To duct tape or not to duct tape?

Duct tape was allowed for use by competitors at Footstock’s Nationa Figure Eight Barefoot Championship from 1990-2004. In fact, it’s usage was made famous by “Duct Tape” Jack Schuller during the mid 90’s on Clear Lake. Over the years, dozens of skiers have used it in cases of cuts and severe bruising, all without notice. In 2006, Footstock banned the use of duct tape by its competitors due to pressure from the skiers. But now with the increasing number of record runs, and to help skiers avoid the risk of permanent damage to their feet, Footstock is once again allowing the use of duct tape. Now, Footstock Co-founder, Gary Mueller debates the issue with his brother, popular, long-time announcer, Dave Mueller on the issue of whether duct tape should or shouldn’t be allowed at Footstock.

For Duct Tape (by Gary Mueller )

Dave you whiny, washed-up hack of a barefooter. You’re the same kind of Neandrethal that would like to see hockey goalies go back to not using masks and football players go back to using leather helmets and no pads. Be honest,you’re probably one of the idiots that wanted to see disabled golfer Casey Martin walk the Masters, rather than ride it, because somehow that would give him an advantage over Tiger Woods.

Dave, are you honestly trying to tell me you think that a barefooter wearing a small layer of duct tape is somehow going to give them a competitive advantage? Have you lost your mind? We’re not talking about baseball players corking bats or wide receivers wearing stickem’ on their hands. We’re talking about a tiny piece of tape to protect a person’s feet from permanent damage. No different from a quarterback who dons a flack jacket or a basketball player who wears a protective face mask to guard a broken nose.

If anything, duct tape can be more of a disadvantage. Because it often bundles up in the middle of a run, creating drag and a major distraction to the skier.

You probably don’t care, but the vision of Footstock was to build a national championship event that was safe, competitive and fun.

Why do you think we banned Clincher-style gloves? Not because they gave skiers a competitive edge, but to keep competitors safe. To protect the weekend warriors like me who need every advantage and might do so without knowing the potential for injury. Which is the same reason, we allow a minimal use of duct tape.

Of course, if you had it your way, weekend barefooters like me, would either just damage their feet in competition to the point of permanent damage or not enter at all. Skiers like 4-time champion Pete Fleck, who literally burned holes in his feet because of his runs at Footstock, would have to give up the sport altogether. Other 3-event barefooters, like World Champ Keith St Onge, might choose not to come to Footstock at all if their only option to be competitive was to risk severe damage to their feet.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed Dave, but the sport of barefooting is small enough already. Is it that terribly wrong to allow a handful of people the smallest protection of their feet so that they can compete? I understand some people’s desire to keep barefooting pure, but Footstock has always tried to appeal to the masses rather than simply the hardcore fringe of the sport, like three-event footing does.

Because believe it or not Dave, our goal is to move more people into the sport of barefooting. Not out of it.

You know, there will always be competitors that can’t accept the real reason why they lose. They have to blame the seedings, the coin flip, the judges or the boat speed. As both a former Tournament Director and Chief Judge, I have heard them all. But the fact is, duct tape offers a Figure Eight barefooter about as much of a competitive advantage as the brand of wetsuit they wear. (By the way, if you want to argue that one too, Chris Barnhart won two Footstock championships and two seconds wearing nothing but cut-offs and a vest.)

Against Duct Tape (by Dave Mueller)

Gary you booty-wearing, cry baby of a barefooter. What part of the word “barefoot” don’t you understand? I don’t know how you define it, but I looked it up in Webster’s, and it clearly states that a bare foot means “with the feet bare,” or “feet with the absence of any covering or protective surface.”

Hmm. No mention of duct tape.

Isn’t the whole idea of a barefoot endurance competition in large part how much pain you can endure? Maybe you should allow people the chance to call timeout during their run as well, when they see waves that are too scary or their arms start to get tired. Maybe for the people that struggle with the turns, we should give the option of barefooting from a boom.

Last time I checked Footstock was a National Championship. Not an entry-level tournament for beginning barefooters. I agree, that one of the strengths of the tournament is it’s inclusiveness. But do you really want to risk changing the very nature of the sport by eliminating the “bare” part of barefooting?

I realize that the addition of many top 3-event barefooters to the field makes Footstock more exciting and helps draw more skiers and fans. I also understand that many of these career barefooters may wish to protect their feet against damage. But you’ll never see Keith St Onge with duct tape on his feet. Or Marc Donahue or Chris Van Zeeland. I don’t care how many eights they do. Or how sore their feet get.

I don’t have a problem with rules that protect the skier’s. I totally agree with the tournament safety rules banning clinchers. I also agree with the rule that disqualifies competitors from drinking and skiing, and putting their arms through the handle to rest. All potentially dangerous behaviors. But sore feet? C’mon Gary. What do you own stock in Duct Tape?

You also used words like “small layer” and “minimal use” in relation to the amount of duct tape people used to protect their feet last year. Were you at last year’s tournament or were you too busy icing your feet down to see the excessive amount of tape used on some competitor’s feet? C’mon Gary.

I have a better idea. Why don’t you create another division for cry babies like yourself. You can call it the , “Open Duct Tape” division. Maybe run it in Saturday night after all the real barefooters have skied. The only criteria for entry would be if you have baby-soft feet and a low threshold for pain.
Heck Gary, who knows, you might even do well for a change. Unless, of course, Pete Fleck and Marc Donahue enter. Then you’re screwed.

On second thought, I change my mind. I think duct tape should be allowed at this year’s Footstock. But only to cover the mouths of the whiners who can’t handle barefooting the way it was intended – on only their “bare” feet.