At age 57, Knightsen resident Jerry Kanawyer became the oldest person to win gold in the overall event at the U.S. Barefoot National Championship. The competition, which was held in August at Blue Moo Lake in Alma Center, Wisconsin, featured some of the best barefoot water skiers in the nation. Prior to Kanawyer’s win, the oldest person to win an overall championship had been 42.
His championship was due in large part to his performance in the tricks portion of the competition. Kanawyer, who says he’s the only active competitor who can complete all three of the sport’s most challenging flips (inside a wake, outside a wake, and wake-to-wake), earned a perfect score for his tricks.
“I am still the only one in the world right now to do all three flips,” Kanawyer noted. “There are six people who have done them before, but I’m the only one currently doing them.”
According to Heeney, a site that compiles event results, Kanawyer also won the slalom portion. The third portion of the competition, the jump portion, is where he says he struggles the most. He finished behind two other competitors in the Men’s Open division there, but his slalom and trick performances were good enough to carry him to the overall win.
This was the third straight year in which he won the tricks category and the fifth time in the past seven years.
Kanawyer has been barefoot waterskiing for more than 30 years. He trains on Diablo Shores Lake. Right now, he’s preparing for a world championship even in Sydney, Australia, which will be held April 11-18 of next year.
“I can’t really train in the winter time, but I can ski enough to stay in ski shape,” he said. “My plan will be going down to Australia a couple weeks early to get some skiing done there.”
Kanawyer will compete as a member of the U.S. team. He’ll be focusing on tricks and slalom, his specialties.
“When you’re on the U.S. team, you have to ski for the team and not yourself,” he explained. “So, I need to focus on tricks and slalom.”
This will be the 21st time he has competed in the world championships. He has now competed in more world championships than anyone else in the sport. Although he has said he plans to retire at age 60, he’s showing no signs of slowing down yet.