by Jeremy Morrison
Skimboarding involves more than the name implies. Sure, there’s skimming. But, there’s also some flying.
“Obviously, the whole entire idea is to try to catch a wave, but after you catch a wave, you do tricks,” explained Sean Mullins, manager at Waterboyz in Pensacola, and captain of the shop’s skimboard team.
On Saturday morning (April 1), Waterboyz will host its first skimboard competition in years. Contestants will get a shot at cash prizes, while spectators will get a taste of a sport that’s a little bit like surfing, a bit like skateboarding, but also completely its own thing.
For the unfamiliar, skimboarding may conjure images of tossing a cheap wood board from Tom Thumb up and down the beach for repeated falls into the wash of the surf. It’s not quite like that these days.
“It’s progressed so much,” Mullins said of the sport’s growth since the mid-1980s.
A quality board — not a cheapy from the beachside convenient store, but rather a high-end carbon fiber model — can run upwards of $500. And experienced skimboarders borrow from their sister sports of surfing and skating, effectively evolving the sport into a spectacle of graceful balance and aerobatic skill.
Mullins — the oldest member of Waterboyz skimboard team at 28-years-old — said that he’s watched the sport go through a few cycles since he began.
“When I first got into it, it was big,” he said. “Then it died, it completely died. Now, it’s picked up again.”
Mullins sees more people his age or older taking to skimboards than he use to — “I’m starting to see some older guys out there” — but the sport still leans toward the younger crowd. He guesses that’s because of the nature of skimboarding, the fact that it can be a rough ride.
Unlike surfing, which is typically done in water deep enough to make falling an uneventful end to a ride, skimboarding falls are more impactful. You’re falling, hard and with speed, in water shallow enough to make meeting a hard-packed sandy bottom something you remember.
Mullins conducts a quick rundown of his own injuries, explaining that skimboarding is a “high-action sport.” It can make for an intimidating experience and a steep learning curve.
“If you fall down, then you want to stop,” Mullins said.
Younger riders, however, are drawn to the sport. They, in fact, comprise Waterboyz skimboarding team. The team’s youngest member, 12-year-old Sophia Nguyen, is even sponsored, landing a deal with the board company Exile.
Waterboyz’s skimboard team travels to other competitions (one of the biggest is held in South Florida), but Mullins said he’s excited to host one locally. He’s hoping the weather holds, and the waves come in around knee-high.
“That’s, like, the dream,” he laughed.
Waterboyz’s Savage Skim Competition begins Saturday at 9 a.m. The event will be held at Park East on Pensacola Beach. Contestants can sign up on the shop’s website, or on the beach the morning of the event. The entry fee is $25 ($40, open entry), and cash prizes — from $300 to $50 — will be awarded to the winners.
Waterboyz also hosts a skimboarding camp during the summer. For more information about that camp, or the shop’s other summer camps, click here.