A skimboard is a smaller, finless board that is used to glide or “skim” across water, wet sand, or even snow! Skimboards typically range from 3-5 feet long and 1.5-2 feet wide.
Skimboards can be as simple as a piece of plywood used by kids at the beach or a high-performance carbon fiber board used in competitions. The construction and shape of a skimboard depend on the riding level and preferences of the user.
Skimboarding allows riders to glide across shallow water, catching and riding waves near the shoreline. It provides a fun way to enjoy the feeling of wave-riding without having to swim far out into the ocean.
What Do Skimboards Do?
A skimboard enables a rider to glide or “skim” across various surfaces where land meets water. The most common use is riding waves near the shoreline at a beach.
However, as skimboarding has evolved, it has moved inland to lakes, rivers, puddles, and even skateparks. Skimboards can be used on almost any wet or slippery surface by beginners and professionals alike.
At the beginner level, a skimboard is used to ride the thin water flowing over wet sand at the water’s edge. More advanced riders will use a skimboard to go into shallow water to catch and ride small waves breaking near the shore.
The newest trend is called “flatland” or “urban” skimboarding. This involves doing skateboard-style tricks on ledges, ramps, and rails, as well as in fountains, canals, and other urban water features.
How Did Skimboarding Start?
Skimboarding traces its origins back to the 1920s in Laguna Beach, California. Lifeguards there started “skimming” across the wet sand on wooden planks for fun. Laguna Beach is still considered the heart of competitive and recreational skimboarding today.
What Are Skimboards Made From?
Skimboards can be constructed from various materials, with each having pros and cons:
- Plywood – Very affordable and durable. Best for beginners. Not ideal for wave riding.
- Fiberglass – Most common material. Provides a good balance of affordability, performance, and durability.
- Carbon fiber – Very stiff, light, and fast. The most expensive option. Best for advanced wave riding.
Are Skimboards Easy To Use?
Skimboards are quite user-friendly, even for beginners. With some practice, most people can start “skimming” across shallow water in the afternoon.
There are a few key techniques, like dropping the board at the right moment and jumping on with proper balance. But falling into the water is part of the fun and learning process!
Advancing to catching and riding waves requires more balance, strength, and practice. But consistent time spent skimboarding will lead to riding waves in no time.
Is A Skimboard The Same As A Surfboard?
While skimboards and surfboards appear similar, they are designed for different purposes:
- Surfboards are larger, need to float well, and are meant for paddling out past shore break.
- Skimboards are smaller, made to be carried while running and built to handle the impact of jumping on them.
Think of them like cars and trucks – both use wheels on roads but are tailored for specific needs. Skimboards cannot truly surf, and surfboards are not ideal for skimboarding.
What Size Skimboard Do I Need?
For beginners, a good rule of thumb is to get a skimboard that comes up to your mid-chest in height when standing upright. The width should allow you to comfortably tuck it under your arm when carrying and running with it.
There are always exceptions based on personal preference and riding style, but these guidelines will get most riders started off right.
What Are The Different Types of Skimboards?
There are two main categories of skimboards:
Wave riding – Designed to ride ocean waves. Smooth rounded shapes with lots of rocker Fiberglass and carbon fiber construction.
Flatland – Made for inland skimboarding. Flat decks and tails enable tricks. Usually wooden construction. More durable.
What kind of wax should I use on my skimboard?
Unlike surfboards, most skimboards do not require wax. The only exception would be a “traction pad” installed on the deck of higher-end fiberglass and carbon skimboards. For these grip pads, a basic sex wax designed for surfboards will provide the needed stickiness. Avoid waxing the bottom of your skimboard, as this will actually slow you down! The slick bottom surface helps the board glide once you’re up and riding.
Should I rent or buy my first skimboard?
If you’re brand new to skimboarding, renting a board for your first few sessions is recommended. Rental boards are usually more durable flat plywood boards that can take hits without damage. This allows you to test out skimboarding without a big investment. Look for rentals at beach resorts, surf shops, and skimboard specialty shops. Once you’re hooked, buying your own board is the next step!
What kind of fin setup should I use?
One of the defining features of a skimboard compared to a surfboard is that skimboards do not have fins. The lack of fins allows the skimboard to plane and hydroplane on top of the thin water flowing over the sand. Advanced riders may install a small “stubbie” fin near the tail of the board for extra hold on big waves, but most skimboards will be finless. Fins would create too much drag and instability when skimming.
How can I find the best skimboarding beaches?
The best skim spots have a few key features: a sloping sandy shoreline, smaller waves breaking close to shore, and consistent wave activity. Beaches next to sandbars and river mouths that feed water into the ocean are ideal. Check local skimboarding forums and groups to find tried and tested beaches in your area. Even inland lakes and rivers can become great skimboarding sites with the right shoreline. Doing your research helps you find safe beginner waves to progress quickly.
What’s the difference between a carbon and fiberglass skimboard?
The main differences come down to price and performance:
- Fiberglass boards are the most common. They provide a good mix of durability, stiffness, and the ability to absorb impacts when landing. This makes them ideal for beginners to intermediate wave riders.
- Carbon fiber skimboards are the highest-end option. They are ultra stiff and lightweight – but also much more expensive. Carbon fiber boards are built for expert riders doing aerial tricks and skimming bigger waves.
For most recreational skimboarders, a fiberglass board is the best choice. But competitive riders may benefit from carbon boards once ready.
Skimboarding is a sport that can be enjoyed across generations. From grandparent to grandkid, any water lover can experience the thrill of skimming across the shallows and catching that first wave. It starts at the beach but can progress to rivers, lakes, and any wet environment that brings a smile.
Skimboarding teaches balance, patience, and respect for the water. As a less intensive alternative to surfing, it enables more time riding waves versus paddling out. Through consistent practice and progression, skimboarders unlock a more intuitive relationship with the ocean. That feeling of gliding atop the wave, if just for a second, creates memories that last long after the tide recedes.