Skimboarding (or skimming) is a boardsport in which a skimboard (much like a surfboard but smaller and without fins) is used to glide across the water’s surface to meet an incoming breaking wave, and ride it back to shore. Wave-riding skimboarders perform a variety of surface and air maneuvers, at various stages of their ride, out to, and back with, the wave. Some of these are known as “wraps,” “big spins,” “360 shove-its” and “180s.” Unlike surfing, skimboarding begins on the beach by dropping the board onto the thin wash of previous waves. Skimboarders use their momentum to skim out to breaking waves, which they then catch back into shore in a manner similar to surfing. Another aspect of skimboarding is “flatland,” which involves performing tricks derived from skateboarding such as ollies and shove-its on the wash of waves without catching shore breaks. Skimboarding originated in Southern California when Laguna Beachlifeguards wanted to surf the local shore breaksthat were too fast and shallow for surfboards. Skimboarding has developed since then to ride waves much like surfing, performing aerial maneuvers and pulling into the barrel of the wave. Professionals have even started getting towed by waverunners into much larger waves.
There are many types of dangers that skimboarders can face on a daily basis. It is not uncommon to see fractures or dislocations of the lower limbs, some requiring serious medical attention. Lacerations, twisted ankles and bruises are also common, due to impacts with the board itself, or rocks, logs and other obstacles present on beaches. Hamstring injury is also common due to the fast and extreme movement of a skimboarder’s legs when they run toward the water and jump on the board. Drowning amongst skimboarders is not as likely as amongst surfers due to the shallow water in which skimboarding is usually practiced. Also, due to the shallow water, cervical fracture is a very dangerous possibility when riding big waves.
A study was done in a British journal on the dangers of skimboarding, and it states, “Over a 5 month period—May to September 2003, 10 patients were seen by the fracture team at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust. Of the 10, eight were male, with an average age 18.7 (range 12–31). There was an equal incidence of left and right sided injuries. All the injuries were closed with no neurovascular symptoms or signs. Eight were to the lower limb, all of which were fractures of the distal tibia, ankle, and mid-foot. Six patients required hospital admission. . . [all of these injuries were from skimboarding]”
Many injuries that skimboarders suffer happen over a long period of time. Such injuries include: groin strain, fractures, leg pains, shin splints, etc. Some of these injuries can be prevented by stretching before and after a session.
Another foot injury that can occur is “skimboard toe”. Much like “turf toe,” it develops from overuse and can eventually break bones in your foot.
Other dangers to consider while skimboarding are riptides. They can be very strong in certain areas and bring a skimboarder out to sea very quickly. There have been a few incidences of skimboarders dying from drowning by being caught in a riptide. Many skimboarders recommend asking locals about tides and swells as well as checking tide charts if skimming in a new area. Doing so will also help avoid rocks that are hidden under waves, which are another potential cause of serious injury.
Types of skim boards
Wave Riding Skimboards
Wave riding is the style most popular and best recognized in the sport of skimboarding. There are more athletes and competitions in wave riding than any other division of skimboarding. It is also the hardest and most technical. Today’s wave riding boards are a product of years of trials and errors. There isn’t much variation in shape because of this. There is a wide variety of beginner to very advanced, high performance boards in this category and it is important to choose the right one for your size, ability and style. Wave riding skimboarders refer to their board as a “skimboard.” However to inland skimborders it is referred to as a “foamie.”
The majority of wave riding skimboard manufacturers use a closed cell foam, which is a high density foam material that resists water absorption and dings. A Fiber-reinforced polymer is commonly used to cover the foam forming a strong outer shell.
Fiberglass boards are great, compared to the wooden board. They are faster, lighter, and they have more control on the water. The fiberglass behaves across the sand and water better, which is important for doing tricks and moves with the skimboard when it hit the wave. Its outer shell is strong, but easy to dent with rocks, shells, like any other composite skimboard.
Carbon fiber boards are lighter, stronger, and stiffer than the fiberglass skimboards and faster on the water and on the wet sand but they are one of the most expensive boards. These boards are more commonly used by professional riders that ride big waves.
There are four essential characteristics specific for riding a variety of waves. The board must be light enough to practically float (skim) on the water, but heavy enough that it will not fly away in the wind. It must be fast, as skimboarders need speed to get to the desired wave and not miss it completely. It must have adequate and appropriate rocker for your desired skimboarding location. It must be flexible according to personal preference based on riding style and ability.
Flatland or Inland Skimboards
Inland boards are generally made of wood and are easy to find at a local surf or skate shop, depending on your location. Inland boards tend to be made of wood and have a hcl bottom and, therefore, are called “woodies” by wave-riding skimboarders. Wood core can boards are quite rugged. They are meant for grinding rails and doing tricks. They stand up well against rocks and shells, obstacles, and general wear, they are great for beginners because they are simple to make and low-price. They are also used by a lot of professional skimboarders and can learn how to do a lot more tricks such as a “Bigger Spin”.
There are two basic sides of the spectrum for board types. The “Trick board,” a board where both sides are symmetrical and the shape is even throughout. This makes it ideal for spinning the board and completing tricks due to its symmetry. The “Cruiser board,” a board where the shape follows the same curves as a surfboard and is either slightly pointed or rounded at the top or tip and the back is slightly rounder. The backside of the board can also have a tail. These boards are typically called pintails.
The increasing international interest in skimboarding has resulted in the development of a competitive industry, catering for the ever-increasing demand for both quality and cheap skimboards. Each company has what they call team riders. Some famous riders are: Paulo Prietto, a professional skimboarder from California, and Brad Domke, a new rider from Florida which just beat the world record of the biggest wave ridden before, people who skimboard in competitions while representing their company sponsor to promote their boards. They usually have an amateur and professional team who are supplied by the manufacturer with skimboards at no or little cost. However, as a pro-rider the company usually pays for all traveling expenses for their riders on competition tours.
Skimboarding contests are held to establish ranking amongst skimboarders and provide a way for companies to market products. In North America there are two centralized organizations that hold events: United Skim Tour and Skim USA. There are also a lot of minor competitions such as the Virgin River Classic held in St. George Utah. In recent years the United Skim Tour (UST) has focused solely on professional competition while Skim USA has gravitated towards amateur competition. Some events are both Skim USA and UST events, and all Skim USA competitions have a professional division.
In Europe, the European Skimboard League was created in 2009 to promote skimboarding across the world. Its creation has been seen as one of the finest moments in European skimboarding to date. The 2009 League was won by Emanuel (Mega) Embaixador and in 2010 Hugo Santos. The league consists of 4 stages mostly held in the summer months, although UK & Spanish events tend to happen just outside the holiday season. The stages are held in Portugal, France, The UK & Spain, each hosted at one of the best skimboarding locations found anywhere in the world. The UK event is held at Tolcarne Beach in Newquay, Cornwall. Newquay is a location famous for its surfing scene and Tolcarne Beach is known as the UK Wedge to many surfers, bodyboarders & skimboarders.
Checkout professional world champion skimboarder Amber Torrealba in the video.
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