At Age 59, Water Skier Zenon Bilas Wins Ninth Gold Medal

Zenon Bilas competing at the U.S. Barefoot National Championship. Photo by Brian Heeney

Zenon Bilas, a noted local wake sports authority, has won his ninth U.S. Barefoot National Championship gold medal at age 59. He competed in the highly contested Open Men Slalom category against competitors 40 years younger than him. The event was held in Conroe, Texas, Aug. 5-8.

When he was 16, Bilas taught himself to do something relatively rare back then: waterski backward on bare feet. Sensing the potential of his accomplishment, it was also when he decided to live a clean, healthy lifestyle to excel as an athlete. Four years later, he won his first gold medal at the 1982 U.S. Barefoot National Championship.

“I’ve always taken a very analytical approach to my technique and how I train,” he said. “It’s how I’ve continued to progress and compete at a high level while avoiding injuries.”

Bilas is an expert on tow sports safety, a published author and professional speaker on the subject. He attributes his success to the lifestyle he began at 16.

“Barefooting, water skiing, wakeboarding and wakesurfing are the best total mind-body workouts that you can do,” he said.

Bilas has already begun training for next year’s tournaments.

Bilas is an accomplished writer who has been published widely in national and international magazines. He’s also a popular keynote speaker, presenting on a variety of topics based on his experiences and unique perspective. Learn more at


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