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

Florida’s Fleck wins record 6th National Figure Eight Championship

Rough water abounds. 11-year old is youngest Top 16 finisher ever.

Crandon, Wisconsin – Pete Fleck knew he had a target on his back, in his quest for a record sixth Footstock Open National Championship, when his first run on Saturday morning to start the tournament went for two and a half miles against an unseeded skier.

And it didn’t get any easier from there for the U.S. World Barefoot Team skier from Orlando Florida, as he, along with 125 other barefooters from 10 states and Canada took to the waters of Peshtigo Lake in Crandon for Footstock, the country’s largest endurance barefoot championship. The two-day event pits barefooters head to head at the same time over a figure eight course to see who can barefoot the farthest. Most of whom had trained all year to beat one man. Pete Fleck.

Despite being forced to ski multiple eights early in the competition, no one was successful on Saturday at taking out the defending champ, as rough water turned the usually calm Peshtigo into a barefooters’ nightmare. Although past Footstock champs like Marc Donohue, and Ron Blouw, along with veteran skiers Eric DeVries, Luke Bruckner, James and Jacob Weber, Chad Mietz and Greg Fatla handled the rough conditions with few problems, many skiers struggled to make even half an eight on the mile and a half course.

So after 7 hours and over 175 runs, the first day ended much the same way it started, with Pete Fleck completing two figure eights to defeat 2010 champ, Marc Donohue of Indiana for the National Senior Division Championship. A rematch of their dramatic 2011 championship

The conditions Sunday, however, started out the total opposite. After delaying the start by over an hour due to fog, Peshtigo was a sheet of glass calm water and Pete Fleck again was challenged on the very first run of the day by Nick Ruchti. The junior division start put a big scare into the champ, taking him for two full figure eights. But the calm conditions were short-lived. By noon, steady winds started to whip out of the north creating havoc all over the course, turning the famed Peshtigo Figure Eight, into a mess.

“The waves definitely cut down on the number of eights skiers made,” described Tournament Director, Jacob Weber. “There were basically no places on the course where you could relax. The whole straight away you just got pummeled.”

And although Fleck and local favorite Greg Fatla (fresh off his National Men’s barefoot slalom championship in Texas) continued to plow through the field as the only two undefeated skiers, the story of the day was the performance of two up and coming junior skiers. 11-year old Ethan Schulda who finished 9th and 15-year old Nick Ruchti who cranked out eight after eight all day in difficult conditions against the world’s best endurance footers.

“Nick Ruchti is going to win the Open Championship by his 18th birthday,” predicted long-time Footstock Announcer, Dave Mueller. “He has been skiing here since he was 9. He is already a veteran and he doesn’t weigh 100 lbs with his clothes on.”

The other story was the amazing performance of frequent Top 20 finisher Chad Mietz of Michigan. He took out seeded skier after seeded skier all Sunday, turning out multiple eights over and over until working his way into the Open Championship run against Pete Fleck. But, after being forced to ski over and over to get to the championship, including the longest run of the day, a semi-final run against Marc Donahue that went 2-1/2 eights in absolutely brutal conditions, in the end Mietz didn’t have enough gas in the tank to catch the well-rested Fleck, who took home his record sixth Open National Figure Eight Barefoot Championship in Crandon.
Fleck also took home $2,400 for his Open and Senior championships.

The hometown skiers again made an impressive showing amongst the national field, with Greg Fatla finishing third, Jacob Weber finishing 13th and James Weber finishing 16th.

Three other division championships were also decided on Sunday. In the Master’s Division (over 55), Canadian barefooter, Wayne King of Manitoba came out of nowhere to upset defending Master’s Champ Bob “the Mule” Mahnke by beating him twice. After a brutally rough eight that almost took King down several times, Mahnke caught a toe in the cross rollers coming back. Then in the final run-off, Mahnke did something he has never done in a major competition. He missed his step-off, giving King the title of National Masters Champion. Dave Hopkins of Michigan took third and Dan Cardinal of Wisconsin was fourth.

In the Junior Division, Pierce Pluemmer, Isaac Aukee and Nick Ruchti battled it out, with Pierce Pluemmer winning his third and last Junior title. In the championship Pluemmer and Aukee both battled through extremely rough water, until Aukee caught the crossrollers coming back through the middle of the course and fell ahead of Pluemmer.

On the women’s side, Liana Sikora was dominant all weekend, beating newcomer and local favorite Victoria Wienser to take the Women’s National crown. Third went to Haley Gibbon and fourth went to Joanne OConnor, the oldest female skier to ever compete at Footstock, at 63 years young.

Best of the Worst went to Richard Legois who beat out Jay Schaefer for the less than coveted title. Nick Ruchti won the costume contest.

In all, over $7,000 in prize money was given away.

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

Records Expected to Fall at 2012 Footstock.
5-Time Champ Pete Fleck Looks to defend title.

Crandon, Wisconsin – There’s one axiom that always holds true at Footstock, the National Championship of Figure Eight Endurance Barefooting. Expect the unexpected.

A year after recording the longest single figure eight run in Footstock history (5-1/4 eights) and winning his first national championship, defending champ, Mark Donahue last year couldn’t even crack the Top 20. The 2011 championship run, which usually goes at least four laps, could barely muster 2 and 1/2. And just when you thought Pete Fleck was too old to win his record fifth Footstock Open Title, not only did he win one division, but he swept two (Seniors and Open).

So what will the storyline for 2012 be? According to Tournament Official, Gary Mueller, it might just be the weather. But it’s not rough water he’s talking about.

“The weather in the Midwest has been so unseasonably warm, that the ice went off almost a month and a half early,” explains Mueller. “That means a ton of extra training for the “northern” skiers who typically finish in the Top 10. That’s going to give a lot more guys the chance to beat the southern skiers like Fleck and Keith St. Onge who can ski year round.”

The two-day national championship, held on tiny Peshtigo Lake in Crandon, August 18 and 19th is expected to draw a huge field from all over the country. Last year, with the addition of the new Masters division (50 and over), the tournament field swelled to 164.

The popular Footstock pits pro and amateur barefooters from across the country head to head over twisting and often choppy, mile and half figure eight course. The premise is simple. The skier who barefoots the longest wins. The competition is intense, the falls brutal, and the last man standing on Sunday is crowned the National Figure Eight Endurance Champion.

5-time National Champion Pete Fleck of Orlando Florida has already announced he will return to defend his Open title. The former X-Games barefoot champ, will almost certainly face a stiffer test in 2012. And if conditions are calm, skiers could challenge the almost unfathomable 2010 record of 5-1/4 laps.

And in addition to crowning an Open Champion, Footstock will also crown national champions in Juniors, Womens, Seniors and Masters Divisions. Entry forms can be downloaded at

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Florida’s Fleck wins record 5th National Endurance Title.

Rough water abounds as biggest field in years delivers a slew of upsets. First ever Master National Endurance champion crowned.

Crandon, Wisconsin – A year after losing in the longest run in Footstock history and taking second, Pete Fleck showed the barefoot world why he is still the king of figure eights. After dominating the Footstock field for two days, Fleck beat a gutty Jon DeBelak for his record fifth National Open Championship in what turned out to be the longest run of the day-2 and ¾ eights.

And although seeing Fleck in the finals was a familiar site, this year’s tournament was the polar opposite of last year, as wind and waves pummeled the famed Peshtigo eight. Fewer than a dozen figure eights were recorded over two days, with most of them coming in the last 5 runs of the day on Sunday.

“It was brutal out there,” explained Tournament Director and 16th place finisher Jacob Weber of Crandon. “The waves were just relentless from the time you stepped off to the final turn coming into the site. The stretch from Chetek corner to the step-off area took out most everyone.”

Despite the less than stellar conditions, nothing could spoil the party for the former X-gamess Barfeoot Champ, Fleck who was the only man to never lose a run over the two day competition. Fleck also won the Senior National Championship over DeBelak.

Although Fleck’s domination and the rough water was the biggest story line of the championship, the other big story was the comeback of former Senior National Champ Jon DeBelak. Just a year after coming back from a horrific water ski injury that would have ended most skier’s careers, DeBelak showed why any discussion of the country’s best figure eighters has to include his name.

Having to work his way through the consolation bracket Sunday, DeBelak blew through the tournament’s top seeds, cranking off some of the grittiest figure eights anyone has ever seen, considering the conditions.

DeBelak also had to get past Crandon’s own Greg Fatla who’s 3rd place was the highest finish by a Crandon skier in the Open since Bucky Dailey won the National Title over a decade ago. And he had to best World Overall Barefoot Champ, Keith St. Onge of Orlando who took fourth.

The rough water wreaked havoc with the tournament’s top seeds, turning Sunday into a wide open field that favored the rough water specialists, many of whom are from Wisconsin. Veterans Mike Netzer, Steve Kazle, Luke Bruckner, Dan Ehlers, Joe Heilman and Bob Mahnke all made huge runs deep into Sunday afternoon. Two other Crandon skiers also had big finishes as James and Jacob Weber placed 10th and 16th respectively, showing the nation’s top endurance barefooters they will have to contend with these two in the Open division for a long time to come.

On the Junior’s side, Pierce Pluemer and Jake Wiedemeyer battled it out for the championship, with Pluemer taking the victory after a gutsy performance in the rough conditions. Issac Aukee and Derek Buchman rounded out the top four.

The Women’s National Championship came down to s step-off contest at the end. After Florida’s Lauren Lindeman missed her step-off it opened the door for Kristina Ruchti to face Footstock newcomer Alyssa Brooks. Having to beat her twice, Ruchti held on to make both her step-offs and take the women’s crown.

One of the most awaited championships of the weekend was that of the newly created Master’s Division for skiers 50 and older. 16 AARP members or soon to be members took the water to claim the first ever Masters National Championship and they didn’t disappoint. In the end, it was Footstock veteran Bob Mahnke taking out both Paul Elsen and Dave Hopkins to take the title.

Dave Seymour took home the Best of the Worst and Nich Ruchti won the costume contest skiing in a full clown costume.

Although the waves kept the runs a lot shorter, pounding the turns and the step-off area, it was a blessing to tournament organizers who last year pulled a record number of figure eights and barely finished before dark. The shorter runs helped organizers pull the tournament in record time, despite having a field that was 15% bigger than 2010.

“We had a huge jump this year in attendance with 164 registered skiers,” noted Registration Director, Angie Schaefer. “ We had a lot of new skiers in Juniors and Opens and the new Master Division was a huge addition as well. This was one of the biggest championship fields we have ever had. Thank goodness for the rough water.”

Rough water not only sped up the tournament but it wreaked havoc on some of the top seeded skiers. The biggest upsets coming when Open Champ, Marc Donahue of Indiana and JJ Link of Florida were both knocked out of the tournament early on. Leaving them out of the top 40.

“It wasn’t as much an endurance contest this year, as a survival contest,” laughed Tournament organizer Gary Mueller. “There are a lot of guys with sore necks this morning, who may be wondering why they put themselves through such punishment.”

Except of course for Open and Senior Champ, Fleck. He woke up with a great big smile on his face Monday morning, knowing he is now the winningest barefooter in Footstock history.

# # #
2011National Figure Eight Barefoot Championships (Crandon)

Official Results

1st       Pete Fleck (Florida)
2nd      Jon DeBelak (Wisconsin)
3rd       Greg Fatla (Wisconsin)
4th       Keith St. Onge (Florida)
5th       Luke Bruckner (Wisconsin)
6th       Steve Kazle (Wisconsin)
7th       Dan Ehlers (Wisconsin)
8th      Mike Netzer (Wisconsin)
9th      Bob Mahnke (Wisconsin)
10th    James Weber (Wisconsin)
11th    Ron Blouw (Michigan)
12th    Joe Heilman (Minnesota)
13th    Dom Gobbo (Illinois)
14th    Jeff Asbach (Wisconsin)
15th    Tim Camodeca (Illinois)
16th    Jacob Weber (Wisconsin)

1st       Pete Fleck (Florida)
2nd`   Jon DeBelak (Wisconsin)
3rd     Marc Donahue (Indiana)
4th     Dan Ehlers (Wisconsin)
5th     JJ Link (Florida)
6th     Ron Blouw (Michigan)

1st      Kristina Ruchti (Minnesota)
2nd     Alyssa Brooks (Wisconsin)
3rd     Lauren Lindeman (Florida)
4th     Dawn Van Alstine )Wisconsin)

1st       Pierce Pluemer (Wisconsin)
2nd     Jake Wiedemeier (Wisconsin)
3rd     Issac Aukee (Michigan)
4th     Derek Buchman (Wisconsin)

1st       Bob Mahnke (Wisconsin)
2nd     Paul Elsen (Illinois)
3rd     Dave Hopkins (Michigan)

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.

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.

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