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Look, Ma, No Shoes! This Kid Is a Champion Barefoot Waterskier

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At an age when other kids are still wet behind their ears, 4-year-old Chrystal Booko is a pro at getting wet between her toes. A year ago Chrystal stepped off her water ski at 26 mph and into sports history. Her parents claim she proceeded to water-ski barefoot clear across Clear Lake in Three Rivers, Mich., where she lives; their claim has been accepted by the American Water Ski Association and also entered in the 1988-89 Guinness Sports Record Book, which makes Booko the youngest barefoot waterskier in the world.

The eldest of three children of waterskiing fanatics Cathy, 27, and Dave Booko, 32, a barefoot waterskiing teacher, Chrystal may face a threat to her world record in the person of brother Jordan, who just turned 3. He has already hit the water on skis and is begging to try barefooting. Says Dad: “Seeing his big sister do it kind of motivates Jordan. So there’s a little rivalry going on.” But Jordan has his work cut out for him if he wants to catch the champ. Chrystal’s competitiveness is as precocious as her physical prowess. Getting ready for a ride, she puts on her game face and starts psyching herself up: “Knees up…toes pointed…arms straight.” The girl her mother calls “a superstar” even spent seven weeks this winter training with male barefooting world champion Mike Seipel in West Palm Beach. And after interviews with TV reporters from as far away as West Germany, she can handle the press with aplomb. Chrystal explains her positive attitude toward her sport very straightforwardly. “It’s good exercise, and I like to play in the water.”

Chrystal’s barefooted feats have attracted five corporate sponsors who keep her in custom-made wet suits and top-of-the-line ski boats, but according to her folks, all this attention hasn’t spoiled the 36-lb., 40″ tall, blue-eyed daredevil. “She doesn’t understand at all that she set a world record,” says father-coach Dave. “I tell her, but it doesn’t matter. It goes whoosh—right over her head.” Still, when Chrystal is asked who is the better skier, she or her daddy, she has a ready answer. “Me,” says the champ. “Because I’m the best skier in the whole wide world.”