Wind, waves dominate Footstock as Marc Donahue takes the National Open Championship

Crandon, Wisconsin – It’s called the National Championship of Endurance Barefooting, but at this year’s Footstock competition, it was more about survival. For two days strong winds buffeted the famed, mile-long Peshtigo Lake figure eight course, as 117 of the world’s best barefoot water skiers battled to see who could barefoot the farthest.

In the end, Indiana’s Marc Donahue beat four-time Champ, Jon DeBelak for his second Open National Championship.

“I am so happy right now,” said an exhausted Donahue moments after winning. “I really thought Jon was going to win the run-off. He’s so tough to beat. He had the driver’s side, which I figured was an advantage, but he caught a toe in the cross-rollers and I hung on.”

Unlike last year, where runs of two, three and even four figure eights was common, only seven pairs of skiers completed full laps around the course, with the longest run coming in the Championship round on Sunday, as Marc Donahue outlasted Jon Debelak in an epic 4-1/2 lap battle to force a run-off which Marc eventually won.

Besides the uncharacteristically rough water, the biggest stories of the weekend, were the continuing emergence of Junior skiers Owen Schattschneider and Van Coda, as well as the domination of Canada’s Wayne King in the Masters and Senior Divisions.

Last year’s junior runner-up, Schattschneider along with last year’s Junior National Champ, Coda had two of the three figure eights that were completed on Saturday out of over 165 runs. This year it was Owen’s turn to take home the Junior championship. He also finished 7th in the Open division. Coda meanwhile, moved up the Open leaderboard to take third place, showing the world that he is ready to challenge for the title.

On Sunday, Wayne King became only the third person in Footstock history to win multiple divisions in the same year, taking both the Masters and Senior’s National Championships. King, who also finished 12th in Open, had 12 wins over the two days, more than any other competitor.

On the women’s side, if was rematch of last year’s showdown between Sophie and Ella Miljevich. This year, it was Sophie’s turn to take back the title from her sister.

But it was the wind and rough water that was the talk of the tournament. Saturday strong winds out of the southwest battered the back side of the course, while Sunday a steady north wind made the step-off area look like a demolition derby, as dozens of competitors crashed just missing their step-offs.

“This was like the good old days of Footstock,” explained New Zeeland’s Ben Groen. “From the minute you stepped off you were in rough water. There was nowhere to rest. The fact that anyone could do a figure eight in these conditions is incredible.

In all 117 barefooters competed in the grueling, two-day championship which pits the world’s best endurance barefoot skier head-to-head over a mile and half, figure eight course. The championship also features the biggest cash prize in all of barefooting with over $,6000 handed out to the winners.