words: Paul MacDonald || photo: Bill Doster
As a kid growing up in Polk County Florida, Drew Johnson practically lived on the water, riding surfboards, wakeboards, slalom skis and anything else that he could get his feet on. A decade after his skiing obsession began, he learned how to barefoot behind the family boat, and that’s when his addiction really took over. He became a constant fixture at Ron Scarpa’s Watersports, learning everything he could about the sport. But his love for the water was put to the test in December 2009. While riding his motorcycle to a family Christmas dinner, Johnson was hit by an SUV. “The vehicle connected with my left leg first, so it wasn’t a good scene,” Johnson says. On the helicopter ride to the hospital, the medic told him to prepare for amputation – as if that’s something one can ever do. Remarkably, Johnson didn’t fear losing his leg. “I knew there were good prosthetics available, so I wasn’t too worried about it,” he says.
Two months after emergency surgery to remove his lower left leg, Johnson was back in the boat and ready to try skiing again. “The doctors cleared me to get back in the water, but I don’t think barefooting is what they had in mind,” he says. On the very first pull, he stood up as though nothing had ever happened and, without trying, inspired a boatload of footers to never give up, no matter what life throws at you. He’s a true inspiration to all water skiiers.