How to Skimboard
If you've dreamed of mastering a sport that's tricky and involves water and freedom — but lacks the danger associated with surfing — skimboarding could be the perfect choice. You only need a few things to take up skimboarding as a hobby: namely a board and a beach.
Ultimately, you'll find your rhythm as a skimmer as you continuously practice the sport, providing you know what to expect each time you ride the board. The following skimboard tutorial tells you everything you need to know in order to get started and advance your technique.
In a sense, learning how to balance on a skimboard is like learning how to balance on a bike. As with the latter, you master your balance on a skimboard when it's in motion, not when it's grounded. That said, there is one basic reality for the beginning skimmer:
Falling is part of mastering the skill . Skimboarding is one of the most exhilarating and adrenaline-fuelled sports, but as with skiing, surfing, skating and any other sporting activity that requires balance, you also end up falling from time to time.
When you're learning to skimboard for the first time, you'll end up falling quite frequently. Fortunately, the soft, dampened sand of a skimboard setting is much less bruising than the hard concrete and floors of ice faced by skaters. So whether you fall on your knees or bottom, it's usually easy to jump right back up and hit the board again. However, you must have a willingness to fall if you wish to be a skimmer — it's simply a fact of the sport.
The first steps of learning to skimboard involve being prepared, getting balanced, increasing speed and recognizing skimming logistics. Skimboarding for beginners doesn’t have to be difficult once you master a few of the basics.
Find an optimal spot. While it's possible to skimboard in non-beach environments, the sand and water that you'll find at the coast will generally provide the most optimal of settings for this sport. Different types of beaches are best for particular styles of skimboarding. When it comes to sand skimming, for instance, your most ideal setting would be a flat beach. On the other hand, beaches with steep slopes and strong shores are better for wave skimming.
Purchase a suitable board . Our beginners guide to skimboarding wouldn’t be complete with some advice on how to pick a skimboard. The type of board you ultimately choose should depend on whether you intend to do sand skimming or wave skimming. In order to do the former, any board with a small, flat, wooden design would be appropriate, and such boards tend to be inexpensively priced. With wave skimming, by contrast, you'd be better off with a specially shaped foam board. Learn more about how to choose the right skimboard for you.
Get fit for the sport. Before you learn how to skimboard, you'll want to be in good physical shape when you take the board out on the beach. It's good to have your running speed up and your leg muscles toned and stretched before you start skimboarding. After all, the sport involves brisk runs with a few falls along the way.
Practice positioning in advance of your first skim. When you first practice skimming, try to find a spot on the beach away from other people. After all, most people don't understand skimming, and you wouldn't want to bump into anyone as you practice. Then, practice your poses before you take it out:
- Turn sideways to the shoreline. If you're right-footed, turn to your right; if you're left-footed, turn to your left. If one angle doesn't feel comfortable, try the other.
- With your body standing still, lean over and lower your board down to six inches from the ground. Push the board across the watered sand, parallel to the shoreline. This move is much like shooting pool in that the throwing hand sends the object forward while the other hand keeps it balanced.
- Rise up, chase the board and run onto it one foot at a time. As you slide, bend your knees.
As you get better at this move, try doing it all faster and more succinctly until you can pull it off in one step.
Get in the proper position for your first skim . Hold the board in front of you with one hand on the tail and one hand on the side. In order to skim along the flat sand, wait until just after a wave rolls out — when the sand is thinly coated with a film of water — to begin your run. Once your running reaches full speed, drop the board flat on the wet sand, directly in front of you, and get on the board.
Run onto the board. Don't jump onto the board, just run onto it with your front leg landing in the middle, followed by your back foot. The key here is to gradually add your bodyweight to the board, one foot at a time, because that will allow the board to skim with smoothness and ease. If you were to jump on the board, that would place too much weight upon it and run it into the sand.
Skim along. The sport of sand skimming is easy — you simply skim along until the board slows to a halt. You can opt to do a straight skim or, depending on your skill level, go for something trickier, such as a shoot or a big spin. Once you've mastered the sand skim, you'll likely want to take on the next big feat: wave skimming.
Choose the right wave. Of all the initial steps that a novice skimmer takes when out on the beach, the most important step of all is to choose the most optimal wave. For practice, it's best to take to a wave immediately after it breaks — timing is everything here. In order to accomplish the wave skim, you'll need to choose a reachable wave that you can turn off of without losing your balance. Depending on which direction you plan to go, you'll want to begin your turn with the application of weight to either your inside or outside rail when coming towards the wave.
Maintain the proper speed. A technique known as side-slipping — giving the board sideways turns over flat water — can help you hold your speed for longer durations. Another way to hold your speed is to use the middle-side rail of the board instead of the back, though this is trickier to master since it leaves you with less power over the wave. Once you skim up the front of the wave, turn away from it and back to the shore.
Skimboarding for beginners can be a little bit frustrating after the first few falls, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll move on to the intermediate level.
Once you've learned all the basic moves of the beginners guide to skimboarding, it's time to master the intermediate techniques of the sport. Some of the initial steps here are similar to ones before, such as those that involve approaching the wave — this time around, it just requires a more keen eye.
Measure your approach of the wave. Remember, if you want to catch a wave, you'd better choose the right one. In order to qualify, the wave must be within reach. After all, it's impossible to ride a wave that you can't even get to in the first place. Therefore, you must choose a wave that breaks closely into the shore. Trouble is, such waves can also be difficult to ride.
The important thing is to look at the water in front of the wave — does it move into the beach after the break of another wave? If the water moves inward at a speed of 5 miles per hour, and you run at double that speed, you should be able to skim out to the wave on that water at 15 mph. On the other hand, if the water moves outward (back into the ocean) at 5 mph, your skimming speed will be reduced to 5 mph, and your board will ground instantly, regardless of how fast you run. For all of these reasons and more, your success as a skimmer will largely depend on whether or not you choose appropriate waves.
Ride your board according to footedness. In order to have the most plentiful range of options in terms of reachable waves, it's crucial to get on your board as fast as possible. When you get on the board swiftly, you can make a play for waves that are only available for seconds. The most surefire way to pull this off is to simply step on the board the moment it hits the sand — preferably by swinging your right foot on the middle of the board or left foot if you're "goofy" footed — with your back foot handling the running motions to keep you moving on your skim.
Distribute your weight properly on the board. It's important to move into the water as smoothly as possible in order to keep up your speed throughout each trick. The best way to accomplish this is by placing weight at the tail of the board, with the strength of your back foot, in order to raise the nose. As soon as you hit the water, however, it's also crucial to keep your weight centered on top of the board. Failure to do so could cause the board to grind to a halt from an overabundance of weight at the tail.
Get ready for your turn. As you come towards the wave, prepare to make your turn. In order to get this started, bend your knees. This will help you place more of your bodyweight onto the board along its back rail. Even though it could slightly lower your speed, an early start to your turn will make is easier to complete in full. In certain cases, you may opt to use your hand as a pivot-point in the water while doing your turn.
Do the turn. If all goes according to plan, you should have every bit of speed necessary for completing the turn once you hit the wave. Otherwise, your best option would be to cut the move and start it over again. Providing that you do have sufficient speed, things are really going to get fun, because the turn that you'll have already begun will climax at the peak of the wave. Preferably, you'll be able to manage a steady turn up the front of the wave — but as you reach the peak, kick out your back foot to snap from the wave's top and then head back onto the beach.
Bring the board around. This can certainly be a tricky move, because every wave offers a particular moment when it is most capable of supporting a turn. Ideally, you'll have measured the move so your arrival will coincide with the best possible moment for the wave. Typically, the most optimal time to snap at the crest of a wave is immediately before it breaks.
The reason why it works this way is due to the speed of waves, which typically move inward at their fastest at the very same moment you would be making a turn. Of course, the move is most easily accomplished when you place added weight onto your back foot in order to ready the board's tail for the turn. As you get more advanced at this move, you can save speed by using the side rails of the board while in the midst of the turn.
Come back down. Once you have made the full change of direction, you'll ideally be moving down the front of the wave. In most cases, it's preferable to turn continually for the chance to further ride the wave, instead of just returning to the sand. While coming down the wave's front, try to prolong your turn. This will allow you to ride along the shoreline with an increased amount of speed. As you come towards the beach, be sure to keep the board's nose from pointing down, because otherwise it could grind right into the sand.
Once you’ve had a solid introduction to skimboard and you’re bringing your skills up to the advanced level, spectators at the beach will really start to take notice of your skimming abilities. The following skimboard tutorial will help you get to the most advanced skimboarding level.
Spot the most opportune wave. For starters, you'll want to find a wave that can be approached quickly and from an angle. With enough speed, you'll be able to take the board up high — the key is to hit the wave immediately before it breaks.
Run at the proper angle for the jump. As you come toward the wave, turn your body in order to reach the wave at a side angle. Choose the spot where you plan to launch in advance of getting there. When you do come to the wave's bottom, bend your knees as if preparing for a jump.
Jump at the right second. The moment your board reaches the wave's lip, do your jump. The jump should be small, light (not too hard) and controlled with the board underneath. Refrain from jumping with both feet — place more weight on your back foot to make the board lift at its nose .
Maintain control of the board while up in the air. While your body is up in the air, it will most likely be easier to keep the board beneath your body if you let your front foot slide up the board. Though it's difficult to have control at this point, the wind underneath is what will keep the board attached to your feet in the midst of a rotation.
In order to gain more control of the board, try to absorb its rising motion with your knees. The trick is to balance the pressure between the board and your feet so the latter doesn't lose contact with the former. With bent knees, the board will rise up underneath your body during the entire jump, which will ultimately make it easier to land.
Extend your legs on the comedown. When you begin to decelerate from your jump, it will still be necessary to keep your feet planted on the board. The difference here is that the board will be descending, so to keep it under your feet, you'll need to extend your legs while you land.
This should be done gradually from the moment you descend so that your legs are completely extended by the time you touch back down on the beach. It goes without saying that you should also have your landing spot determined at this point in the game — the place where you land should be free of rocks and out of harm's way.
Land the board. There are various ways you can land: on the whitewash, on the wave itself or on the sand — though the last of those could be bad on the board. Whatever method you choose, however, it's crucial to have your weight focused at the center of the board while you land. It's also important to hold your balance as well as you can throughout this move. For the easiest possible landing, absorb the impact with your knees. This will help your board land flat and ensure a smooth and easy ride out.
As you get more into the sport of skimming, you'll be tempted to perform trickier moves on the board. There are various skimboard tricks that can be mastered at each of the skimming skill levels, from beginner and intermediate to advanced and expert.
Beginner tricks. Tricks at the beginner level include flat front and backside 180s, in which you rotate the board halfway around, in one direction or the other, with your foot. Other tricks for the novice skimmer to try include the body varial — where you jump and spin above the board — and the hippy jump — where you jump over a rail while the board goes under.
Intermediate tricks. At the intermediate level, things get trickier with front and backside 180s, in which you pop the board and make a halfway rotation along with it — either to the left or right, depending on your footedness. There's also the backside and frontside shuvit, where you jump in the air while the board spins underneath you.
Advanced and expert tricks. Things get really complicated at the advanced level, where shuvits now spin a full 360 degrees. Perhaps even trickier are the front and backside bigspins, which combine 180-degree body varials with 360-degree board rotations. The trickiest advanced move is undoubtedly the biospin, in which the 180/360 rotations of the bigspin are each done in opposite directions. For those who make it to the expert level, full-body rotations are combined with 540-degree board spins.
Most sports have their share of risks, and learning to skimboard is no exception. Fortunately, you can avoid these risks by taking the right precautionary measures.
Prevent surfer's ear.
One condition that is known to affect unguarded, unsuspecting skimmers is surfer's ear. Prolonged, repetitive exposure to wind and water causes damage to the ear canal and hinders a person's hearing. Once the condition has advanced, the treatment for surfer's ear can be complex and risky. In order to prevent the possibility of coming down with surfer's ear, wear ear plugs at all times while taking your board to the waves.
Beware of sun glare on ocean water.
If you're on the west coast, you're liable to do some of your skimming between the late afternoon and evening when the sun is coming down. Trouble is, the sun's reflection upon the water during these hours can be damaging to the eyes.
Conditions resulting from prolonged exposure include impaired vision and growths upon the eye's surface. When you hit a beach that faces the sunset during the later part of a given day, wear sunglasses as often as possible when you're not actually skimming.
Exercise the knees to avoid stress.
As most veteran skimmers know, skimboarding puts a lot of stress on the knees. The most effective way to reduce this stress is to exercise the muscles surrounding the knees with ankle weights and leg-lift movements. When the leg muscles are equipped to handle more stress, the burden is reduced on the ligaments and tendons of your knees.
A more subtle technique for avoiding knee stress involves the way you walk up the beach. Instead of walking diagonally over the receding whitewash, walk in a direction that doesn't put your ankles perpendicular to the flow of the water. Your knees will thank you over time.
Strengthen your back..
With all the twists and bends that skimmers do on a regular basis, back injuries can occur in those who lack sufficient upper-body strength, especially those who are leaning how to skimboard for the first time and not used to the new strain on their body. As with any physical undertaking, it's important to do stretches of your back and hamstrings before you go about skimming. For maximum protection against pulled muscles and discs, it's also best to do strength training exercises a couple times each week for stronger back, shoulder, arm, and leg muscles, as well as crunches for a tighter abdomen.
Where to Begin
Now that you're all psyched about learning how to skimboard, it's time to get a skimboard so you can begin hitting the waves at your nearest beach. Skimboards come in a range of sizes and materials from various brands, including Fedmax and Apex. Be sure to choose the right skimboard in relation to your body weight and skill level. Whatever board may be right for you, you'll find it at Outdoor Board Sports.