How to Skimboard – A Detailed Beginners Guide
It may surprise you but skimboarding has been around since 1920. It originated when a couple of Laguna Beach lifeguards wanted to make the most out of the local shore breaks but they were too shallow for surfboards. They made their disc shaped boards out of redwood and over time turned skimboarding into a bit of an early day art form.
Fast forward, and skimboarding has taken off as a global water-sport that continues to grow year-on-year. No different to surfing, windsurfing, paddle boarding and kite boarding, skimboarding is now enjoyed by the masses right through to the professionals who compete on the global stage.
Like the vast majority of sporting activities, understanding the basics and developing a proper technique is essential. In this brief guide we cover off the key skimboarding basics and provide some tips on how to get started.
This will be largely governed by the type of skimboarding that you plan on doing.
In the first instance it is recommended that you start out on sand as it is a lot easier to master the basics this way. Any beach location where there is smooth flat sand works well. The greater the slope, the greater the ability to get up momentum and speed. Wooden boards are typically heavier and more effective for beginners on sand.
When it comes to skimming on water, beach locations that have a strong shore break are perfect. Ideally, a beach that has a decent slope leading to the water with long waves that curl close to the shore are best. Your ultimate goal is to get up sufficient momentum so you can meet the wave and then ride it back to shore – similar to surfing.
Wave riding is challenging and definitely takes some practice. As a means to building up your confidence, you should take it step-by-step and stick to the wet sands on the shore in the first instance. As long as you are able to run through the water (say ankle deep), then you should be able to confidently skimboard on any beach where there is sand.
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How to Choose a Skimboard
There are a quite a few different types of skimboards. Selecting the right skimboard for you will depend on a number of factors including its desired usage, your level of experience, your height and body weight, the boards design and materials, and of course your budget. On the lower end of the scale, a basic beginners board can cost as little as $25 whereas high spec professional boards are in the range of $500.
If you’re just starting out and still working on your technique, you would typically start with a wooden board and focus on flat inland areas or the wet sand on the waters edge. The more experienced you get you’ll no doubt get into wave riding which is where you’ll be looking at light-weight boards that are made from fibreglass & foam, carbon fibre and blended composite materials.
Like many things size matters. As a general rule of thumb, if you stand beside your board while it is in an upright vertical position, it should come up to your chest. This assumes that you are of average build relative to your height.
Length / Width: skimboards vary in both length and width and will typically correlate with body weight and height. They range from as small as 30″ for young kids through to 57″ for heavier adults. The corresponding widths range between 17″ to 23″ wide. Most manufacturers will have their own specific size (weight) guides with the boards also having specifications so you can better gauge which board best suits.
Your skill level is also a key contributor to the size of your board. Larger boards can be easier to ride as they have a larger surface area. While you will have a sufficient level of buoyancy and be able to build up speed on a larger board, they can however be cumbersome and more challenging to manoeuvre. If you are a beginner, you’re better off going for a smaller board (weight considered) that you can comfortably control and manoeuvre. Advanced riders and professionals will sometimes opt for smaller boards as they are more responsive in the water and can be easier to perform tricks on.
Thickness: ranging between 0.5″ to 2.5″, the boards thickness is another important characteristic that in part dictates how it will perform in the water. A thicker board will provide greater buoyancy so ride higher in the water and therefore travel further. They are however heavier so are more cumbersome and less responsive. Thinner boards by contrast take a greater level of skill to control particularly at speed but they are far more responsive so easier to manoeuvre and perform tricks on.
Shape: most skimboard manufacturers adopt their own design features which include specifications and shape. The type of skimboarding you will be doing i.e. flat sand / shallow waters or wave riding also plays a part.
Boards that have a wider tail and centre are more stable and easier to gain your foot placement. The tail dictates the overall manoeuvrability and the nature of turns you can perform. A ‘pintail’ board is the most common tail as it provides a greater level of stability. The ‘rocker’ (upward curve on the nose) helps keep the tip of the board out of the water which will stop you from pearling (nose diving). That said, too much rocker will slow the board down and can be impacted by higher winds and waves. For general use, boards with a ‘proto’ design which are wider through the middle and then tapered at the nose and tail, make the most sense as they offer a nice balance in terms of performance, stability and manoeuvrability.
Weight: refers to the weight of the rider which corresponds with the size of the board. Extra small kids boards will suit rider weights of up to 100 lbs whereas extra large boards can cater for riders up to 275 lbs. The boards specifications, materials and shape are also factors that influence its weight carrying capacity.
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Similar to surfboards, bodyboards and paddle boards, skimboards are made up of layers of material all of which impact the boards durability and performance. While manufacturers will adopt their own construction methodology, they will typically fall within the following categories.
Wood: were the original skimboards and still remain the most common and affordable. They are well suited for beginners, are heavier and more durable when compared to other materials and perform well on flatland or for shallow water skimming. The wood will often also have a resin or epoxy coating applied to it.
Epoxy / Fibreglass: made from a high density closed-cell pressurised foam core and wrapped in layers of fibreglass cloth and epoxy resin, they are light-weight, durable and offer good overall buoyancy and performance in terms of speed and manoeuvrability. When compared to wood, they have more design features e.g. rockers so are better for wave riding and doing tricks. They are a good all-round board for both flatland, shallow waters and waves.
Carbon Fibre: similar in construction to fibreglass boards although with a carbon fibre outer skin and rails. They are the highest quality and subsequently most expensive boards. This said, they are very light-weight, highly rigid and offer the best overall level of performance on both sand and water. Unless you have deep pockets, carbon fibre boards are what experienced and professional riders use given their responsiveness, speed and overall capabilities when it comes to wave riding and tricks.
While not as common, Graphite Boards are also good for beginners in that they are durable and great for flat water skimming.
|41″ Skipper Beginner Skimboard
» 41″ x 17″ x – 0.5″
» Suitability – kids and beginners
» Rider Weight Capacity – 160 lbs
» Custom ‘Tear Drop’ design
» ’Finger Print’ textured foam top deck
» Epoxy coated plywood core
» Wider tail and centre for easy foot placement
48″ Skimburger Hybrid Skim / Bodyboard
|48″ Marauder Pro Skimboard
» 48″ x 20″ x 1″
» Rider Weight Capacity up to 200 lbs
» Suitability – intermediate to experienced
» Wax-Free ‘Fingerprint Textured’ traction pad
» Slight nose rocker for better glide
» Custom marble printed cloth inlay
» EPS Closed Cell core / 6 oz fibreglass outer skin
There will be a lot of trial and error and a whole bunch of spills before you can work out what best suits you but if you follow some basic fundamentals, you’ll get there a little quicker.
Holding the Board: its a logical but important starting point. If you are right-handed hold the tail of your board with your right hand and the rail on the middle of your board with your left hand. Visa versa if you’re left-handed. Prior to releasing (dropping) your board, it should be a few inches above your drop point, your knees will be bent and arms stretched out. Importantly, keep the board parallel to the ground before you let it go. If its not parallel as you release it the rails will dig into the sand or water so you’ll be setting yourself up for failure.
Dropping the Board: its sometimes referred to as ‘throwing’ but you are actually ‘dropping’ the board parallel to the ground with both hands at the same time. If you were to throw it the board would likely become imbalanced and get out too far ahead of you. You will be releasing the board on flat sand if you are not skimming in the water or on a thin layer of water just as it recedes back into the ocean if you are boarding on the water.
Run on the Board: so you’re running on to the board not jumping on it. If you were to jump on the board the sudden impact would stall its momentum and it would stop skimming. Its also much easier to lose your balance and fall off or potentially hurt yourself if you jump on the board.
If you are right-footed your right foot will be at the back of the board. So after you drop the board you will step off your left foot, place your right foot at the tail of the board, take another step and push off your left foot and then bring it to the centre of the board. This last step is where you will get your last bit of momentum as you start to skim. Visa versa for goofy footers.
Expect to fall a bunch of times when you first start to put this combination together so take it slowly and then build up momentum and speed over time as you become more proficient and confident.
Maintaining Balance: a lower centre of gravity normally equals a better ability to maintain your balance. Keep your knees bent when on the board as they will act as mini shock absorbers which will aid balance. If you are skimming on sand you should place a little more weight on your front foot as this helps maintain momentum. When on water or in waves, shift your weight slightly to your back foot which will help with balance, making turns and eventually doing tricks. It can be fairly taxing on your body so take your time and build up slowly.
Safety & Other Tips
As fun as skimboarding is, it’s still a water-sport after all so playing it safe should always be front of mind.
In no particular order, lets cover off some important reminders:
- You might well be boarding in congested areas so remain mindful of those around you both people on the shore as well as other boarders and water traffic
- You should be confident in the water and be a competent swimmer particularly if you plan on taking to deeper waters or doing wave riding
- Warm up beforehand as you would with any other sporting activity
- Protect yourself from the elements – rash guards, sunscreen, ear plugs, sun glasses etc.
- Build on your technique step by step and take it slowly. Remember the (1) hold your board (2) dropping board (3) run on board (4) maintaining balance steps as outlined above
- Understand the conditions where you are boarding – onshore as well as wave and water conditions
- Injuries can easily occur so work on your strength and fitness – rest and takes breaks as needed. Building on your leg strength is key. Knee damage for instance can easily occur so at the first sign of stress, stop, rest and seek medical attention if needed
- Your board can easily get away from you so try to maintain control of it. It is after all made from a hard flat material so could do some real damage to someone
- As a beginner it’s worth borrowing or getting yourself a helmet to protect your head
- Maintain and take care of your board – waxing, polishing and storage
- Be patience. It takes practice but as you become more competent it will be well worth the effort
While it was somewhat of a niche water-sport that the likes of surfers, skateboards and other adrenaline junkies were keeping to themselves, skimboarding is definitely here to stay. With a lot of appeal to kids and teens in particular, its growth rate continues to explode globally. If you’re keen for a new challenge and looking for something a little different, then skimming may just be what you’ve been looking for.
As always we hope that this article has been of interest and would certainly love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave your comments below and we will get back to you.
Until then, stay safe and get wet.