The man needs no introduction, so I’ll keep it short and
sweet. Ron Scarpa is one of those guys you meet and instantly feel
like you’ve known him for years. His warm and colorful
personality is contagious, which is why barefooting couldn’t
have asked for a better ambassador of the sport. On the water
– the dude’s a magician. Ron’s execution of
high-level tricks is a thing of beauty to watch. Call him Mr.
Clean. With countless world records and four Overall World
Championship titles (and counting) spanning a 26-year competitive
career, he still gets stoked to find that early morning
WaterSki: Do you recall your first photo in WaterSki
Ron: I don’t know, I can’t recall. It’s been
too long. I believe it was a cover shot in 1980 or 1981. It was
tied in with an instructional feature.
Does that make you feel old?
You know what, it’s a rare occurrence when I feel old. I
Does it bother you that you could be the father of some of your
Not at all. Does it bother them that someone as old as their dad
can kick their butt? I’m just kidding. I get along with all
of the younger guys I compete against and at one point or another
I’ve either trained with them or coached them.
Describe the level of your competition today versus 15 years
The atmosphere is similar. The barefoot guys are generally fun
to hang out with and it’s a good environment. Back then there
was probably only one guy who could beat me, but now there are
several guys that are really good skiers. Now you have to ski well
every time you hit the water.
What makes you happy?
A lot of things! I’m a lover of life. I’m an
optimistic guy. I love cruising over a glass-calm lake in the
morning. I love spending time with my wife and kids. It keeps me
from going postal.
What ticks you off?
There aren’t too many things that burn me and it
doesn’t last too long either. Although, PWCs spoiling a
glassy day is one of ’em.
Here’s something I’ve pondered many times while
editing barefoot photos: What is it that makes a footer pose and
flex during their run?
’Cause we can. Nah, we’re trying to showcase what
we’re doing with some style. There’s something about
going 40 mph across the water on your bare feet that’s
indescribable. It inspires your ego to shine. Now, I don’t
know about the Atlas pose, but I think everything else is pretty
Maybe competitive bodybuilding is an option for some barefooters
out there. What’s your favorite pose?
The side slide with the “hang loose” hand gesture.
It’s a super-hard move but when you throw in the hang sign it
makes it look effortless.
What’s your favorite trick?
The front to back, because it’s the key to more advanced
tricks. It’s super-easy once you learn how to perform it
consistently, but it’s extremely hard to learn.
Have you suffered any concussions, memory loss, broken bones or
torn ligaments in your lengthy tenure as a professional
Concussions? Yes. Memory loss? I think I have, but I can’t
remember. Broken bones? Yes. Torn ligaments? Yes, probably over a
Damn, how do you wake up in the morning?
With a smile.
Describe your worst crash.
I had a pretty good jump crash doing an ESPN shoot one time. It
was a monster jump! I landed perfect, but I landed hard and broke
forward. The buckle from my back brace got lodged under my rib cage
and broke my sternum. After the accident my heart was not beating
normal and I was having trouble breathing. The cardiologist
confirmed that I had bruised my heart and my internal injuries were
comparable to those from a head-on collision. I guess that’s
what I get for wanting to go 15 feet high and 44 mph on my bare
What can be done to bring more people into the sport of
Spread the word on how easy it is. Also, better coaching. You
can get pummeled if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If most people learned the way that I coach at my school, I think a
lot more people would be encouraged to do it.
You’re quite the promoter, aren’t you! do you enjoy
any other water-skiing disciplines?
Slalom skiing. It’s a great workout.
What’s your slalom course performance?
2 at 32 off at 36 mph. Not bad for a short guy, huh?
How much longer do you see yourself competing?
As long as I have a chance to win I’ll keep on doing it. I
hope I never have to retire, honestly.