Barry Delaporte is winning world, national and State championships by the skin of his feet.
Perth’s gifted barefoot water skier is, at age 70, shaping-up to tackle this year’s world titles in Florida. And he won’t be stopping there.
“My ultimate goal is to barefoot water ski down the river when I’m 100,” quips Barry.
Currently WA and national senior veterans barefoot water ski champion, Barry recently beat world number one, Victoria’s Brian O’Sullivan.
“I beat him after 22 years. World results are judged over 18 months so I’m still number two. But this year I’m out to become number one,” he said.
With two recent knee replacements, Barry had forced time out from his regular four-times-a-week watery workouts.
“The doctor said I should be getting full reconstructions of my knees but said that could mean I couldn’t continue water skiing.
“So, he said he’ll do half-replacements. That should give me between five and 10 years water skiing.
“I said ‘that’ll suit me.’”
The father-of-two has endured his full share of downfalls and drubbings.
At a national titles in Sydney, after Barry had won every event in his category, he tackled one more spectacular jump but crashed dramatically and broke five ribs.
“When we got home, my wife, Sharon, said: ‘something’s still wrong. You’ve got to see the doctor.’”
“I was found to have lymphoma cancer. They cut me from my belly button up to my chest but said ‘there’s nothing we can do for you’, which I refused to accept.
“I said ‘I won’t miss the titles’. It took years for me to get over it. That was 24 years ago,” he said.
Barry has an unbeaten string of 29 State titles.
“My aim is to get to 30. I first made a goal of 15 successive titles because I thought that would be going pretty well. When I did that, I thought I might as well go for 20 and then 25 and now 30,” he said.
A four-time national title winner, Barry’s son, Adam, has won three championships. And Barry loves to coach, having coached WA water skiers to 23 Australian titles.
Leaving school at 14 for a carpentry apprenticeship, he went on to become a self-employed builder.
“I started to barefoot ski at 23, but after four years, Sharon asked ‘what’s more important water skiing or family?’”
“So, I stopped skiing and spent time with the family. Then, in 1993 when I was 42, the Masters Games came to Perth.
“I was playing water polo back then and a mate of mine rang and said: ‘why don’t you go in the Masters barefoot water skiing?”’
We talked it over at lunch and I decided I would.
“When I told Sharon she said: ‘what about your previous broken neck?’
“I said don’t worry, I’ll order an electric wheelchair now,” he laughed.
“I won the Masters.”
Barry has also been judged by WA water ski officials as athlete of the year, winning against all divisions including barefoot, slalom, show skiing and wakeboard skiing.
“That was another pinnacle. Normally you have to be 25 or 30 to win that.”
About 150 West Australians compete in water skiing with 18 men and three women competing barefoot.
Competitors need only a wetsuit and ski handles; one handle for forwards, one for backwards and one for crossing boat wakes.
They practice on a leased Baldivis, man-made lake.
“The river is too dangerous. Plenty of people have ski boats but they don’t know how to drive them,” insists Barry.
“On the lake, only one boat is allowed at a time. We wait our turn.”
Barry showed he was serious at the sport when he bought a house in France so he could practice all-year-round.
“Two years ago, I went in the French nationals just to see how I was going in the world. I won my category and thought I’ve got just the Americans and Canadians to beat now,” he said.
Barry says his boat must be doing 68 km/hr for his best performances but 72 km/hr-hour for trick wake crossings.
“If there’s a half a kilometre speed difference, I know,” he said.
The North Yunderup champion puts his broken neck, 22 broken ribs, punctured lung and hospital visits in his wake with no thought of retirement.
“I’d prefer to bust than rust,” he said.