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Skimboarding (or skimming) is a boardsport in which a skimboard (a smaller, sleeker version of a surfboard) is used to ride on an incoming wave. Unlike surfing, skimboarding begins on the beach, with the skimboarder running and dropping their board onto the thin wash of previous waves. They 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 shuv-its on the wash of waves without catching shorebreaks.

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Contents

Technique

The skimboarder stands within running distance of his chosen entry point, skimboard in hand, and waits for a wave. As the desired wave approaches the skimboarder runs towards the water. Depending on conditions the board is either dropped on a thin layer of water from a receding wave or on the thicker water in front of the wave. A rider drops the board beside him and jumps on without having to catch up to it. This is known as the "One-Step", although there are other variations such as the "Two-Step" and the "No-Step". The skimboarder will then attempt to slide to the wave possibly "pumping" or "glidding" to maintain speed. This technique is often summed up as "Run, Drop, Slide" and is considered the basis of advanced skimboarding. When the wave is reached it can be ridden "down the line", or the rider may launch off the waveface and attempt an aerial trick. There are many additional ways a rider can get on the board. It is not uncommon to see a rider run on a board front foot first even though most skimboarders run on back foot first. A variation on "Run, Drop, Slide" is the "Monkey Crawl" where the rider holds both sides of the board and crouches down running into thick water with the board on the surface, while maintaining a fast pace the rider quickly hops and glides on the board. This technique is used for hitting larger waves for the more advanced. Another variation on the standard drop is the "suitcase drop" where the rider runs with the board held in one hand like a suitcase then flicks their hand and drops it so it lands flat before running on. The original technique, used with the original round home-made boards, where the board is thrown ahead and chased then jumped onto, is not the technique used with the modern type of skim boards.

Novice demonstrating the Fistral Turn

Ideally, the skimmer should put his or her back foot far back on the board and the front foot towards the front of the board somewhere between the middle and nose of the board. A common technique for finding the "center" of your board involves picking the side of the board up by the rail with two fingers until the board is balanced and doesn't lean forward or back, this is the approximate center of the board. After successfully mounting the board it may be necessary to lean slightly forward to avoid shifting your weight off center or to momentarily shift weight slightly to the back to get over smaller waves to reach the desired wave. The skimmer then glides out into the ocean toward the oncoming wave, banks off it, and rides it back into shore.If a skimboarder is not a "wave skimmer," then he or she can ride on a short film of water or possibly on "flatland" in shallow water where the rider may attempt to ride a rail or do "tech" (skateboard orientated) tricks.

Skimboard Characteristics

Riders generally favor a board length which reaches about their mid-chest height when stood on end.

Thickness of the board depends somewhat on the materials used in construction, but typically ranges from 3/8 inch to 1 inch. A few high-flotation foam core boards and "soft" boards have been built with thicknesses in excess of 2 inches.

Most skimboards will have some nose lift, or rocker. There are three types of rockers generally used for skimboards. There is a constant rocker, which means that the board has a constant curve from nose to tail. Constant rockers are known for better control on bigger waves. Another type of rocker and the most commonly used is a hybrid rocker. This means that the board has a curve on the bottom through about 3/4 of the board's length, the rest (meaning the flat part) is usually the tail. This type of rocker is good for both speed and control on decent size waves; also the best type of board for flatland tricks. Last of all, a traditional rocker means that the board is almost completely flat except for the nose which has just a little bit of curve so as not to dig into the sand. This type of board might be used for speed runs, or selected as a beginner's board because it is the cheapest type to fabricate.

By contrast, some very modern and more expensive boards are being built with a compound curvature, such that the rocker not only follows an arc from end to end, but has curvature from rail to rail. These curvatures may be spherical, elliptical, or curved in opposite directions like a Pringles™ potato chip (though more flattened, of course).

There has been an ongoing Evolution (term) in the outline shape of skimboards. Gradually, builders have been moving toward more aggressive outlines that give a rider more control. Skimboards don't have fins, so the shape of the board is the key factor for directional input. Board shape and surface area are arguably more important than the board's bouyancy or construction, since the analytical dynamics of the ride are based on hydroplaning, not flotation. Shape is an absolutely crucial consideration in the selection process.

(1.) The earliest skimboards were circular or teardrop shaped, and these are still excellent shapes for a beginner. Rotational symmetry reinforces a rider's perception that his body's momentum and balance (ability) are more important than the orientation (geometry) of the board, in determining his direction of travel. This is a fact on any skimboard, especially on-shore.

(2.) The next phase of development was generally patterned after the surfing industry. Whether due to popularity, or the hydrodynamic principles of surfboard design, skimboard manufacturers had best-selling results from surf inspired shapes. Skimboards have been made in fish shapes, pin tails, swallowtails, squash tails, and more variants of the surfboard theme.

(3.) Next came the realization that on thin water, the "rocker" (curvature away from a flat plane along the length) of the board will cause the nose to be carried in the air. So in terms of handling characteristics, the shape of the nose doesn't matter much. Also, a skimboarder's sideways stance doesn't necessarily have a "front" or "back" except as the rider favors goofy foot or regular foot. By creating a symmetric board which effectively fused two tail sections together at the middle, a rider could perform aerial stunts and land securely, facing in either direction.

It is also possible for a skimboarder to run and jump on his board when it's simply awash on a wave, floating free. He doesn't always need to follow the run-drop-slide sequence. A bidirectional shape means that the board can never be turned "backward" to the rider. Whichever way it's facing he has an equal chance to run and jump aboard, to continue riding.

During this phase of evolution, the emerging shapes were "twin-tip", surf skate, and squared shapes. These are closely related with the bidirectional board shapes used in wakeboarding, snowboarding, and kitesurfing. All of them are intended for versatility in performing a huge variety of stunts.

(4.) The latest evolution of skimboard shape is based on the hyperbolic function, with double-concave sides creating a waistline at the middle. Snow skis and snowboards use this geometry to achieve a carve turn on snow. They maintain better speed by tracking along a precise arc, than by displacing some volume of the particles underfoot in order to turn. There is less drag by this mechanism, along with enhanced directional control.

The waistline of the hyperbolic shape, also allows the rider to easily "twist" the board so that front and back portions are slanted differently. This gives a highly sensitive foot-steering response, more rotational than directional in its effect.

The hyperbolic skimboard shape has retained the good bidirectional qualities found in phase (3.) of skimboard evolution, above.

Another advantage is that its widest surface areas are located beneath each foot, so that the rider's stance is well supported and secure. There is less sense of falling off from a central balance point, during any weight transfer from front-to-back.

A possible disadvantage is that the rotational moment of inertia is high, due to the mass of the board being distributed outward from center. This is opposite from the primitive circular board which doesn't care which way it is facing and will spin very freely. The hyperbolic shape has a high directional stability and tends to snap into its path. It is not as easy to toss this type of board into a sudden spinning maneuver, such as the stunts derived from skateboarding lip tricks. Twin-tip shapes would be the optimal choice for such tricks. Hyperbolic boards are also somewhat difficult to "wrap" onto the face of an incoming wave, yet they do handle deep water nicely. Hyperbolic skimboards are best suited for long graceful glides, distance runs, top speed, and maneuverability.

Skimboard Evolution at a Glance

Shape Examples:

teardrop -   ride77   alibaba

modified teardrop -   online-surf-shops   sandskater

fish/swallowtail -   eosmilitary   victoriaskimboards-store

pin tail -   exileskimboards   skimcity

twin tip -   dbskimboards   akwa   cyaincalifornia

skate -   surfdogs   zedskimboards   ride77   fourskims

hyperbolic -   wetwildandfast

Dangers

There are many types of dangers that skimboarders can face on a daily basis. Skimboarding is an increasingly popular activity on the beach. 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. Drowning amongst skimboarders is not as likely as amongst surfers due to the shallow water in which skimboarding is usually practiced. However, if unconscious a skimboarder could easily drown.

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: 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 your toe, tarsal, or metatarsal. This usually occurs from torque in the front foot while riding.

Styles

There are several ways in which a skimboard can be ridden: either gliding over a layer of water or wet sand towards a wave, or riding in shallow water away from the ocean (known as flatland or inland skimming. Most flatland skimboarding takes place at rivers).

Wave riding is considered more advanced than flatland skimboarding, though flatland skimboarding has become more and more popular and taxingly difficult over the years as more advanced rails, ramps and technical tricks have become the norm. All skimboarders start by learning how to throw the board and run onto it while it is gliding across a thin layer of water. After beginners have mastered the basic techniques properly they can move to more complicated tricks, or riding waves, grinding rails, or other skateboarding maneuvers. Sand skimboarding is considered to be a beginner's sport due to the relative lack of difficulty when compared to skimming on waves in hotspots such as Aliso Beach. Nevertheless, some flatland skimmers are able to perform tricks of great technical skill, many adapted from skateboarding, such as grinding rails.

Advanced skimboarders are able to do much more impressive tricks on their boards. The most common advanced move is called a Wrap. When the skimmer reaches the wave, by shifting his or her weight the skimmer can wrap around it, which also propels him or her back to shore. To take it further, a very advanced move is called the Wrap Barrel. This is when you wrap the wave, but instead of coming directly back to shore, you turn farther and get into the barrel of the wave.

A technique often used to reach hard-to-reach waves is side-slipping. It involves doing the normal one-step but once the rider has landed on the board, they turn the board sideways and crouch into balance, approaching the wave rail-first. This technique allows for the rider to have less surface friction which allows the rider to maintain a faster speed unlike the traditional way of going straight out into the on-coming wave. Another technique involves pumping the board both leading to and once on a wave to maintain speed.

Locations

Many consider the center of skimboarding to be located in Southern California, where skimboarding originated. It is home to some of the best conditions in the world for skimboarding. However, people skim in many more locations throughout the United States and internationally in Europe (the main locations being Portugal and France), Australia, Asia, and South America. However, many people skim inland because of difficulty with shore access. Flatland skimboarding can be done nearly anywhere: lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds, puddles, or even wet grass. Flatland skim scenes have developed in places such as North America (Outer Banks, Washington, British Columbia, Ontario, Delaware, California, Florida, Utah, Long Island and The Great Lakes) Melbourne, Australia and Plimerton, Wellington NZ.

There's a curious fact in Recife, a city of Brasil: there can be no surfing due to shark attacks. Once people can't go surfing, many surf lovers are becoming skimmers, looking for the waves closer to the sand where sharks are not considered a danger. Boa Viagen's Beach is today a skimboarding hotspot.

Types of skimboards

The two main types of skimboards are inland/flatland boards, and wave boards that are often fiberglass. Inland boards tend to be made of wood. They are meant for grinding rails and doing tricks using the thin layer of water from an incoming wave. Though these wood boards usually cannot be used to ride actual waves, and just skim across the surface of the water. Modern skimboards are made of fiberglass, with a soft foam core middle. These boards tend to have more buoyancy and therefore can be used to ride a wave, almost like a surfboard.

Industry

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, 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 pro-rider the company pays for all traveling expenses for their riders on competition tours.

Contests

Skimboarding contests are held to establish ranking amongst skimboarders and provide a way for companies to market product. In North America there are three centralized organizations that hold events: United Skim Tour, Skim USA, and Skim Invasion. In Europe there are two centralized organizations: Skim Tour (France)and the new European Skim League. The Victoria World Championships has in the past determined the World Champion of Professional Skimboarding but it moved to a points system through United Skim Tour. Most events consist of a set time and date but there has been a small movement to start holding waiting period competitions like the Vilano Throw Down, also the DB Pro-AM at Dash Point State Park.

Links

References


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