Teen wins gold in national barefoot ski championship

Penticton's Aaron Leaman won three gold medals in the 2016 Barefoot Nationals in Ontario.

AARON LEAMAN won three gold medals in the 2016 Barefoot National championships in Ontario. It was his debut in national competition.

AARON LEAMAN won three gold medals in the 2016 Barefoot National championships in Ontario. It was his debut in national competition.

Aaron Leaman’s love for barefoot water skiing started on Skaha Lake.

Leaman, 15, hit the lake with his family on their boat and got immersed in water skiing, wake boarding and eventually fell in love with barefoot.

“I picked that up and tried competing right around the age of 12,” said Leaman. “It’s really cool. Skiing on your bare feet, it’s pretty rare. It’s fun to do and it’s fun to watch.”

Three years after competing, Leaman found himself in the 2016 Barefoot Nationals in Greater Napanee, Ont. Aug. 4 to 7 after repeating as the B.C. Junior Boys champ in 2015. He was able to push aside nerves to capture gold in tricks, slalom (one foot) and overall.

“It was a pretty big accomplishment. I was pretty ecstatic,” said Leaman. “Really, I was just getting mentally prepared for the 2018 worlds coming up again in Ontario.

“I just had to right my mind,” he continued. “Think about right now and just do my run. I didn’t break any of my records. I felt under par. For the first time competing at that level, I think I did pretty good. I was mentally putting myself against the older guys there.”

Leaman competed in juniors, which was 17 and under entries, with only three other competitors. Leaman admitted it was disappointing to have so few competitors in nationals, but said the sport isn’t as big in Canada compared to other countries. The older age group featured nearly a dozen competitors.

“The environment around it was really good. A lot of good friends,” he said. “People there were great. Really good competition.”

One thing that gave Leaman an edge is his background from downhill skiing with the Apex Ski Club.

“It helps a lot with my balance,” he said. “I think it gave me quite the advantage.”