While most people were winterizing boats and tucking them away for winter hibernation, footers in Florida were out on the water and making the most of the extended season. On December 9th, in light of another World Championship’s approaching on the calendar, and after successfully hosting the 40th U.S. Barefoot Nationals on Lake Grew, Polk City, the Southern Region decided to host and sponsor a small standings list tournament.

As the name suggested, the 2017 Free-For-All tournament was a free to enter tournament, and the invitation was extended to any and all looking to qualify for the 2018 World Championships, or even just a chance to get out on the water.

It may not have been cold enough to make a “Sconie” footer shake in their snow boots, but with temperatures in the morning starting in the low 50s, and only getting up to mid 60s, it was enough to make any fair-weather Floridian roll over in bed and wait for Spring. (And all Floridians are glad they don’t live in Wisconsin and cheer for the Packers. SKOL Vikings!)

In spite of the Southern chill, the tournament featured some great cameo performances and new three-event footers. After an almost 20 year hiatus from the sport, Chip Fernandez not only got his feet wet on competition waters again, but brought along the future of the sport with him, with his son getting out on the boom and showing the crowd Dad wasn’t the only one with talented footwork.

Local Open Pro favorites, Chris McWatters and Michael Caruso showed up to battle it out for the Overall title, and the local Show Ski Team – World renowned Cypress Gardens – even featured some of their bright young talent skiing in their first ever three-event barefoot tournament.

While no one qualified for the Worlds, there were some stand out performances; Dillon Brouch of Wisconsin, slalomed his way into the Men’s B division Overall with a new personal best of 7.1, Stefan Lippelgoos of Florida, broke into the Open Men’s division in tricks, posting three scores over 3000 points and finishing with a new personal best of 3600. Feeding off his performance in tricks, Lipplegoos then went out and “Practically boosted it,” landing his first inverted jump at 16.5m (54 ft), taking him halfway to qualifying as an Open level skier for Jump as well.

It was great to see everyone having a great day on the water, and with half of the competition featuring junior footers, the future for the Southern Region Barefooters looks strong!

Story submitted by tournament director and Kiwi Redneck Ben Groen. It’s a bit late because of all of the holiday fun!

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