How to Ride a Skimboard: Beginners Guide

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Duke Kahanamoku has been referred to as the father of modern surfing.  “The Big Kahuna” once said, “Out of water, I am nothing.”  If you are one of those individuals who loves the water and is always looking for another way to enjoy the exhilaration, excitement and challenge of water sports, skimboarding is sure to be a hit with you!

A skimboard is similar to a surfboard, only smaller and without fins. It is used to glide across the water’s surface trying to meet an incoming breaking wave and ride it back to shore.  Skimboarding provides a similar experience to surfing in the water and is becoming increasingly popular.  

So, if you’re up for the challenge and like “The Big Kahuna” you need the adventure of the sand and surf, here are some tips and advice for how to ride a skimboard.

Getting Started

Similar to surfing, skimboarding takes place closer to shore.  The ride begins by sliding across a thin film of water created after a wave hits the beach and creates a backwash.  The skimboarder runs to gain speed, drops the board in the backwash created by the breaking wave, and slides across the water’s surface.

Easy right?  Probably not at first but even a beginner can quickly learn the skills needed to start enjoying the sport.  Consider the following to assist you in gaining the skills to advance your skimboarding abilities: 

young boy skimboarding

Physical Preparation

You should have a general idea of your own physical abilities and limitations.  When first starting you will take a few falls. The good thing is that you are on sand and water, so you will have a relatively soft landing.  

Skimboarding requires running, jumping, balance and occasionally falling.  You should stretch your legs, arms and back before you start your adventure.  Be patient, it will require repetitions, practice and a few bumps and bruises but you will find your rhythm. 

Basic Technique: “Run-Drop-Slide”

Before you get started you need to find a beach location that offers a flat and wide area where a thin layer of backwash develops.  You will want to be considerate of other beach goers. Most people will be supportive and want to watch you skillfully navigate the water and/or to take a few tumbles.  

Hold your skimboard with both hands, placing your dominant hand on the back end of the board. Your other hand should be placed approximately halfways up on the side of the board.

Run

Holding the board out in front of your body, you will wait until a backwash from a wave develops.  Once you find the backwash you want to skimboard you will start running.  

You will want to gain momentum progressing towards the sloping beach as the water from the wave recedes.  Your timing will be critical. The faster you are able to run the faster you will be able to make your board go and thus the farther you will be able to ride your board.

running with a skimboard

Drop

As with initiating your run, again, your timing will be key.  While you are moving forward, you will drop or throw your board flat onto the backwash, out in front of you.  The drop should be about approximately a yard in front of you or a comfortable distance relative to the length of your stride.  

A  mistake beginners often make due to being overly cautious is they slow down when they initiate dropping their board.  This makes it much more challenging to successfully mount your board.  

Focus on maintaining your running speed while leading your board in front of you during your drop.  Doing so will help you to avoid running into the board.

Important consideration:  Once you are sliding on your board, you will find it requires very little water to enjoy your surfing experience.  Do not try to drop your board in more than a couple of inches of water. If you do, your likely to go nowhere and possibly tumble forward into the water.  A thin film, wetting the sand, is all that is required for a successful ride.

Slide

Now is the time you get to enjoy the thrill of skimboarding.  You want to avoid just hopping straight on top of your board. If you do, it’s likely your result will be a fall, a potential injury and definitely a little embarrassment.

What you want to try and accomplish is to keep your stride by running onto the board.  To do so, you want to place your back foot on the back portion of the board. Your next stride should cause you to lead directly into placing your front foot in the middle of the board.  

The reason you will want to transition to your board in this fashion is to maintain your balance and the speed of your run.

Once you’ve established both feet on your board, you will then want to balance yourself on the board.  Bend your knees and maintain your shoulders directly over your feet. Facing forward, your hips should be either square with the edge or angled slightly forward .  

You will then slide across the backwash created by your wave.  If you’re up for the challenge skim up the shoreline and attempt to turn off the swoosh of the next incoming wave.

As your ride nears the end, kick or push the board towards the beach, carefully stepping off the board.  As you walk towards shore, grab your board.

There you have it; you are now skimboarding!

Helpful Tips

  • Individuals, in the beginning, have problems with their board sinking before they get to a wave.  This happens for various reasons including the following:
    • You weren’t running fast enough.
    • You transitioned to your board too early.
    • Your board is too small for you.
    • You need a flatter beach/sand area to skimboard.
  • Turning usually slows the speed of the board, so the less you turn will likely increase the length of your ride.
  • In an effort to ride a wave, your angle should be flat.  Avoid going directly at the wave.
  • While maintaining a smooth and simple slide, you can use your legs and body by lifting up and pushing down to increase your glide on the backwash.
  • To maintain a smooth transition on the wave, keep your rear foot as far back on the board as you are able.  This gives you the greatest control of the board and maintains a smooth ride.
  • Keep your body firmly on the board and allow the wave to do the work of picking you up and providing speed to your ride.
  • Wherever your head goes is where your body will go. Keep your eyes focused on the direction you want to go and any turns you want to make.
  • To gain depth perception for your ride maintain your vision on the wave.

Considerations in Purchasing a Board

  • The cost of skimboards will vary from around $30 to upwards of $500 for professional models.  
  • Avoid purchasing a board from a big box store.  Check out a surf shop and work with a professional for support in the kind of board that will work best for you.  
  • As a beginner, you may want to consider an inexpensive, yet decent quality board.  When first learning to skimboard, you want a board that will allow you to be successful, knowing it’s likely to get a little beat up.  Once you’ve become more skilled you may want to progress to a more expensive board.
  • Smaller, flatter wood boards are more cost friendly and better for sand skimming.  Foam or carbon fiber boards are better suited for wave skimming. Make sure to do your research to find the right board for your skill level, body style and skimboarding needs.
  • Most skimboards have a smooth epoxy glazing that allows them to glide easier on the water.  This glazing when it get wets becomes slick and is slippery when you are on your board. You will want to purchase some surf wax to provide you with some traction.
  • For the more serious skimboarders you may want to consider purchasing skim pads for your board.

​Final Thoughts

Skimboarding can be intimidating and a little frustrating at first.  You are going to fall down, guaranteed! Hang in there, you will get it and when you do, skimboarding is a blast!  There is really nothing like when you finally break through and pull off that first smooth ride. Your biggest problem from that point forward will be wanting to do it over and over again.

So get out there and give skimboarding a try and it won’t be long and you will be boarding like the pros. Let us know how it goes in the comments section below.
If you’re up for a challenge and you need the adventure of the sand and surf, here are some tips and advice for how to ride a skimboard.

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