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 butter.
WaterSki: Do you recall your first photo in WaterSki magazine?
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 feel lucky!
Does it bother you that you could be the father of some of your toughest competition?
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 ago.
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 cool.
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 barefooter?
Concussions? Yes. Memory loss? I think I have, but I can’t remember. Broken bones? Yes. Torn ligaments? Yes, probably over a dozen times.
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 feet.
What can be done to bring more people into the sport of barefooting?
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.
By Todd Ristorcelli
Ron Scarpa earns a place in the record books:
At the conclusion of the 2000 World Barefoot Championships on August 27th, Ron Scarpa walked away with four Gold medals and one Bronze, earning a solo place for himself in the Guinness book of world records. Prior to this competition, Ron shared a place with Barefoot Great, Brett Wing, as barefooters who held the most overall World titles, which was three (Guinness Book-Millennia Edition). By adding another Overall win, the record now belongs to Ron with a total of four Overall World titles, three of which have been consecutive. In addition to having the most Overall World titles, Ron also has the most single event World titles. Ron’s accomplishments to date make him the barefooter to possess the greatest amount of Gold individual titles ever.
The final day of competition at the 2000 Worlds in Fergus Falls, MN started a bit slow for Ron with a Bronze in slalom. However, the Trick event heated the Raging Bull up quickly, as the top five skiers pulled out all the stops to win the Trick event and knock Scarpa from his overall position. Top seed and World record holder, Ron put together two smooth, classic Scarpa passes to secure his fifth Trick title, while giving no ground in the overall race.
The final and most spectacular event of the day was Jump. Ron narrowly made the final field of five with a jump of 23.9 meters, which put him the first jumper on the water. Ron said he was very confident in jump after winning the U.S. Open two weeks prior to the Worlds. “I worked very hard on my jumping this season and had a lot of confidence in my ability to win. After making it through the elimination rounds at the U.S. Open and winning, I think many people were surprised,” said Scarpa. “I jumped off against Jon Kretchman, Brett New, and Peter Fleck, and came out on top. That would give anyone jump confidence.” In the final round at Worlds, Scarpa’s first jump was a personal best of 25.5 meters, (83.7 feet). From that point, everyone chased after Ron, but couldn’t quite catch him. Ron collected his second Gold of the day and his first Gold Jump medal in 18 years, since winning at the 1982 Worlds in Acapulco. The winning jump secured Ron’s fourth Overall victory as well as a permanent place in barefooting history.
SCARPA’S GOLD MEDAL RUN AT A GLANCE:
1980: California – 3rd in slalom – 3rd Overall
1982: Mexico – 1st in Jump
1984: Australia – 1st in slalom – 2nd in tricks – 2nd Overall
1986: Germany – 1st in slalom – 2nd in tricks – 2nd Overall
1988: Australia – 1st in slalom – 2nd in tricks – 2nd Overall
1990: Florida – 1st in tricks – 2nd in slalom – 2nd Overall
1992: England – 1st in tricks – 1st in slalom – 1st Overall
1994: Australia – 2nd in tricks – 2nd Overall
1996: Minnesota – 1st in tricks – 1st Overall
1998: Australia – 1st in tricks – 1st Overall
2000: Minnesota – 1st in jump – 1st in tricks – 3rd in slalom – 1st Overall