Sophomore Ryleigh Stenson is one of the only people at Buffalo High School who participates in barefoot water skiing. She is currently on team USA through World Barefoot Center located in Florida. Her hard work and dedication has led her to be ranked number five in the world for junior skiers.
Ryleigh Stenson started skiing when she was four years old. She grew up skiing because her father did it in his life. He was her first coach and helped her develop basic skills and techniques using the boom. When she was thirteen years old she started long line, which made her dad extremely proud. In 2015 or 2016 she became very dedicated and started to take bare footing very seriously.
Ryleigh has become very dedicated, and prepares for season by weight lifting, and exercising to keep in shape, during the winter. In the spring and summer months she goes down to the World Barefoot Center, a ski school in Florida for a few weeks at a time. At this ski school she practice from 8 am to 3 pm with a lunch break in between. The high quality coaching at the ski school has helped Ryleigh improve by great amounts. When she isn’t in Florida practicing, she’s on the lake everyday getting more practice hours in.
In the summer Ryleigh Stenson puts in long hours to improve her skills and technique. It takes hard and long practice to get new skills as a bare footer, because it takes a lot of mental strength to go for new skills. Bare footing can be a dangerous sport when your going 40 mph or faster, but nothing beats the feeling of getting a new trick, or making an improvement you have been working at for a long time.
Her improvements over the years have led her to do exceptionally well in competitions. Ryleigh is on Team USA through the World Barefoot Center, and went to worlds last year. Her team competed in Canada last year for worlds and got gold as a team. Along with doing well as a team, she took third in a couple of the events she competed individually. Her dedication has led her to be sponsored by the ski school. Being sponsored comes with additional pressure of doing well. Ryleigh has done an outstanding job of adjusting to this added pressure and is currently ranked fifth in the world for junior skiers.
During season, Ryleigh will participate in tournaments all around the country, competing in three events. The three events include, jumps, tricks, and slalom. Her strongest, and favorite event is tricks, and the hardest event for Ryleigh is slalom. Slalom is the hardest for her because the faster speed of 43 mph is more challenging, and results in much harder falls.
Being a bare footer comes with many challenges, because of how brutal of a sport it is, when falling is inevitable.
One of the hardest things about this sport is, “taking fall after fall, and still trying to get back up, to learn your skill or get better” said Ryleigh.
This sport can be extremely frustrating with the continuous effort of learning and improving. Ryleigh is supported by her Florida teammates, and her team is one of her favorite things about bare footing.
“In the community of barefoot water skiing, everyone is super supportive and they know what’s it’s like to be a bare footer” said Ryleigh Stenson.
Ryleigh’s strong relationship with her teammates, love and dedication for bare footing has helped her improve greatly in the past few years, and she plans to do it for as long as her body allows her to. The variety of tricks, and the ability to constantly improve, leads to there being something new everyday. She’s currently fifth in the world, and is working hard to improve for the upcoming season.
Photo by Ryleigh Stenson