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Hey there my fellow barefoot warrior, this will be a departure but I hope this newsletter will be helpful. I have received a request to write an article about equipment, and I have decided to include the actual request and then answer the questions individually. I welcome all of you to submit well thought out questions such as these which I will be happy to answer! I hope you all enjoy this!
Would it be worth while to do an article on barefoot gear?
There are a few questions I have, most of which can probably wait until I
see you to ask your opinion on.
1) Are Spectra Lines worth the extra money for average footers? BarefootIntl. claims that Spectra is too hard on your joints and says Mike S. doesnot use one and of course recommends there Tak line. Is this Fact ofFiction? Should the Spectra be used for Trick runs only and Tak or Poly Efor other events and endurance skiing?
2) Could there be any advantage of wearing a helmet for learning skills other than jumping? Surface turns and Backward tricks come to mind on this one. I have busted an ear drum by landing on the side of my head. Could / Should ear plugs be worn for ear protection
3) Do neck braces reduce neck pain while learning Backward footing ect. ?They seem to make it more difficult to achieve perfect posture and glide.
4) Are there any suggestion for getting or keeping feet tough during the winter months when skiing is limited?
5) There are even more questions that lend more to personal preferences likegloves and shorts yes or no. sleeves Vs no sleeves. ect.
I am most interested in the rope question (1). I had planned to get a Spectra line in the near future but I already have some shoulder problemsand I don’t want to aggravate it any more than necessary.
Question #1 Spectra line is very expensive ( we sell it for around $90). For the average footer, this is not necessary, but many people want to use what the top skiers use. I personally use it and teach with it. Is it necessary? No. Is it the best line out there? Yes. Is it worth the extra money? For me it is because there is absolutely nothing else out there like it. It makes me feel like I am on the boom when I use it in combination with a Tower or Skylon (I will include a picture of my set-up…see attachment). I have tried Barefoot International’s TAK line and found it to be bungee like a poly-e rope. Mike said it must have not been stretched out, but I tried to stretch it out more to no avail. For those of you for whom money is not a problem, the spectra is for you. If you are on a budget, get a poly-e barefoot rope for $30 and do not think twice about it!
Just to clear the air, spectra is used in ALL three barefoot events in tournaments now! If I were doing long distance endurance barefooting, I would prefer a poly-e, but if you are tournament barefooting, bite the bullet and get the equipment that you will use in tournaments!
Question #2 I have several students who use helmets at all times. It might be no coincidence that they are doctors. They see a lot of head injuries and feel that a light helmet like those used in surfing gives them a good feeling of safety! I couldn’t agree more. If you are very nervous about an ear drum problem or excess blows to the head, I can not think of any reason to steer you away from wearing a helmet. Learning turns can bring a mighty tough guy to his knees and I am sure I would have suffered less during this process if I had worn a helmet. Follow your instincts here and do what you think provides the most protection without hindering your performance! Of course, a helmet is REQUIRED for ALL barefoot jumping!
As far as ear plugs, I do not recommend wearing them to protect from impact, but I know some people wear them to fight water from getting in their ears and infecting them. Never use any ear plugs that are not approved by a doctor.
Question #3 I am a big believer in neck braces for the purposes of protecting your neck in the learning phases of many of the barefoot skills. Backwards, surface turns, and jumping would be most certainly great times to wear a neck brace. I used to ski with someone in a major ski school who told students NOT to wear neck braces as they would not need them if their form was good. This person now wears a neck brace for almost everything and it brings a smile to my face every time I see it.
Just to let you know, I have broken my neck one time barefooting and another time jumping into a pool (I never claimed to be a rocket scientist!). I am very sympathetic to neck injuries and make it a personal goal to keep my students as free from any neck pain as possible. For this reason, I encourage the use of neck braces. We have two types which can be viewed on our website. One is for basic protection, and the other is the full-on big daddy of all neck braces and should be worn by anyone who has been told to exercise extreme caution because of a previous neck injury. You can call my partner, Richard Gray at the barefoot company to discuss this further or you can email me and I will forward it on to him.
YES! It is more difficult to ski in a perfect backwards position while wearing a neck brace, but you can get used to it and the discomfort of being restricted is a small price to pay to live to talk about it another day!
Question #4 I have never tried any off season feet toughening techniques but I know that the more that you let your feet out of shoes and socks, the tougher they become. I have always wanted to experiment with wearing some sand in my socks to see if it helps toughen feet! Let me know if any of you have any ideas. I do not recommend power tools for toughening your feet (hee hee). Never do anything that could harm your arches or the general health of your feet! I just remembered that I used to wear those prickly inserts in my shoes which massaged my feet and definitely toughened them a bit, but you have to be careful not to over do it. As with anything, always use moderation and consult a physician before doing anything too extreme!
Question #5 Gloves? I really enjoy not wearing them as I love the feel of rubber melting in my hands! I used to wear gloves and once I got used to skiing without them I felt liberated! Hey, aren’t there enough expenses in this sport anyway? I say NO! The only time I think it would be helpful is if you are in a ski school situation and your hands are not tough enough because of limited use. Other people have soft hands and like to keep them that way! I would never frown on my beautiful wife trying not to get calluses. If you are cold it might be another good reason to wear gloves. This is personal preference, but I would steer any long term student of mine away from them.
Padded shorts? An absolute YES! If you are tricking over 6000 points, then you might not touch your butt that much. For anyone else who is not ranked in the top 5 in the world, I would definitely use them without fail!
Sleeves? I do not like sleeves and I am not sure why they even exist. No, they are not necessary for tumbles. No, they do not keep you warmer. Most people who are concerned about warmth use a “heater shirt.” Again, this is a personal choice, but I would steer you away from short sleeve suits unless you hate the look of your shoulders and biceps. The additional freedom and better fit of a good “cap sleeve” cut is far superior. As a personal note, I know there has been a lot of banter between rival ski schools about this subject and I will not extend this argument further. I will not reply to emails crying about this subject as it is not that important. If you love short sleeves, great! You can still achieve your miracles without wasting energy on this specific argument. If you are looking to emulate the top skiers in the world (a great idea!) then you will not be wearing short sleeves, but hey, start a trend if you like!
With regards to shoulder problems, ropes do not cause injuries, poor choices and poor positions cause injuries. Safety is not an issue between these rope choices otherwise they would not have been approved by the World Council! It is like that saying about the guns, “guns do not kill people, people kill people.”
Also, please do me a huge favor and refer someone to my newsletter. I work really hard on these articles and I need your help to help the sport we love so much grow! Just cut and paste the following into an email to your friends!
Hi (Insert their name here)
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I do, and I think it’s great because….(insert your own reasons here)
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Talk to you soon!
(Your Name Here)
Thanks for helping out! I appreciate it…
I am available to personally help you achieve your skiing goals by calling 1-877-685-6270 or visit our website @ www.thefootersedge.com.