Barefoot water skiing originated in Winter Haven, Florida. According to the Water Ski Hall of Fame, and witnesses of the event, 17-year-old A.G. Hancock became the first person ever to barefoot water ski in 1947. That same year, Richard Downing «Dick» Pope Jr., was the first person ever to be photographed barefooting, stepping off his skis on a training boom alongside the boat. In 1950, the first barefoot competition was held in Cypress Gardens, with Pope and Mexican competitor Emilio Zamudio as the only two known barefooters in the world at the time.  The first woman to waterski barefoot was Charlene Zint in 1951. 
Throughout the 1950s, additional barefoot starting techniques were invented including the two-ski jump out, the beach start (invented by Ken Tibado in 1955), and the deep water start (invented by Joe Cash in 1958). The tumble-turn maneuver was ‘invented’ by accident during a double barefoot routine in 1960 when Terry Vance fell onto his back during a step-off and partner Don Thomson (still on his skis) spun him around forward, enabling Vance to regain a standing posture. In 1961, Randy Rabe became the first backward barefooter by stepping off a trick ski backwards, a maneuver Dick Pope had first tried in 1950 but vowed never to try again after a painful fall. The early 1960s saw Don Thomson appear as the first «superstar» of the sport, developing both back-to-front and front-to-back turnarounds, and performing the first barefoot tandem ride in a show at Cypress Gardens. 
During this time barefooting began developing in Australia as well. In April 1963, the first national competition was held in Australia, with 38 competitors . The Australians were the first to develop barefoot jumping, one of the three events in modern barefoot competition, as well as pioneer many new tricks. In November 1978, the first world championships were held in Canberra, Australia, where 54 skiers competed for a total of 10 different countries . Australians Brett Wing and Colleen Wilkinson captured the men’s and women’s titles. In 1976 Briton Keith Donnelly set the first (officially recognised) World Barefoot Jump record of 13.25 metes.