Axtell: Deaf Barefoot Skier Overcomes Adversity

By: Matt Howerton Email
By: Matt Howerton Email

AXTELL (August 12, 2012)-Barefoot Skiers from across the nation flocked to Barefoot Ski Ranch in Axtell this weekend for the Barefoot Water Ski National Championships.

Among those on the water this weekend was Karen Putz, a 47-year-old Chicago woman who was left deaf after a barefoot water skiing accident she had when she was 19 years old.

"I was 19, and it was a beautiful Summer day. I went across a wake and I fell really hard into the water. When I got back into the boat, I realized I was deaf," Putz said.

For Karen, getting back to the sport she loved, took a leap of faith.

"It really was a mixture of nervousness, fear, and excitement," Putz said.

After Karen's accident happened, she stopped skiing.

"I stopped when I was 24. The very last time I went was when my son was born. After that...nothing," Putz said.

Two decades passed, and Karen started to raise a family.

Things seemed good, but when she turned 44, she felt like something was missing.

"I love barefoot water skiing, I mean every time I was on the water I was happy. I missed it," Putz said.

Karen contacted two-time World Barefoot Skiing Champion Keith St.Onge.

St.Onge vowed to get Karen back up on the water, despite her impairment.

Karen explains that it wasn't easy, but in the end she overcame.

"It just goes to show all of us that if you have something that's holding you back, you can do it and push through it," St.Onge said.

At 47--Karen now competes in barefoot skiing tournaments across the country.

A book called "Gliding Soles," written by St.Onge and Putz will soon hit shelves across the nation.

The book depicts the larger than life lessons the two learned while gliding through life's roughest waters.

"Adversity teaches us something. It makes us stronger and allows us to grow in different ways," Putz said.

"This is my journey, and I just have to learn from it."

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