How I Became A World Champion

By: David Small



I have a younger brother named Sam and when I was 7 and he was 5 my parents wanted us to do a sport that the whole family could participate in and keep us close.  Back in the day both my parents recreationally waterskied and had a great time doing it so they bought a little outboard boat and we all started to ski together at a local reservoir. There was a waterski school that ran on Thursday evenings in the Summers so we used to go and have a couple sets here and there, mostly learning how to go over the water ski jump and occasionally going through the slalom course. The reservoir was always rough so it wasn’t very easy to do much but it was fun to be around guys that were better then me and who all had a great time no matter what the conditions were like.


At the age of 12 I had seen a few people out barefooting and when we were out on the lake one day and the water was glassy I asked if I could give it a try.  We had no idea how to do this so I sat on a kneeboard behind the boat, took the speed up and threw my feet in.  I managed to barefoot ski for a second or two and then fell.  We kept trying until I was able to stand there for longer periods of time.


We had a couple of grass roots instructors come to our lake and one taught me 3 event water skiing and the other taught me more maneuvers in barefoot water skiing.  I loved traditional water skiing and barefoot water sking so I continued to train both which I think has made me a better all around skier.


images (1)When I was 13 I had a local sponsor who sent me over to Florida to train at the best barefoot ski school at the time. I went out for 2 weeks and I learned more in those two weeks than I had done back in England previously.  It was amazing what could be learned when professional instruction was given along with good water conditions. When I returned to England I then continued to train through the winter, braking the ice to get on the water every weekend… I had got the barefoot water skiing bug and I couldn’t get enough of the sport.



I started to compete in both 3 event skiing and barefooting and when I was 15 I went to Huston, Texas for the 1999 Junior World Championships.  I wasn’t the favorite to win this tournament but I skied well and somehow I came away from the event winning 1st place overall. At 16 I went to the Junior Tournament World Championships where we got a Team bronze.  I continued to train hard throughout the summers and miserable England winters and in 2002 when I was 18 I competed in the Barefoot Open World Championships.  Again, I was not favored to win but I skied well and everything fell into place, which allowed me to walk away being the World Overall Champion.  I was ecstatic, it had always been a dream to become a World Champion but to reach it at 18 was beyond what I had expected. After this I took a year out between high school and University and went to ski and teach at a ski school in Winter Haven, Florida, which reinforced how much I loved the sport.


I then came back and went to University in Nottingham as I believe having a good education is very important. A year and a half into my University education I traveled to Australia in 2004 to compete in the Barefoot Worlds and again, things  fell into place and I walked away with the Overall title again.  This one was very unexpected as it was mid winter in the UK along with University life so I was struggling to find any decent water to train on. I finished up my 4 years of University and came away with a Bachelors of Science degree and moved straight out to the US in hope of opening my own Barefoot Water ski school. Once arriving in Florida I bought a boat and set up shop in Clermont where I ran my ski school for 3 years.  It was a great area close to Orlando and it had a chain of lakes, which provided glass water conditions to ski on every day.


images (2)


I did not manage to win the overall title in the next 2 World Championships as Keith St Onge, my now business partner, piped me to the post and gained the titles. In 2010 Keith and myself joined ski schools and formed the World Barefoot Center.  I moved down from Clermont, FL to Winter Haven, FL so we could run from a central base.  This was probably one of the best decisions I have made in my water ski career as we have built the biggest barefoot water ski school that there has ever been in history. We have the capabilities of running 4 boats equipped with Evinrude engines on the Winter Haven chain of lakes.  We have 4 barefoot jump ramps set up, a fully stocked pro shop and a dedicated ski school house where students can stay.  This has put us on the map as the best place to come to learn to barefoot water ski or to become great in the sport.


In the last 2 World Championships (2010 and 2012) Keith and myself have had a good battle for the Overall title and I have only just managed to gain the first place over him in the two.  Between the two of us we have dominated the barefoot competitive scene for the past 11 years and we are hoping that continues in to the future.


I was very lucky that my parents were good enough to get me involved in this wonderful sport, put the time, effort and money into me to get me where I am at now as I am living the dream and have met and made so many good friends along the way.  I would not change any of it, if I had a second chance!!


If anyone wants to learn an incredibly rewarding sport and make a lot of life long friends along the way then I would highly recommend trying the sport of Barefoot Waterskiing!!!


















World Barefoot Center

3915 Lake Conine Dr E

Winter Haven, FL 33881

Phone: (863) 877-0039