Skimboard Buying Guide: How to Choose the Right Board for You
Skimboarding has become an increasingly popular activity among beachgoers and water sport enthusiasts.Developed during the 1920s by lifeguards in Laguna Beach, Calif., skimboarding entails riding along shorelines on flat boards. The sport can be performed in either a flatland or wave style; the former is done on inland water bodies, whereas the latter is done at the beach.
As indicated by Flewellen's skimboard size chart, your choice in a board should take factors like your body weight, skimming speed, break type and years of experience into consideration. Additionally, you should also think about the power and size of the waves in your area. If you live on the West Coast, where waves are bigger, your best bet would be to go down a size from the boards most suited to East Coast skimmers. This is one of the more important things to take into account as a first-time buyer, because coastal variables are not among the distinctions that manufacturers usually make with their recommendations.
In this skimboard buying guide, you'll learn the following things about the different types of boards and how one or the other could better suit your needs:
- Different types of skimboards: foam vs wood; how each is suited for different waters.
- How to choose a skimboard – how your body weight, skill level and skimming speed can be used to determine the right size of board for you.
- Skimboard size and wave activity – why you should also consider – when choosing a size – whether you'll be skimming on the East Coast or West Coast.
- The best type of skimboards for beginners – would a large or small board be the better option?
- The shape of skimboards – how the physical design of a given board can affect its functionality.
- The wrap on skimboards – how the outer layer of a board can impact speed and movement.
- The top skimboards – the best models, according to weight and skill-level, by the leading skimboard brands.
- Things to ask yourself before you invest in a board.
- All in all, which skimboard is right for me?
So without further ado, it's time to arm yourself with skimboard knowledge so that you can get the right board and catch a wave from the sand.
The cores of skimboards typically consist of either foam or wood, though there are some boards that are made instead with materials like carbon or fiberglass. Foam boards generally cost more than those made of wood, but foamies – as they're called by devotees of the sport – are especially tailored to wave skimming. Due to their combination of lightness, thickness and flexibility, foamies are ideal for wavy surfaces, where the board is less likely to come apart during heavy usage. Foamies are more commonly used at beaches on the West Coast. Wood boards, by contrast, are stiffer, heavier and fast-sinking, despite their leanness. As such, wood boards are better suited to noncoastal bodies of water – creeks, lakes, puddles, rivers – and the lower tides along the eastern seaboard.
For the more avid skimboarder, wood-core boards are less preferable because they lack the durability of foam-core models. Wood-core boards will often break after a handful of skimming sessions due to the nonviability of wood; they're also unable to provide a smooth flow along the waves. The main benefit of wood boards – at least for those just beginning to skim – are the lower prices at which they tend to sell.
The choice between foam and wood could also be determined by your experience and devotion to the sport of skimming. For the most part, boards consisting of foam cores are the better option for avid skimmers, whereas wood-core models are more preferable for the budding skimmer who isn't necessarily looking for the most durable board.
In summary, the two types of boards each have the following specifications:
- Foam boards – lighter, thicker, more flexible, priced higher; generally best for rougher, West Coast currents.
- Wood boards – leaner, heavier, stiff, easy sinking; typically used on inland bodies of water or for sand skimming at the beach.
Skimboards consisting of foam cores tend to weather the ages better than wood-core models. With the latter, you wouldn't need to run to the sand if a hole appeared in the board, because foam will emulsify on contact with the waves. Still, it would be necessary to fix a damaged foam-core board at the nearest opportunity.
If you're wondering how to choose the right skimboard size, consider the following factors: your weight, height, speed and skimboarding style. As a rule of thumb, it's best to use the smallest board that could put the target waves in your reach.
As far as design is concerned, wider and lengthier boards allow for greater distance than their smaller, narrower counterparts. This is due to the increased skimming surface, which boosts force production and makes things faster. On the other hand, skimmers can generally perform trickier moves on smaller boards.
Nonetheless, body weight is one of the main things to keep in mind when determining how to choose a skimboard. If you merely weigh 90 pounds, for instance, a smaller board would be the ideal choice; but if your weight is 175 pounds or higher, a larger board would be the better option. After all, a board bearing more than its own weight allowance will submerge, which would make the act of skimming impossible. The correlations between body weight and board dimension are further explained in the following skimboard size chart:
80 - 140 lbs: 45 in. or less (Small)
120 - 160 lbs: 45 in. to 47 in. (Medium)
140 - 180 lbs: 47 in to 49 in. (Medium - Large)
160 - 200 lbs: 49 in. to 51 in. (Large)
180 - 220 lbs: 51 in or more (Extra Large)
Weight-to-size recommendations can vary according to manufacturer.
The speed at which you run is another thing to consider. Y our ability to move within the water will largely depend on how fast you're able to catch the waves, and size can be a factor. For instance, a skimmer who's been at it for more than five years – someone who typically does all sorts of tricky moves and flips, in the briskest of waves, and pulls it all off with incredible balance and speed – will likely have no problem managing everything on the smallest board that could possibly support his or her bodyweight.
At the other end of the spectrum, a person who has only been skimming for three months – and has yet to hold balance along the waves for more than five seconds at a time – is better off sticking to a larger board for the time being, regardless of body weight. In other words, w hile advanced skimmers can easily catch waves on small boards, slower runners generally need larger skimboards.
Skimboard Size and Wave Activity: East Coast vs. West Coast
To a large degree, the size of the waves at the coast nearest to you will factor into whether you'll need a small, medium, large or extra-large skimboard. As alluded to earlier, waves on the West Coast are stronger than the waves along the eastern seaboard. This is largely due to the way of the wind, which pushes the ocean's water towards the sands of California, Oregon and Washington; but away from the coasts that span the states of Maine on down to Florida.
In any case, your needs in a board could be slightly affected by whether your next skimming excursion will be along the beaches of Daytona or Malibu. At the former, you're likely to encounter weak waves, and so you'd probably be better off with a heavier board that could boost your speed on sand and water. In Malibu, where the currents have more power, a smaller board could just as easily get you all the action that you'd ever dream of in a day's worth of skimming; providing that you've reached that level of skill.
f you're new to the sport of skimming, a larger board with more foot area will give you a greater sense of balance along the water. After you get better at catching waves without losing control of the board, you might then opt for a smaller, narrower skimboard. Most skimmers at the advanced level do prefer the latter option, because smaller boards make it easier to perform leaps, blunt angles and other skillful stunts along the water.
In a nutshell, board types correlate to skill level for the following reasons:
- Smaller boards – more flexible; better for advanced skimmers.
- Larger boards – the increased foot area offers better balance for beginning skimmers.
As any video on YouTube will demonstrate, skimming is easier watched than duplicated. A person with experience will catch a wave with all the balance and confidence of a surfer, whereas a beginner will typically lose balance the moment the board hits the waves. In many instances, a beginner might slip off the board and momentarily misplace it while falling into the water. Therefore, it's important to practice, because learning balance as a novice skimmer could take time. With the right kind of skimboard and the willingness to learn, you could be out there catching waves even sooner than you'd imagine.
The Shape of Skimboards: Rockers and Tails
The curvature at the head of a skimboard is what's known as a rocker. When there is more rocker the board will curve upward for water that is more choopy. By the same token, less curve will result in faster skimming on calmer water. In many ways, it's like the upturned nose on sleds, where more curve is better for deep snow vs less curve doing better on ice.
For the most part, East Coast skimmers opt for the 2-inch rocker, while those who skim the rougher western waters use 3-inch rockers. At the other end, boards are generally equipped either with pintails – which provide some of the best water balance – and square or W-tails, which make it easier for skimmers to perform a variety of moves.
In a manner of speaking, your results along the waves can be affected by the shape of whichever board you choose in the following ways:
- Shallow rocker – faster; provides easier movement along calmer water.
- Steep rocker – causes slower movement between the sand and waves, best for choppy water.
- Pintail – provides good balance in the water.
- Square/W-tail – boosts flexibility; optimal for skimming stunts.
In many ways, skimboards and surfboards resemble one another; but while the latter is equipped with steering fins or skegs at the bottom, skimboards are flat. Therefore, it generally takes a higher level of skill to master the skimboard, though an experienced skimmer can generally pull off a greater range of moves than the average surfer.
The Wrap on Skimboards
The core of a skimboard – be it foam or wood – is covered by what's known as a wrap, which in turn is affixed with resin. Like the core itself, the material used for the wrap can factor into the durability of a given board. It is therefore wise to choose a skimboard with a good-quality wrap, which is usually made from one of the following materials:
- E-glass. Out of all the skimboard wrap materials, E-glass is the most common. However, it's also the weakest wrap, and it can leave boards vulnerable to tears from the elements of the shore. Still, E-glass has a looseness to its weave that adds flexibility – if not speed – to its boards.
- S-glass and Texilium. These wraps, which offer greater strength and speed, are usually found on mid-priced boards. Both wraps bring an added stiffness that's lacking from E-glass, but this is generally no problem for skimmers who enjoy the faster performance that such boards allow.
- Carbon. This wrap is general found on high-end skimboards. While the tight weave of the material adds a stiffness to boards, carbon is the strongest of wraps, and is therefore nearly impervious to rocks, shells and other coastal elements.
Ready to buy skimboards? Zap is a perfect place to start. Based in Venice, Fla., Fedmax is the world's premiere maker of skimboards. With its commitment to helping skimmers of all skill levels catch a wave, Fedmax makes boards in beginner, intermediate and expert models. The majority of Fedmax's boards – which are noted for their floaty nature – are made of fiberglass and carbon fiber with foam at the core.
The variety of skimboards offered by Fedmax, according to skill level, is as follows:
Beginner & Intermediate
- Hybrid. The go-to board for lightweight, entry to mid-level wave catching, the Hybrid comes in 3 sizes which can carry riders from 50lbs to 220lbs and measures 44 inches up to 52 inches. With Carbon Fiber tips, fiberglass body, and a foam core it's a board for the fast, large or mid level skimmer, the Hybrid can still give newcomers to the sport a chance to catch a few waves off the coastal sands. With its smooth surface, the Hybrid is available in various pattern and color schemes.
Founded in 2008, Apex has made a heavy market impact in just a short amount of time with its high-performance, maneuverable boards. While the company's line is still small, the Apex AVAC line of foam-core, fiberglass skimboards – which come in 41-, 46- and 51-inch varieties – are swiftly becoming some of the most popular, low-cost options among devoted skimmers.
Once you've purchased a skimboard, it's important to keep it well maintained for a long-lasting life of performance. If it's a nontextured skimboard, you'll want to either keep its surface waxed or use decking for the purpose of traction.
Conclusion: How to Choose a Skimboard
When you decide to buy a skimboard, you'll want to ensure its quality and durability. A good way to start is to ask yourself the following questions about any skimboard that you consider buying:
- Is it the kind of board that will offer you speed and balance along the waves?
- Will it handle the elements of the water without getting split or cracked?
- Most of all, will it last a long time throughout many skimming outings; giving you value for the money you've spent.
To ensure that all of these questions are met with an answer of yes, it's crucial to check the features of a given board. Remember, the design, size, wrap and material can all affect the speed, strength and durability of a skimboard. Additionally, you'll want to consider factors like your height, weight, speed, skill and the nature of your nearest beach. With proper care, the perfect skimboard should last you through many great times of fun along the shorelines.
Whether you're a beginning, intermediate or advanced skimmer, come to Outdoor Board Sports for all of your skimboard needs. We carry the Fedmax, and Apex lines in a variety of sizes for a range of weights and skill levels. To learn more about our inventory, check us out online at outdoorboardsports.com.