Jacob Viger took lessons from world-class barefoot water skier David Small on Ten Mile Lake near Dalton.
Jacob Viger took lessons from world-class barefoot water skier David Small on Ten Mile Lake near Dalton.

Archived Story

Ski enthusiast hopes to see sport popular again

Published 10:56am Tuesday, July 1, 2014 Updated 5:15pm Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Doug Koch, a member of the bare footing organization that brought the World Championships to Fergus Falls in the 1990s, is hoping to see a resurgence of recreational skiing, which seems to have diminished in popularity with the growth of such water activities as tubing, wake boarding and knee boarding.

As he looks toward retirement this summer, he is toying with the idea of teaching kids recreational water skiing.

“I’ve thought about (teaching kids to water ski) not bare footing, not competitively, but just for the fun of skiing,” he said. “First I want to just enjoy the lake, but there are some neighbor kids I want to teach how to ski. If there are others, I’d be willing to teach them how to ski, too.”

He would first like to enjoy the lake for a little while and he’d like to get a feel for what kind of interest people might have in learning to ski.

“I haven’t thought it all the way through yet,” he said, adding, “I’d take them in whatever direction they want to go.”

Koch learned how to ski when he was 8, he said, on a rope behind a boat.

“At that time, I took some hard falls,” he said. “If you lost your balance, down you went.” Now, what he calls short cuts, such as a boom off the side of the boat help eliminate those hard falls.

Remembering those early skiing experiences, he also remembered his mother spending hours and hours pulling him on skis.

“She’s 90 years old now and living at the Barrett Care Center,” he said. “She doesn’t remember it anymore, but I sure remember it. It was pretty special.”

When he was 59, David Small, a former competitive barefoot water skier, taught him how to get up on shoe skis and it was “a blast,” Koch said.

One of the things he would like to do is learn to barefoot ski and compete in a tournament, he said.

As far as cost of the sport, Koch said, it’s not prohibitive to do, though it can be depending on how hard an enthusiast wants to pursue it.

“Really, all you need is a boat, a good rope and some skis,” he said. “If you really want to get into it, there are some expensive boats, out there. There’s not much difference in the skis; the cost is in the price of what’s pulling you.”


In a previous version of this article, The Journal misquoted Doug Koch on the skill sets needed for water sport activities. 

“I never meant to give the impression that skills are not needed to wakeboard or kneeboard,” Koch said. “In fact, some of the more difficult tricks in wakeboarding and kneeboarding take a very high level of skill.”  

Wakeboarding and kneeboarding, just as conventional waterskiing and barefooting are all recognized sport divisions of USA Water Ski, which is recognized by the US Olympic Committee as the national governing body of waterskiing activities, Koch said.  Other sport divisions of USA Water Ski include show skiing, ski racing, water skiing with disabilities, collegiate skiing and hydrofoiling. 

Visit www.usawaterski.org for more information on any of these sport divisions of USA Water Ski. 

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