History of Skimboarding
Skimboarding dates back to the late 1920′s when Laguna Beach lifeguards used to skimboard on pieces of wood. Although people still skimboard on wood skimboards throughout the world, the sport has evolved immensely. Today skimboarding is one of the most high-tech water sports anywhere, while continuing to be one of the smallest. The boards used by professional skimboarders are built using technology adapted from aerospace to attain maximum lightness, buoyancy, and rocker. The board used by the average skimboarder is far more technologically advanced than that of the average surfer. Even though skimboarding is a fairly old sport, it continues to be a small sport. While skimboarding has become more and more globalized in recent years, Laguna Beach California has long been the “north shore” of skimboarding.
Historically, most of the top professional skimboarders of the world have come out of the Laguna Beach area. There are a few reasons for this. Skimboarding, in its current form, was invented in Laguna Beach. In the early 1960′s there was a group of guys who would skimboard at Victoria Beach. Their boards were sometimes referred to as “double enders” because of their shape. The boards were rounded at both ends but one end had a larger radius, which was the nose of the board. Even in these early days of skimming people were pushing the limits by venturing out into the waves. Some of the basic moves were speed runs and fly aways with the occasional top turn to make a big spray. The standout rider at the time was named Mike Buxton who was even performing aerials in these early days of skimboarding.
Since the 1970′s, skimboarding has been a major part of growing up in Laguna Beach. Most kids in Laguna try skimboarding at least once during their childhood. Most don’t stick with it but the ones who do are very dedicated to the sport. The quality and diversity of the waves in Laguna is very good. Ask fifty people what an ideal skimboarding wave is and you’ll get fifty different answers. Everyone has their own version of “the perfect wave”. In general, however, the closer the waves break to shore, the better. The closer the waves are, the easier they are to get reach. While an advanced skimboarder may be able to reach waves further out and thereby get longer rides, closer waves are generally regarded as better. The waves in Laguna are second perhaps only to those of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Other major skimboarding areas are Santa Cruz California, Dewey Beach, Delaware, and all of Florida.
The first major generation of skimboarders to grow up in Laguna were the teenagers of the mid 70′s. Tex Haines and Peter Prietto were part of this generation and were the first to take action in the modernization of skimboarding. Together they started their own skimboard company, Victoria Skimboards, named after the beach where they often went skimboarding with their friends. Victoria Skimboards began a long process of gaining credibility for this small but incredibly fun sport. The company became more than just a board manufacturer, serving as a center for information on the sport and organizing the first skimboarding contests in the late 70′s. In fact, skimboarding experienced a boom in the late 1980′s with media coverage, increased participation and even a picture of Tom Trager skimboarding on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The world of skimboarding should have been tipped off about what was to come when they opened the cover of Sports Illustrated to find that the cover shot caption claimed that Tom was surfing! In the very late 80′s to early 90′s the sport began to experience decreased interest. Thankfully, skimboarding has emerged from that phase, and since the mid 1990′s there has been increased participation in the sport.
With the arrival of mass media skimboarding publications like Skim Online (1994) and SKIM Magazine (1999) [Replacing the Skimboard Magazine of the 80's], skimboarding in the 90′s became a much more professional and diversified activity. Finally, skimboarding had sources of information to keep all skimboarders informed. This trend continued after the new millenium with the introduction and expansion of more web based sources of skimboarding information.
Keeping skimboarders around the world informed provides for a sense of community and allows the sport to progress in ways never seen before. In recent years skimboarding participation and readership has expanded in excess of 25% annually. Popular competitions have had to add extra days to their event schedules and sites like SkimOnline serve thousands of visitors every day.
In relative terms, skimboarding remains a small sport. Many prefer it that way. But there can be no argument that Skimboarding’s day has finally arrived.