Local athlete goes toe-to-toe in "Footstock" competition

Published: Aug. 16, 2019 at 11:37 AM CDT
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A local athlete will put his fancy footwork on display this weekend during the “Footstock” competition in Crandon, Wisconsin. “Footstock” is also known as the National Barefoot Endurance Championships. For many barefoot water skiers, this is the Super Bowl.

“If you win this event, you are considered the best of this type of barefoot water skiing in the world,” said Paul Stokes of Waunakee.

The 47-year-old insurance agent has been competing in barefoot water skiing since was 15-years-old. Today, Stokes is a professional who has competed in 15 national championships and six world championships.

“It’s one thing to water ski, but to water ski without skis is that next level of…cool,” said Stokes.

The competition is pretty straight forward. Two skiers are pulled by the same boat. The boat runs in a figure 8 pattern over and over until someone either falls or gives up. If you outlast your opponent, you advance. The last person left standing wins a $3,000 prize.

“I’m going in with a lot of confidence,” said Stokes. “And I’ve put more effort into preparing this year than ever before,”

Stokes has never won the competition but has finished second in the past.

To train for the event, Stokes took NBC15 News out on Lake Waubesa with his friends Chad Mietz and Bob Mahnke, two very talented barefoot skiers who are competing in Footstock as well.

“We are competitors and friends, we’re both” said Stokes.

To get enough friction to stand up on the water, boats usually travel about 40 miles per hour. But doesn’t that hurt your feet?

“If you were sitting in a hot tub and you put your foot up against the jet that is kind of what it feels like. It’s hard to describe,” said Stokes. “It doesn’t hurt, in general, it’s just a little water pressure against your foot,”

“You’re kind of walking on the water, you’re kind of gliding,” added Mietz.

Win or lose, Stokes says being out on the water is where he feels the most comfortable.

“You really clear your mind and it’s the only thing that is happening. You are very present when you are barefoot water skiing,”

To learn more about Footstock, visit

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