Pondering what drew him to the sport of barefoot water-skiing, Adam Lehner settles on a simple yet insightful phrase.
“I like to go fast,” he says with a grin. “It’s a high-speed, fast-paced kind of thing.”
Indeed, adrenaline seems to be the common denominator in the 17-year-old Abbotsford native’s athletic pursuits. While so many other kids his age are into mainstream team sports like hockey or soccer, he’s more interested in BMX, snowmobiling and barefoot water-skiing.
Among the towed watersports, “barefooting,” as its devotees refer to it, holds a particular draw for thrill-seekers. It’s a simple matter of physics – because a person’s foot represents a smaller “planing surface” than a water ski or wakeboard, higher speeds are required to keep the skier up.
As such, simply getting upright with nothing but the soles of your feet on the water is a hard-earned skill, as Lehner demonstrated during a training session at Silvermere Lake on Monday morning.
Attempting to ski backwards (backwards!), he’s dragged face-down in the water while gripping the tow rope behind his back, before spreading his feet out and putting them down on the surface as the boat accelerates. In a matter of seconds, he’s able to pull himself up to a standing position.
“And the falls are bad, because you’re going faster,” Lehner notes with a chuckle. “When you’re going 40 miles per hour (65 km/h), the water feels more like concrete than water. It’s painful at times, but it’s fun.”
Lehner and other up-and-coming barefooters from around the province will be strutting their stuff this weekend in Abbotsford, as Albert Dyck Park plays host to the BC Games towed watersports competitions. The bulk of the Games will be centered in Surrey, and over 2,300 athletes will be participating.
This week’s event marks Lehner’s second trip to the BC Games – he won a pair of silver medals in the junior boys tricks and slalom events in 2010.
“I want a gold medal,” says Lehner, who is going into Grade 12 this fall at Abbotsford Senior. “But it’s not so much about placing as a goal for me, but more about personal bests. I’m hoping to get a good trick score – my best is 580, and I’m hoping to get to 1,000 or more.”
Sherry Blackmore, barefoot director for Waterski & Wakeboard B.C., is Lehner’s coach. She said that the opportunity for her athletes to be part of a multi-sport festival like the BC Games is an invaluable experience.
“I think the BC Games are amazing, and I’m so glad we keep them going,” she said. “It’s so good for the kids, and to watch their faces and be a part of it. It’s like an Olympic sport for them.”
LARGE ABBY CONTINGENT AT BC GAMES
Lehner is one of 53 Abbotsford athletes at the BC Games, and the bulk of the local delegation is comprised of wrestling and rugby athletes.
The Fraser Valley boys rugby team features Chris Combs, Mathew Himpfer, Evan Johnston, Caleb Lamboo, Colton Lavaie, Mathew Ponte, Joel Ratzlaff, Thomas Rennie and Tristyn Spathelfer. Sophia DeGianni, Gurpreet Dhaliwal, Autumn Garrett, Lauren Kerr, Kay Olsen, Tiffany Picketts and Shelby Pihl are on the girls squad.
Local grapplers at the Games include Monisha Bajwa, Harman Basran, Austin Batra, Pooja Batra, Amrit Benning, Manvir Brar, Courtenay Chippeway, Matt Dignan, Aman Kaler, Devin Purewal, Sajjan Randhawa and Dave Sharma.
Paige Bergen, Tim Bertness, Jeewan Grewal, Hannah Konrad, Spencer Spenst and Alicia Unruh will be competing in track and field, while the boys volleyball team includes Jordan Koslowsky, Quinn Sojonky and Jonah Swanson.
On the diamond, baseball players Marshall Abrey, Corey Jackson and Matthew Selinger will represent the Fraser Valley, as will softball players Chelsea Hotner and Noelle Johnson.
The boys basketball team features Riley Braich, Chase Clark, Mandave Dhadda, Gagandeep Gill, Jordyn Sekhon and Michael Vanderwerff.
Equestrian athletes Emma Darvill and Janelle Roed and synchronized swimmer Alanna Stobbe round out the local contingent.
• For more information on the BC Games, visit bcgames.org.