Barefoot water skiers from across the region converged on Sherrills Ford on New Year’s Day for the 35th running of the Lake Norman Barefoot Challenge, including a Denver man and his two sons.
Denver attorney Todd Wulfhorst first participated in the event two decades ago. He promised his sons Alex, 10, and Eli, 9, who participated in last year’s event, that he would join them this year.
“Last year my kids learned how to barefoot and I told them that if they did it last year, I’d do it this year,” he said. “I suspect we’ll continue to do it now that we’ve started that competition.”
Conditions for the challenge on Jan. 1 were rainy, with temperatures in the mid-40s. Mooresville’s Jeff Blair took the open division title for the 12th year in a row, scoring 717 points. Skiers receive points for their start and tricks, and get one point for each second they’re able to stay upright.
The young Wulfhorst brothers skied with the aid of a boom, a six foot bar extending off the side of the boat, an innovation that has made learning to barefoot ski easier, according to their father.
“When they came out with booms that they attach to the ski boats, it’s not that bad,” he said. “But if you’re trying to learn in deep water or stepping off a ski it’s pretty difficult. I tried for years and finally figured it out.”
Wulfhorst finished in third place in the men’s division with 104 points. Cory Freshour of Cornelius took first place, followed by Charlotte’s Brett Berry.
Professional water skier Seth Frase, 18, of Tega Cay, South Carolina, made the longest run of the day at just under five minutes.
The Challenge is partnered with Charlotte-based Samaritan’s Feet, an organization that provides shoes to children around the world.