Australia Dominates 2023 IWWF World Barefoot Championships

Australian Ski Queen, Ashleigh Stebbeings earned herself a new crown overnight snagging her fifth world title at the 2023 IWWF World Barefoot Championships held at the Max Kirwan Ski Park in Mulwala, NSW Australia.

Stebbeings dominated in both slalom and tricks winning Gold in both events, to forever etch her standing as one of the greatest of all time, being the first female to ever win five Overall World titles. Ashleigh had previously shared the accolade of four times World Champion with two other female greats, Kim Lampard (AUS) and Jennifer Calleri (USA).

But it didn’t stop there for the Australians, with Aussie workhorse Keenan Derry taking out the Open Men’s Overall title after stella performances grabbed him Gold in both slalom (with a pending World Record) and jump events.

The extraordinary individual results from Keenan, Ash and indeed across the board contributed to Australia successfully defending their Overall Team title that they last won in 2018.

In what has shaped up to be one of the most critical world championship titles ever held, given it was the first in five years due to COVID, there is no question the future of barefoot waterskiing is in good hands. More records, more personal bests and so many impressive new benchmark performances observed in every age category with skiers young and old, championing the sport on and off the water.

In other firsts for this event, we saw the first Under 23 records set at this tournament given it was the first time the Under 23’s had been introduced to an IWWF World Barefoot Championships. Ashleigh Stebbeings Groen (Australia) set three pending women’s slalom world records, Bevan Kelly (New Zealand) set a pending Senior Men’s (45-55) world record in jump with a 22.5m. Noah Kinnaman joined the likes of perennial world champions Keith St. Onge and David Small by breaking the 10,000 point mark in junior boys tricks.  And for the first time, a husband and wife won the open tricks titles.

Worldwide favorite Ben Groen (New Zealand) won the gold in tricks with a score of 11,480 points, followed by Brendan Paige (Australia) with 10,910 points and in bronze position, Keenan Derry (Australia) 9830 points.

It was an All-Aussie sweep in women’s tricks as Ashleigh Stebbeings Groen won the gold in tricks with a 5100 despite falling early on her second pass. Ben Green and Ashleigh Stebbeings were just married in November, and it’s the first time a couple grabbed the open tricks titles! Kelly Blank (Australia) grabbed silver with 3100 points, followed by Elaina McClung with 2610 points.

The slalom event belonged to Australia and the Derry Family as Keenan Derry (Australia) took the gold with a blistering 20.8, followed by his dad Ken Derry (Australia) with a 19.6 and in third, teammate Brett Sands with an 18.9.

Ashleigh Stebbeings Groen (Australia)  killed it in women’s slalom with 17.6, followed by Georgia Groen Mathis (New Zealand) with a 15.9 and Faith Dix (USA) won bronze with 12.7.

The Overall came down to the jump competition as Keenan Derry (Australia)  grabbed the gold after boosting at 25.6m jump, followed closely by Ben Groen (New Zealand) with 24.8m and in third, Luke Van Den Heuvel (Australia) with 24.4m.

Georgia Groen Mathis (New Zealand) won jump with a 20.8m jump, followed by Ashleigh Stebbeings Groen (Australia) with 18.7m and Kimberly Smit (Netherlands) captured the bronze,  the first time a woman from the Netherlands has won an open division medal.

The men’s overall looked much like jump as Australian Keenan Derry took the men’s overall for the first time ever, followed by Ben Groen (New Zealand) and Luke Van Den Heuvel (Australia). Ashleigh Stebbeings Groen (Australia) won the women’s overall title, followed by Georgia Groen Mathis (New Zealand) and Kelly Blank (Australia) in third.

Australia won the coveted team overall title, New Zealand came in second and the USA grabbed third place.

Click here for full results