Fancy Feet A Dallas attorney makes waves with an unconventional water sport. NEARLY EVERY WEEKEND, MARK SHANK HEADS TO PRINCETON LAKES IN SUBURBAN DALLAS TO GO WATER-SKIING. Tugged behind a boat zipping along at speeds of up to 40 mph, he works to stay afloat. As he pushes against the surface, blasts of water rush by his head, some reaching 50 feet in the air before cascading behind him. For Shank, and those sharing the lake with him, it is just another relaxing retreat on the water. If you look closely, though, you might think Shank has forgotten something. While others use full-length skis or boards, Shank sets himself apart from the crowd by his preferred choice of equipment—his feet. Barefoot water-skiing takes practice. Because no actual skis are involved, the sport requires balancing on the bottoms of your feet. “Look at the soles of your hands,” Shank said. “That’s almost the exact surface area that is supporting you.” He emphasizes that barefooting is not only about strength but also technique. “You’re trying to find the sweet spot where your feet are flat on the water but your toes are not catching,” Shank explained. Once that basic principle is conquered, brave skiers can add in tricks, such as coasting on one foot, toe holds, surface hops, and backward deep-water starts. Shank does them all. A partner in Gruber Hurst Johansen Hail Shank in Dallas, Shank is somewhat of a natural at barefooting. He started out on skis at the age of 6. When his family relocated to Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, and opened a resort on the water, his interest in the sport intensified. The family business neighbored the Fort Osage Water Show, a popular tourist attraction filled with enterprising talent. A ski show employee taught Shank how to barefoot, and he would go out a couple of mornings a week to practice, picking up special maneuvers along the way. By the time he was 17, Shank says he was the only person on the lake who could barefoot backward. “It was really cool. When you’re hanging on to the rope, you’re looking at where you’ve been as opposed to where you’re going.” Shank performed in the water show into law school at the University of Missouri-Columbia, ultimately spending six summers there. Upon graduation, Shank relocated to Dallas with his wife, a native Texan. While he sometimes found a moment to barefoot casually at social events, work and family commitments largely kept him away from the activity for more than 25 years. Then, during a trip to Florida, he got behind a boat and tested the waters again, rekindling his passion. Shank has enjoyed his return to the sport even though some aspects have changed. “I’m much older than most people who I ski with,” he said. “They’re stronger, more flexible, and bounce back better from injury.” He also found that while it was relatively easy to jump back into skiing the way he learned as a teen, barefoot technique has advanced since his youth. Today, an emphasis is placed on keeping feet flatter and lighter, leading to more balance. “There’s sort of a Zen-like quality to it.” Shank’s return to barefooting has taken him back to waters in the Midwest, and he has also found optimal spots in Houston, Lake Texoma, and Austin. In November, he braved 50-degree weather to compete in the Dam2Dam relay races on Lake Travis. There, his fourman team (which also boasted three of the oldest skiers— ages 67, 60, and 56) took fourth place out of seven competing groups. “It’s cool to be out on the boat with your buddies,” Shank said. “I’m reliving my youth, but it’s still fun.” HANNAH KIDDOO TEXAS PEOPLE Shamoil T. Shipchandler Bracewell & Giuliani, Dallas Received the Secretary’s Meritorious Service Award from the Department of Homeland Security. Dan Worthington Atlas, Hall & Rodriguez, McAllen Elected as national director for the board of directors of the Voice of the Defense Bar. Ricky Anderson Anderson & Smith, Houston Inducted into the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association Hall of Fame.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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