Skimboarding is a super interesting sport designed for some summer beachside fun. If you’re considering picking it up, you’re probably wondering about the ideal board. Looking at various types, figuring out which one is the right for you, or how to use skimboards properly is something you should do. Also, you’ll probably want to know how long do skimboards last. Read on, and soon you’ll know enough to hit the store. After that, you’ll only have to run, toss the board and catch your first wave.
There’s nothing stopping you from hopping on your first skimboard! Just like folks wearing glasses that do parkour, you can do everything (went there’s motivation involved).
Ordinarily, skimboards will last you more than 200 rides, or longer than a year if you’re going for a ride 3-5 times a week. Still, if you’re not living near the beach, your board might last for years. It goes without saying you need to take care of it, wax it, and avoid the sometimes unavoidable grind and scratching.
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What is Skimboarding?
Skimboarding, also known as skimming, is a close relative to surfing. It originated in Southern California, as lifeguards at Laguna Beach wanted to surf. However, the water there was too shallow, and the waves too fast for a conventional surfboard.
Since then, skimming has evolved into a sport where, much like surfers, skimmers ride big waves, perform aerial tricks and pull into the barrels of great waves.
The main differences between surfing and skimming are in the board design and, of course, in how skimmers catch waves.
Surfers Swim, Skimmers Run to Meet the Wave
Unlike surfing, where the surfer swims off-shore, waits for a large wave, and then catches it back, skimmers ride their boards there and back.
Skimmers make a run-up on the beach, throw their board down on the thin wash of a previous wave and use its momentum to ride out off-shore. They then catch a wave as it’s breaking and ride it back to shore, similar to surfers.
Skimmers also perform maneuvers or tricks at any stage of a ride. Some of these tricks have flashy names: 180, 360 shove-it, wrap, or big spin.
Then there is Another type of skimboarding is called “flatland” or “inland.” Flatland is about performing tricks adapted from skateboarding, only not on solid ground but the wash of a receding wave without catching a breaking wave for the ride back. Flatlanders perform many well-known skateboarding tricks such as shove-its and ollies.
A skimboard is similar to a surfboard but is smaller and without fins. Riders typically favor their skimboards to reach up to their mid-chest when standing up vertically.
Skimboards vary in thickness, which is mainly dependent on the construction material. Typically, their thickness ranges from 1-2.5 centimeters (3/8-1 inch), while the most common thickness range is 1.5-2 centimeters (5/8-3/4). Special high-flotation foam and “soft” boards come thicker than 5 centimeters (2 inches).
A slimmer, 1.5 centimeter (5/8) board can do sharper turns at the cost of lower speed. On the other hand, a thicker 2 centimeter (3/4) board can glide longer but isn’t as agile in turns.
Almost all skimboards have a certain amount of nose lift, also known as the rocker. There are three types of rockers used in skimboards designs.
- Constant Rocker Boards – they curve top-to-bottom, from the nose through to the tail. Constant rockers offer better control on taller, steeper waves.
- Hybrid Rocker Boards – The second and most commonly used type of nose lift is a hybrid rocker. Boards with hybrid rockers are typically curved from the nose down to about three-quarters of the board length. The last section, or the tail, is left flat. Hybrid rockers give both excellent control and decent speed on medium size waves. It is also the best board type for pulling off flatland tricks.
- Traditional Rocker – an entirely flat board with just its nose raised. This rocker is at home where ever the waves break far from the shore.
Skimboard Types According to Usage
Skimboards are also categorized for a specific use – basically, wave riding or flatland riding. They also come in varying shapes and materials.
Wave Riding Skimboards
Wave riding is the most popular skimboarding style. It is the most attractive, challenging, and technically demanding. That is what you mostly see on the internet: professionals dazzling everyone riding for fun or competing. Modern skimboards are a product of years of development, with plenty of trial and error attempts at design. Wave-riding skimboards show limited variation in shape, as the present form seems to be the best we can now have.
On the other hand, skimboards vary heavily from beginner to high-performing, advanced boards. It’s essential to pick one that suits your style, ability, and size.
Due to their design and ability to reach deeper water, wave riding skimboards allows the rider to pull off more complex tricks. A big enough wave can even act as a ramp, allowing for the skimboarder to get airtime. While in flight, a skilled skimmer can do various maneuvers and perform appealing tricks. The wave-riding boards typically also float well, further expanding the possibilities for longer tricks.
While wave-riding skimboarders call their boards skimboards, flatland skimmers commonly refer to theirs as foamies. Foamies are typically wood and thus easy to make, affordable, and rugged. That is also why they’re popular among beginners.
Flatland boards must be rugged to withstand the abuse of tricks from skateboarding. Riders run them onto ramps, grinding rails, and other objects erected for tricks. They also stand up to rocks, shells and generally are wear-resistant.
Wave Riding Skimboard Materials
The most frequent material in skimboards is closed-cell foam. This high-density foam is water-resistant and rugged. Fiber-reinforced polymer mostly comes on the outside for resistance against scratching and denting.
Fiberglass boards are a step up from wooden boards. A skimmer can travel considerably farther and better control a lighter fiberglass board than the heavy wooden one. These boards handle better, which is crucial for tricks and cool moves on a wave. The downside: it dents more easily on rocks, pebbles, and shells.
Feel free to check out this bad boy.
Carbon fiber is the ultimate skimboard material. It is the most robust, the stiffest, and the lightest. Hence, carbon boards are the easiest to carry, throw, the fastest on the water and wet sand. Most professional skimboarders use them. They’re expensive, but still, they don’t make this sport as costly as snowboarding is, for example.
What should you look at in a skimboard?
There are six main attributes you should consider when choosing a skimboard:
- Thickness – thicker boards travel faster and farther but also add more weight. Extra weight means less responsiveness when you turn. The time-proven thicknesses for skimboards are 1.5 cm (5/8 in.) and 2 cm (2/3 in.)
- Weight – The board should be light so that it can float in the water and skim at speed. However, if the board is too lightweight, the wind will carry it away with ease and ruin your landings and tricks.
- Speed – Skimboarders need good timing to meet the breaking wave at the desired point. But to have consistently good timing, you need the speed of your board to back you up. If you don’t have enough speed, not only will your skim be shorter, but you might miss the wave break altogether.
- The rocker – The ideal rocker changes with the location. The type and height of the rocker depend on personal preference and the distance at which the waves break. A lot of rocker makes the transition between water and sand easier but makes the board slower. So, the farther the waves break, the less rocker you should have.
- Flexibility – The flexibility should be catered to personal taste, riding style, and ability. A stiffer board allows a farther and faster ride but could be challenging for a beginner.
- The shape – There are two ends of the spectrum and everything in between. There are symmetrical trick boards, and then there are the cruiser boards, resembling a short, stocky surfboard.
Skimboards live by the beach and die by the beach
When we shop for a car, bicycle, or even hiking shoes, we check the reviews for reliability and longevity. It’s the same with skimboards. Having a rider throw the board on the sand with only a thin layer of surf covering it, grinding it into pebbles, hitting rocks, all that takes its toll. So it is clear that skimboards expire with use. However, they are also surprisingly resilient.
Naturally, resilience depends on the quality, the material, the kind, and frequency of use. In other words, it depends on the price, the stuff a rider does with it, and how often. Carbon fiber skimboards are the toughest of the bunch, but any skimboard will last a long time with proper care.
A skimboard should last you more than 200 rides or longer than a year even if you take it out 3-5 times a week. That presumes taking care of it, waxing it, and avoiding the unavoidable grind and scratching. With extreme sports, there’s always the question: do the scratches even matter?
But if you aren’t among the lucky people living beachside, your board should last years.
And that’s it. There isn’t much more to know without delving into the profoundly technical or geeky stuff. What’s left to do: pick up a skimboard and hit the waves. Whether you want to pull off incredible tricks or only enjoy the waves, you shouldn’t have a hard time selecting your model.