WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – One member of the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team is continuing the family legacy on the water with a unique skill: skiing barefoot.
“Water skiing is like a thrill. It’s like the most amazing thing. The best part is that you can do it with friends and family,” Faith Dix said.
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Dix is a barefoot skier, skimming on top of the water performing different tricks and advanced skills. The difference between barefooting and using skis is all about speed.
“You do have to go much faster when going on your bare feet... typically between 40 and 46 miles an hour,” Dix said.
Water skiing barefoot began in Florida as a recreational activity in the 1940s and was quickly integrated into the Cypress Gardens Water Ski shows in Winter Haven soon after. Cypress Gardens, Florida’s first theme park, featured water ski shows that began in 1943 in Winter Haven. Millions of visitors would watch the talented skiers and “Aquamaids.”
The team would go on to break more than 50 world records, earning Winter Haven the title of “water ski capital of the world.”
The theme park closed in 2009 and turned into what’s now Legoland, ending the longest-running entertainment production in the world.
Barefoot skiing was primarily performed by men back then, and even now in 2023 on the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team.
[🌊Cypress Gardens water ski team continues tradition, 100 years of sport]
At just 20 years old, Dix is not only performing with the historic Cypress Gardens team but is a member of the US Elite Worlds Barefoot Team competing for international recognition.
“I’m the only woman on the current team so there’s a team of eight of us who will be competing,” Dix said. “I practice five to six days a week.”
She said it’s the family legacy that motivates her.
“I’ve always dreamed of going to the pro shows. My dad skied in pro shows and my mom skied overseas, so it’s really in the family and I wanted to keep that tradition going,” Dix said.
She’s also keeping the tradition going when it comes to the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team. Performing shows free for the community along Lake Silver at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The park recently received a facelift with expanded seating, observation tower, improved ADA accessibility and added walkways. The city of Winter Haven footed the more than $400,000 cost with state grants.
“For the city to be able to help us take care of the park we’re blessed. Most other water ski teams have to maintain their own areas,” Dix said. “I hope people can come and see all the comradery and just see how it is a family sport and maybe be interested and join themselves.”
Dix will be headed to the Worlds competition with the US Elite Worlds Barefoot Team in February.
The Cypress Gardens Water Ski team performs free shows bi-monthly at Martin Luther King Jr. Park located at 199 East Lake Silver Drive Northeast in Winter Haven.
Here is the schedule for upcoming shows:
- Feb. 4 at 4 p.m.
- Feb. 18 at 4 p.m.
- March 4 at 4 p.m.
- March 18 at 5 p.m.
- April 15 at 5 p.m.
- April 29 at 8 a.m. (All American Ski Tournament)
- May 20 at 5 p.m.
- May 29 at 5 p.m. (Memorial Day show)
- June 17 at 5 p.m.
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