Skimboarding is the New Black
The Mermaid Society is growing daily and it’s with total stoke will bring Skimboarding into the mix. It’s a sport, there are competitions, even tours and the girls absolutely go to town shredding with or without waves. Kelli Bean is part of the US Skimboarding tour and is bringing us up to speed with this ripper of a water sport. Thanks to fabulous guest writer Kelli for putting this story together for us.
WHAT IS SKIMBOARDING?
There are two styles of skimboarding. There is inland skimboarding aka flatland and there is wave riding. Flatland is comparable to street skateboarding except on water, and can be performed during ocean’s low tide, on creeks, lakes, rivers and even puddles and wet grass after a rainy bout. Some European contests are also held in cities using a man-made skim pool. Flatland riders often do tricks such as ollies, shuv-its, flip tricks and spins; as well as hitting kickers, boxes and rails.
The difference between wave skimboarding and surfing is skimboarders start from the shore and charge towards the waves. The rider runs with their board in hand until they reach wet sand. They drop their board, jump on and glide quickly into the ocean. It is quite the rush! The skimboarder has a few options now, one of them carving into the wave called a wrap.
Skimboarding’s roots span over 90 years (late 1920s), yet is still a relatively small sport. Skimboarding started with Laguna Beach, California lifeguards on wood boards and has transformed into a competitive sport with committed and passionate athletes. Laguna Beach continues to produce the top professional skimboarders.
Wave riding is the preferred style but is limited to beaches with waves. There are many more opportunities to flatland skimboard. Flatland boards are made out of wood, whereas wave riders use a board made out of fibreglass or carbon fibre materials. One of the biggest differences in a skimboard over a surfboard is a skim does not have fins on the bottom.
COMPETITION & TOURING…
There is the European Skimboarding Cup, which consists of six flatland contests in cities such as Germany, Spain, Sweden and Poland. The west coast of North America also has many places to skim, particularly in Sacramento, CA, Washington and British Columbia, Canada. The Philippines also has great flatland spots. Lexi Hutchings is the Queen of Flatland, with no other female rider coming close to her abilities.
Wave riding has three tours, for both professional and amateur athletes. In Europe, there is the European Skimboard League, which consists of four stages. This tour was created in 2009. The four stages are held in Portugal, France, United Kingdom and Spain. The UK event happens at Tolcarne Beach in Newquay, which is a famous surfing scene and Tolcarne Beach is known as the UK Wedge. There is a Female Open category for the women to compete in.
Currently European female skimboarders are undergoing discrimination with the Portuguese Surfing Federation. Although women must pay the same entry fee as their male counterpart, there is no monetary prize for women. The women are staying strong, and have opted out of competing this year in the League.
They have been seeking help with the Portuguese Association of Women and Sport, as well as international support through social media. Some of the women have started a new project called, The Girls Are Awesome, in partnership with Free Skim Mag with the goal of capturing the notion that women too put great effort and love into the sport. Sofia Lopes has been on the front lines throughout this ordeal.
SKIMBOARDING IN THE USA…
Skim USA is the amateur tour on the east coast of America, created over 30 years ago. It is a non-profit organization focused on youth, as well as a tour comprised of six contests, a Team and lastly, funds a scholarship program for members heading to college. Skim USA contests have four divisions for female riders: Girls, Jr. Women, Women and Pro. Zap Skimboards, Alley Oop, Skim City and Just Skim Resource Center sponsor the tour.
United Skim Tour is the professional tour. Exile Skimboards and CMNTY, a California clothing company and organization committed to helping ocean pollution and conservancy, sponsor the tour. In 2000, the UST had its first informal tour and 2006 was the first year after corporate formation. The tour spans over seven months, starting March in Brasil to October in Newport Beach, CA. Many pros look forward to Stop 2 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The tour consists of eight sanctioned events in total.
*Keiao was the first UST Female World Champ, 2013
THE WOMEN ENTER THE GAME…
Women have recently been introduced to the competitive side of the sport. A landmark for women to look back on is the first ever Pro Womens Division. This took place at The VIC Contest in Laguna Beach, California in 2010. The induction of pro women into the UST happened last year, in 2013. Keiao Bucasas from Hawaii is the first UST female World Champ.
The decision was made to ease women into the professional tour starting with three contests. This ensures as many pros attending, thus making things competitive and worthwhile for them. This year the tour is set with contests in Laguna Beach, CA, Vilano Beach, Florida and the last event taking place in Newport Beach, CA.
The first year of the pro womens tour brought nineteen women out to compete. So far this year, fourteen women have competed but we won’t know the proper statistic until the third contest takes place in October. Pros Steff Mags and Siobhan McAuliffe have committed to competing at Oktoberfest, making at least sixteen. Women have taken time off work to travel to the first two events from east and west coasts, as well as three women from Hawaii.
Along with the professional three-stop tour, women are also celebrating more sponsorship opportunities. Not only with apparel companies, but also the big board companies such as Exile Skimboards and Victoria Skimboards on the west coast and Zap Skimboards and Slotstik Skimboards on the east coast sponsoring female riders. Especially exciting has been the introduction of female pro model skimboards for girls to purchase and ride.
SCORING THE CONTEST…
The scoring for United Skim Tour contests work with the top three waves, with scoring out of ten. The tour itself is a points race between all competitors who enter UST events. The first place winner in the pro womens division earns 1000 points towards her UST total, with each finisher receiving 90% of the points there after.
Each competitor’s highest scores at any two of the three sanctioned contests are counted. Women are encouraged to attend as many of the three events to increase their chances at a higher ranking. For 2014, our female UST World Champ has already been chosen despite the tour not being over. Casey Kiernan has won the first two stops, making her the overall winner at 2000 points, the best score to achieve.
Of course, a more powerful shorebreak makes for a better contest but generally speaking the show must go on. Competitors have to adjust to the conditions given on that particular weekend. Something to work towards in the future is having a wait period for the pros to get the best conditions possible. Despite frustrations on not perfect conditions, it is a way to challenge the pros by coming up with ways such as pulling out tech tricks to make a win happen. Typically speaking, skimboarders are much more tech savvy with tricks compared to surfers.
Final 4 Women at Stop 2 (FL Pro/Am) –
Ellen Wood, Amber Torrealba, Casey Kiernan and Silva Garavito (L – R)
WORLD WIDE DOMINATION…
The future is bright for skimboarding, both for women and the sport overall. New groms are met regularly on the beach as well as on social media platforms. American companies are taking notice and wanting to get involved with sponsoring international events.
Japan has a lot of female riders, putting on an annual female-only skimboarding contest. The most girls per capita in the world picking up the sport is in Florida, USA. There are riders in, and not limited to: Philippines, Malaysia, Africa, Portugal, Spain, Brasil and Netherlands. Ireland, Poland, Costa Rico, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Mexico and all over North America. It is surprising skimboarding is not popular in Australia. Yet….
NORTH AMERICAN SPONSORED WOMEN
- DB Skimboards – Lexi Hutchings (own pro model board) and Iza Batko
- Victoria Skimboards – Jasmine Joy, Silvia Garavito, Tia D’Ambrosio, Steff Mags (own pro model board), Siobhan McAuliffe and Jackie Gollbach
- Zap Skimboards – Libby Rendall, Casey Kiernan and Helen Holt
- Exile Skimboards – Keiao Bucasas (own pro model board)
- Slotstik Skimboards – Yasmyn Andrade and Amber Torrealba
USEFUL SKIMBOARDING LINKS