The dog days of skimboarding on White Rock beach

WHITE ROCK — As with most board sports, skimboarding was born in Southern California.

Lifeguards rode wooden planks across the tide pools of Laguna Beach as far back as the 1920s.

Almost a century later, the days of wooden planks and one-piece bathing suits have entered the history books, giving way to an exciting modern sport.

Despite its presence on White Rock beach for more than 40 years, skimboarding has remained on the fringes.

"It’s been a pretty underground sport but it’s starting to gain in popularity now which is good to see," said Alex Dobbie, 18, operator of White Rock Skimboarding.

Dobbie, a White Rock native and business student, runs week-long summer camps teaching kids the fundamentals of the sport.In recent years, skimboarding has evolved in both technology and technique.

The boards have progressed from the wooden planks of yesteryear to modern materials like carbon fibre and fibreglass.On the sloping beaches of California, the sport adopted much of the flow and wave riding from its big brother, surfing.

Here on the flat tide pools of White Rock, skimboarding evolved alongside its estranged cousin, skateboarding.

Riders now build jumps and rails, pulling tricks that would look more familiar in a concrete skate park.

Unlike the concrete skate park, however, the beach can provide a much safer and relaxed atmosphere.

"It can be super relaxed, bring a pizza down and some speakers and just skim across the water, or if you are trying to learn new things you can just be sprinting back and forth and tiring yourself out … but you really get to go at your own pace," Dobbie said.

Skimboarding culture is about fun andprogression.

"It’s not like a sport where someone is constantly yelling at you to do better and there’s a team structure, you just come out here to have some fun and go at your own pace," Dobbie said.

"You just have to get the board and be willing to get wet and sandy. You catch on really quick in skimboarding especially if you have a little guidance."And strangely enough, the most important part of the sport – according to Dobbie – is falling.

"If you’re not falling, you’re not getting better."

Getting started:

THE GEAR

Inexpensive boards can be found at stores along White Rock beach, but Dobbie says that the cheap ones often limit what a rider can do.

"The board is a huge part of skimboarding. You don’t want the cheap ones although they are good for beginners, you want one that can go both directions," he said.

Boards can be made out of wood, a dense foam core coated in fibre glass or carbon fibre.

Regardless of the material used in theboard’s construction, the shape dictates how it will perform.

"You want them shaped so they will glide on the water and they won’t cut, the cheaper boards will clip the water because they are not curved properly," Dobbie said.

Higher quality boards can be found at specialty board shops.

Not much is else is needed for a day of skimboarding at the beach, just your favourite bathing suit – polka dots optional.

WHERE TO GO

Skimboarding is a beach sport and, luckily enough, White Rock has one of the best beaches for it.

Shallow tidal pools or channels are the prime location for flatland skimboarding, and at low tide those can be found in abundance.

Once you have a spot, be sure to clear the pool of shells and rocks to save your feet from cuts.

matt@mattlaw.ca

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