To duct tape or not to duct tape?

Duct tape was allowed for use by competitors at Footstock’s Nationa Figure Eight Barefoot Championship from 1990-2004. In fact, it’s usage was made famous by “Duct Tape” Jack Schuller during the mid 90’s on Clear Lake. Over the years, dozens of skiers have used it in cases of cuts and severe bruising, all without notice. In 2006, Footstock banned the use of duct tape by its competitors due to pressure from the skiers. But now with the increasing number of record runs, and to help skiers avoid the risk of permanent damage to their feet, Footstock is once again allowing the use of duct tape. Now, Footstock Co-founder, Gary Mueller debates the issue with his brother, popular, long-time announcer, Dave Mueller on the issue of whether duct tape should or shouldn’t be allowed at Footstock.

For Duct Tape (by Gary Mueller )

Dave you whiny, washed-up hack of a barefooter. You’re the same kind of Neandrethal that would like to see hockey goalies go back to not using masks and football players go back to using leather helmets and no pads. Be honest,you’re probably one of the idiots that wanted to see disabled golfer Casey Martin walk the Masters, rather than ride it, because somehow that would give him an advantage over Tiger Woods.

Dave, are you honestly trying to tell me you think that a barefooter wearing a small layer of duct tape is somehow going to give them a competitive advantage? Have you lost your mind? We’re not talking about baseball players corking bats or wide receivers wearing stickem’ on their hands. We’re talking about a tiny piece of tape to protect a person’s feet from permanent damage. No different from a quarterback who dons a flack jacket or a basketball player who wears a protective face mask to guard a broken nose.

If anything, duct tape can be more of a disadvantage. Because it often bundles up in the middle of a run, creating drag and a major distraction to the skier.

You probably don’t care, but the vision of Footstock was to build a national championship event that was safe, competitive and fun.

Why do you think we banned Clincher-style gloves? Not because they gave skiers a competitive edge, but to keep competitors safe. To protect the weekend warriors like me who need every advantage and might do so without knowing the potential for injury. Which is the same reason, we allow a minimal use of duct tape.

Of course, if you had it your way, weekend barefooters like me, would either just damage their feet in competition to the point of permanent damage or not enter at all. Skiers like 4-time champion Pete Fleck, who literally burned holes in his feet because of his runs at Footstock, would have to give up the sport altogether. Other 3-event barefooters, like World Champ Keith St Onge, might choose not to come to Footstock at all if their only option to be competitive was to risk severe damage to their feet.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed Dave, but the sport of barefooting is small enough already. Is it that terribly wrong to allow a handful of people the smallest protection of their feet so that they can compete? I understand some people’s desire to keep barefooting pure, but Footstock has always tried to appeal to the masses rather than simply the hardcore fringe of the sport, like three-event footing does.

Because believe it or not Dave, our goal is to move more people into the sport of barefooting. Not out of it.

You know, there will always be competitors that can’t accept the real reason why they lose. They have to blame the seedings, the coin flip, the judges or the boat speed. As both a former Tournament Director and Chief Judge, I have heard them all. But the fact is, duct tape offers a Figure Eight barefooter about as much of a competitive advantage as the brand of wetsuit they wear. (By the way, if you want to argue that one too, Chris Barnhart won two Footstock championships and two seconds wearing nothing but cut-offs and a vest.)

Against Duct Tape (by Dave Mueller)

Gary you booty-wearing, cry baby of a barefooter. What part of the word “barefoot” don’t you understand? I don’t know how you define it, but I looked it up in Webster’s, and it clearly states that a bare foot means “with the feet bare,” or “feet with the absence of any covering or protective surface.”

Hmm. No mention of duct tape.

Isn’t the whole idea of a barefoot endurance competition in large part how much pain you can endure? Maybe you should allow people the chance to call timeout during their run as well, when they see waves that are too scary or their arms start to get tired. Maybe for the people that struggle with the turns, we should give the option of barefooting from a boom.

Last time I checked Footstock was a National Championship. Not an entry-level tournament for beginning barefooters. I agree, that one of the strengths of the tournament is it’s inclusiveness. But do you really want to risk changing the very nature of the sport by eliminating the “bare” part of barefooting?

I realize that the addition of many top 3-event barefooters to the field makes Footstock more exciting and helps draw more skiers and fans. I also understand that many of these career barefooters may wish to protect their feet against damage. But you’ll never see Keith St Onge with duct tape on his feet. Or Marc Donahue or Chris Van Zeeland. I don’t care how many eights they do. Or how sore their feet get.

I don’t have a problem with rules that protect the skier’s. I totally agree with the tournament safety rules banning clinchers. I also agree with the rule that disqualifies competitors from drinking and skiing, and putting their arms through the handle to rest. All potentially dangerous behaviors. But sore feet? C’mon Gary. What do you own stock in Duct Tape?

You also used words like “small layer” and “minimal use” in relation to the amount of duct tape people used to protect their feet last year. Were you at last year’s tournament or were you too busy icing your feet down to see the excessive amount of tape used on some competitor’s feet? C’mon Gary.

I have a better idea. Why don’t you create another division for cry babies like yourself. You can call it the , “Open Duct Tape” division. Maybe run it in Saturday night after all the real barefooters have skied. The only criteria for entry would be if you have baby-soft feet and a low threshold for pain.
Heck Gary, who knows, you might even do well for a change. Unless, of course, Pete Fleck and Marc Donahue enter. Then you’re screwed.

On second thought, I change my mind. I think duct tape should be allowed at this year’s Footstock. But only to cover the mouths of the whiners who can’t handle barefooting the way it was intended – on only their “bare” feet.

Footstock Sets Date for 2011 National Championship

CONTACT: Gary Mueller, 414-899-6118 (cell)

Footstock Sets Date for 2011 National Championship. Tournament to Allow Duct Tape.
Adds New Division for Seniors.

Crandon, Wisconsin – Significant changes are underway at Footstock, the National Championship of Endurance Barefooting. The tournament, to be held August 20 and 21 on Peshtigo Lake in Crandon, has decided to allow duct tape. Concerned with the potential for significant foot damage to the event’s top skiers due to the increasing number of long runs, event officials decided to again to allow duct tape to be used.

“For safety reasons, Footstock will allow the use of duct tape in 2011,” announced Tournament Founder Gary Mueller. “After last year’s record setting number of eight’s, we decided that it was in the best interest of the competitors to allow them to protect their feet against possible permanent damage.”

According to Mueller, foot damage has become an increasing problem on the endurance barefooting scene. Perennial top 10 Figure Eight barefooter Chad Mietz and 4-time Footstock Champ Pete Fleck, both burned holes in their feet in 2010. Mueller also cited the increasing average length of runs as a factor.

“The first four years of Footstock (on Lake Lucerne and Clear Lake), no one ever made a single eight,” explains Mueller. “We never imagined the runs being as long as they are today.”

Mueller also acknowledged that to some barefoot purists, the addition of duct tape will be controversial. But just as the event banned the use of Clincher Gloves after the severe injury of two competitors in the 90’s, Footstock will again to what’s best to ensue the safety of its skiers.

Event organizers also announce the addition of a new division. The Master’s Division is open to men or women over the age of 50.

“With the explosion of the Senior Division the past 5 years, it just made sense to give the older skiers a division of their own,” announced Tournament Official, Jakob Weber. “Not only will this create room in the Senior Division to accommodate the influx of new skiers, but it will allow the older skiers the chance to be more competitive.

Early entry fees are due by August 1. Tournament officials encourage skiers to go online to the new website, for more information and to download an entry fee.

Endurance Records Fall at 2010 Footstock.

CONTACT: Gary Mueller, 414-899-6118 (cell)

Endurance Records Fall at 2010 Footstock.

Indiana’s Marc Donahue shocks 4-time Footstock Champ, Pete Fleck to take national endurance crown.

Crandon, Wisconsin – There wasn’t much left in the tank, when Marc Donahue hauled himself out of the water after beating Pete Fleck on the final run at Footstock. Not surprising, considering the lanky amateur from Indiana had completed over 40 figure eights over two days to get there. And a record setting 5-1/4 figure eight run just 10 minutes earlier. That following a record setting 4-1/2 figure eight run against World Overall Barefoot Champion, Keith St Onge. A record that lasted only about 10 minutes.

As he stood on the ski platform in shock realizing he had just won his first Footstock Open Championship Title, he could only muster one word, “unbelievable. “

Those who witnessed Donahue’s weekend display at Footstock would say “unbelievable” hardly scratched the surface in describing his super human feat of endurance. No one in the history of Footstock had ever barefooted as long or as far as Marc Donahue. And they may never again.

Of course, the story of this soft spoken, small engine repairman from Indiana rising to Championship glory was only part of a memorable weekend, that also had many personal bests and several other records fall.

Saturday night’s Senior Division championship was almost a carbon copy of the Sunday showdown between Fleck and Donahue and just as exciting. In that final, the seemingly unexhaustible pair completed back to back 4-1/4 figure eights, after Donahue won round one to force a championship run-off. A feat no pairing has ever come close to accomplishing in the championship’s 21-year history. In the end, Fleck outlasted Donahue to take the National Senior Division Championship.

On Sunday, the winds that slowed so many barefooters a day earlier, completely disappeared. Setting up another record-setting day.

Tournament Coordinator, Gary Mueller, knew organizers were in for a long day, when the first run of Sunday morning in the semifinals of the Junior Division went a record 2-1/4 eights with first-timer Sam Landgraf beating Nick Ruchti. From there the eights just kept coming.

Perennial Top 10 footers like Jeremy Petrie, Luke Bruckner, Chris Van Zeeland, Josh Bruns, Joe Heilman and Bob Mahnke pounded out double and triple eights after eights. One of the biggest stories of the tournament however was the performance of Footstock veteran Dan Ehlers. A competitor since the late 80’s Dan had not cracked the Top 16 in 20 years. But on Sunday, Dan was a rock, consistently cranking out double and triple eights, taking out many of the country’s best figure-eighters before succumbing to eventual 3rd place finisher Keith St Onge. Ehlers finished in fourth place besting past champ Chris Van Zeeland who came in fourth.

In the woman’s Division, the competition was stiff as well. As Elaine Heller, Dawn Van Alstiel, Laura Lindeman and Katie Frank battled it out all day. But in the end, it was Heller, fresh off her World Overall Championship in Germany last week, showing why she is so good. Taking out Van Alstiel in the final.

The Junior Division saw up and comer Sam Landgraf take out Nick Ruchti and Jake Wiedemeyer in some of the longest runs in Junior Division history.

In all, 140 barefooters competed in the two-day Championship in Crandon, where over $6500 in prize money was doled out.

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