Zap Amateur World Championships of Skimboarding – Dewey Beach, DE
Does your beach have smaller waves that are not quite suitable for surfing? No need for despair, it’s just time for a smaller board, then. That’s especially the case for the the Delaware coast, where waves are typically between 2-4 feet and where skimboarding reigns supreme.
What is skimboarding? A skimboard looks like a surfboard, just smaller and a little bit wider. The board is a little over 4 feet tall and about 2 feet wide, and skimboarders use their board to glide across the water’s surface. Unlike surfing, skimboarding begins on the beach with a fast dash into the water and dropping the board onto the thin wash of previous waves. Skimboarders use their momentum to skim out to breaking waves, which they then catch in a thrilling, circus-like spinning move and take back into shore in a manner similar to surfing. Another aspect of skimboarding includes ‘flatland’, which involves performing tricks derived from skateboarding such as “ollies” and “shove-its” on the wash of waves without actually catching the shore breaks.
Skimboarding originated in Southern California when lifeguards wanted an easy way to get across the beaches of Laguna. Instead of running in slow motion like a scene out of Baywatch, they decided that skimming along to tops of the thin layer of wash was the faster way to go. Skimboarding has developed since then, and has grown to need not one but two North American skimboarding organizations. And just like many other sports today, skimboarding has evolved to include an “extreme” aspect, as many have taken their skimboards to bigger shorebreaks for some extreme riding.
Formerly the East Coast Skimboarding Championships, the mouthful-named Zap Amateur World Championships of Skimboarding celebrated its 31st anniversary this year in the small beach town of Dewey Beach, DE. The competition is run essentially like a surfing competition. Where heats of participants in various divisions try to catch as many waves or do as many tricks as they can during an 8 minute window. Guys and gals take off from the beach like Usain Bolt during the 100 meter dash before expertly laying their skimboard down on the wash, jumping on and skimming toward the wave and finally hitting the wave, spinning at its apex with a rooster tail of water following in their wake. Riders are given scores of 1-10 by a panel of judges for each wave ridden, and higher scores are earned for completed wave rides ending in harder tricks.
Dewey Beach, just south of the more famous Rehoboth Beach, serves as the longtime host for the event, and it seems to have rubbed off on the locals. Skimboarders line the sand for what looks like miles, sprinting into the water and catching waves one right after the other. A couple of skimboard shops can be found just off of the sand, with Alley Oop Skim Shop also providing sponsorship for the event. The main strip in Dewey is lined with beach bars and casual eateries, looking like the beach towns in California where skimboarding was invented.
Skimboarding is a classic case of working with what you have, and making the best of it. In Dewey Beach, the steady stream of 3-footers has kept skimboarding popular there for over three decades. The Zap Amateur World Championships of Skimboarding taught us a valuable lesson: When life hands you small waves, it’s time to grab a smaller board and run at them face first from the beach.