Jeff Harwood barefoot skiing

Jeff Harwood barefoot skiing

Picture this: a half-dozen ski-boats leaving Buford Dam on Halloween morning, towing water-skiers all the way up to Gainesville Marina. What’s missing? The skiers aren’t wearing skis.

“We’re barefoot skiing all the way in a long-line barefoot event like the ones that used to take place on Lanier more than 20 years ago,” said Jeff Harwood, who’s organizing the event. “Some of the top skiers in the world will be here as we take on Lake Lanier, including world champion New Zealander Ben Groen.”

The 18-mile run on Saturday, October 31, will start at 8 a.m. Each boat will tow a barefoot skier until he drops off, then the boat circles around to pick him up, drops in another skier and the barefoot run continues.

“The toughest part for us – and for anyone who wants to waterski on Lanier – is finding clean water, without a lot of wake or traffic,” Harwood said. “We’re starting early enough to avoid traffic and anticipate doing the run at about 40 or 45 miles per hour. It shouldn’t really take us too long.”

The idea to revive the Barefoot Long-Line Endurance Run came about a couple of years ago when several die-hard water-skiers on Lanier began chatting.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time,” Harwood said. “David Woodall had told me about the earlier barefoot long-line events on Lanier when he started teaching me to barefoot about 20 years ago, and we all thought, ‘why not do this again?’ ”

Harwood began waterskiing as a 2-year-old in Lakeland, Florida. “We always went to Cypress Gardens to see the waterski show back then,” he said. “It was filled with tricks like barefoot skiing, ski kites, three-level skiing pyramids and all kinds of tricks. It really got me excited, and as I grew up, I started doing every kind of ski trick I could do.”

Harwood moved to Lanier 20 years ago and began skiing with people like Chris Wakefield and Woodall, who taught him to barefoot.

“We used to go up into narrow areas of the lake and ski, sometimes only about 30 feet off of docks,” he said. “When I first started I was black and blue for days, but it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

These days, most skiers travel to smaller lakes with less boat traffic to hone their skills and fine-tune their tricks.

The group has a Facebook page at Lake Lanier Barefoot Run for more information.