s like a family; I got hooked.”
With its origins in Winter Haven, Fla., in the 1940s, barefoot water skiing involves just what it says – water skiing behind a motorboat without the use of water skis. Commonly called ‘barefooting,’ the sport is a tad more dangerous than its more common cousin, as skiers need to be towed at higher speeds than conventional water skiing in order to keep the barefoot skier upright.
In November 1978, the first world championships were held in Canberra, Australia, where 54 skiers competed from 10 different countries.
Moynes Meyer made her first national tournament in 2004 at 13 years old. Two years later, she traveled to Washington, D.C., for the World Barefoot Water Ski Championships. She has since represented Canada at six more worlds in Texas, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Wisconsin and near Napanee, Ont., in August.
That was the first time the bi-annual competition had been held in Canada. Australia will once again host in 2020.
“When it comes to the worlds, I try and train hard and do my best. But a lot of it is also for the social aspect of being able to see friends that I’ve made around the world,” said Moynes Meyer, who tries to get down to Florida during the winter months to get back out on the water. “You can’t seem to find the same muscles in the gym that you use barefoot skiing, so it can hard that first time back on the water.”
So, is there a difference between water skiing and barefoot water skiing – other than the obvious?
“There is quite the difference, but there are similar body positions,” she said. “The big thing is, if you have a boom – that bar you sometimes see sticking out the side of the boat – that’s the ideal place to learn how to barefoot. It’s a solid pole and you have that stability. Once you get used to it, it’s more of less like riding a bike.
“When you crash, or catch a toe, however, that’s when it’s a little wear and tear on the body. It’s inevitable you crash now and then. It’s all part of the game.”
There are three different events in competitions – tricks, slalom and jumps. With the first two, you get two 15-second passes for each, up and down the lake, with judges in the boat. Moynes Meyer is the current Canadian Women’s Barefoot Trick Record holder, based on accumulative tournament scores.
Moynes Meyer still enjoys the surprise looks she gets when she explains the fun she has on the water. With the worlds in her backyard last month, it was a great opportunity for people who have never seen her compete in person to get a front-row seat.
“It was great to hear their reactions, what they think of the sport when see it for the first time,” she said. “It’s fun to see everyone one the dock. No matter where you are from, it is encouraging to all the athletes. Everyone likes to see everyone do well because we’re all friends.”
With some competitors at the world in their 50s and 60s, the 27-year-old Moynes Meyer looks forward to years of tournaments and trips to the worlds in her future.
“I hope so – it is a fun activity. I’d like to keep competing as long as I can and, if not, at least from a recreational standpoint. There is no money on the line. It’s all about having fun at the end.”