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