Feet on Fire Heats Up Downtown Orlando

The epic barefoot battles returned for another year of insane action on Lake Jennie-Jewel

May 24, 2019
Feet on Fire kicks off at Lake Jennie-Jewel
Barefoot action returned to the shores of Lake Jennie-Jewel at the latest Feet on Fire even in Orlando. Garrett Cortese

Feet on Fire began as a group of wakeboarders with show skiers thinking of something fun to do in their spare time, barefoot style. Over the years it has become one of the most popular contests for athletes and fans alike. This year it returned to The Waterfront bar and restaurant on Lake Jennie-Jewel in downtown Orlando and the action both on and off the water were all time. The event’s creator and host, Danny Amir (better known as DanO the Mano and the Noise of the North) outdid himself with another day full of fun, excitement, and camaraderie, not to mention the unique trophies he presented to each winner – a collection of antique skis he’s spent months tracking down and customizing.

The rules of Feet on Fire have always been about one thing: fun.

  • No pro barefooters.
  • 32 competitors total, 5 rounds of action.
  • Head-to-head battles each round, barefooter that lasts the longest wins and advances.
  • No barefoot suits allowed, just boardshorts (or whatever variation of boardshorts you want… denim, Speedo, etc.)
  • Showboating is encouraged.
JD Webb and Ron Scarpa battle it out
Feet on Fire kicked off with a special round between wakeboarder JD Webb and his former coach, legendary barefooter Ron Scarpa. Garrett Cortese

For the first time ever at a Feet on Fire, there was a special opening ceremony of sorts. The 2x reigning champ (and 3x past winner) JD Webb had a head-to-head battle with one of the most legendary barefooters of all time, Ron Scarpa. To make this barefoot kickoff extra special, Scarpa was once Webb’s coach back when Webb was young and training to be part of ski shows, so the two have shared a bond for decades. Just to prove that he still had it, Scarpa took the victory from his former pupil, but there was already talk of a rematch next year. For his win, Scarpa was awarded a special Cypress Gardens Aqua King ski as a trophy.

Ron Scarpa barefooting
Look who’s still got it… Scarpa showing his former protege how it’s still done. Garrett Cortese
Scarpa and Webb laughing
Scarpa and Webb share a laugh while Scarpa gets his Aqua King prize. Garrett Cortese
DanO barefooting
DanO the ManO with a solid step off in his first round battle. Garrett Cortese
Shaun Murray and Parks Bonifay dressed wacky
Wakeboarding legends Shaun Murray and Parks Bonifay dressed for the occasion. Garrett Cortese
Crowds watching Feet on Fire
The shore along The Waterfront was packed to catch all the action and join in on the fun. Garrett Cortese

As has always been the case with Feet on Fire – and what has always made it such a special event, the athlete roster was a who’s-who of watersports legends, both past and present. From iconic wakeboarders like Parks and Shane Bonifay, Shaun Murray, and Zane Schwenk to younger wake athletes like Jake Pelot, Cole Kraiss, and Jake Ramsdell to a hall-of-famer like Tom Weber, the list of competitors itself was a sight to behold. Seeing all of them have fun with competing against each other is what makes Feet on Fire so special. That, and the crashes.

Reed Hansen loses to Zane Schwenk
Wakeskater Reed Hansen goes down in the first round to the incomparable Zane Schwenk. Garrett Cortese
Bob Soven beating Erik Ruck
After a decade away from the action, Bob Soven returned to Feet on Fire and took out Erik Ruck in the first round. Garrett Cortese
Guenther Oka on the mic
Wakeboarder Guenther Oka on the mic while DanO competed. Garrett Cortese
Jake Snider won second in "Best Step Off"
Filmmaker Jake Snider took home his second “Best Step Off” Award by stomping two two-footed bomb outs in his heats. Garrett Cortese
Tom Weber showing how it's done
Legendary Water Ski Hall-of-Famer Tom Weber showing the young bucks how it’s done. Garrett Cortese

Throughout the day there were both major upsets and predictable results. The biggest surprise was 2x defending champ JD Webb going down in the first round. That put every other competitor a little more at ease right away. Longtime Feet on Fire veterans like Zane Schwenk and Chip Fernandez made deep runs through the field. Ultimately it came down to Fernandez and wakeskater Jake Ramsdell for the title of 2019 Feet on Fire champion. Fernandez had been to multiple finals of Feet on Fire in the past, but has yet to win it. Ramsdell, a former amateur show skier from Ohio, was in just his second Feet on Fire contest looking for glory. When it was all said and done, Ramsdell lasted longer than Fernandez and came away victorious.

Old skis and a new Ski Nautique
Old skis and a brand new Ski Nautique – the perfect pair at an event like Feet on Fire. Garrett Cortese
Fernandez and Ramsdell skiing
Fernandez and Ramsdell in the final match. Garrett Cortese
The winning barefooter
A celebratory hoisting for the wakeskater turned barefoot champ. Garrett Cortese

A variety of awards were giving out by DanO following the contest, including a special tribute to the late Pete Bonifay, father of wakeboarders Parks and Shane. Back when Feet on Fire was getting started on Clear Lake, Peter could often be seen in the mix to watch the action, tell his famous stories (like being the first person to barefoot ski using his hands), and co-announce with DanO. Much of the Bonifay family was in attendance and the toast was a sentimental touch that we all know Peter B. would have approved of.

Parks Bonifay and Erik Ruck
Parks Bonifay and Erik Ruck were inducted into the Feet on Fire Hall of Fame (or Hall of Feet) after the event. Garrett Cortese
Chip Fernandez and Zane Schwenk
The Endurance Award went to Chip Fernandez and Zane Schwenk, whose semifinal battle lasted an incredible length – almost four full laps around the course. Garrett Cortese
Feet on Fire winners
2019 Feet on Fire Podium: 1st – Jake Ramsdell; 2nd – Chip Fernandez; 3rd – Zane Schwenk & Hunter Hanson Garrett Cortese

Cheers to Pete Bonifay; the man, the myth, the legend.

Peter Bonifay in Clear Lake
Peter B. taking a swim in Clear Lake at Foot on Fire 2009. Garrett Cortese

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