Star-Bulletin Sports

Sunday, September 16, 2001


Scott Cress blasted his skimboard off the lip of the
shore break at Sandy Beach. He said Kailua and
Waikiki are good spots for beginners.

Skimmers ‘shorely’ rip

By C.R. Dudley

SKIMBOARDING blends the best of skateboarding with surfing. It's called "skimming" by those who do it, and skimmers use the wave like a half-pipe to bust out McTwists, various aerials and other moves.

"Surfing is along the same lines as skimming except that rather than going along with the wave, skimboarders can attack it like a windsurfer," avid skimboarder Scott Cress said. "Skimming is a very high impact, high action sport, because we come right at the wave and bring all this power that we can use to pull off moves."

Cress, a 1984 graduate of Campbell High School, is organizing the 2001 International Skimboarding Championships, which will be held Dec. 13-15 at Sandy Beach. In the past, he has organized events on Oahu and Maui.

You might have an image of the skimboarder careening along the beach on the receding sheen of water from a previous wave and then simply falling off or crashing rather haphazardly into oncoming whitewash.

Cress and his group of avid, accomplished skimboarders do much more than that. Cress races along the beach toward an oncoming wave, throws the skimboard in front of him, hops on and then uses his momentum and the effect of the hydroplane to actually get on the oncoming wave, surfing it, but with much more speed than your average surfer would have on the same wave. The speed allows Cress to pull off moves that would be impossible for a regular surfer, like the aforementioned McTwist.

A McTwist is an aerial move where the skimboarder uses the wave as a launch like a skateboarder uses a half-pipe and then does a forward roll while doing a 360-degree turn -- all of this in the air and holding the board against his feet with one hand. The skimmer has to land on the board for it to be a success.

Getting started

What: Skimboarding

Where: For beginners, Waikiki and Kailua beaches, but only after crowds have subsided. For advanced, Waimea Bay beach break and Sandy Beach.

Cost: Skimboards are $50 to $375.

But McTwists, Shuv-its, and tube riding are the domain of the veteran skimboarder. Don't expect to walk out to the beach with your new $375 carbon-fiber skimboard and launch yourself into a six-foot, stand-up barrel in Waimea Bay shorebreak just because you spent $375 on a carbon-fiber skimboard.

"I would suggest starting with a low cost skimboard," Cress said. "For $50 to $120 you can get a beginner skimboard at T&C, Hawaiian Southshore or Tropical Rush on the North Shore."

To avoid problems, start at a small wave with a slow sloping beach. A lot of the beginning kids go to Waikiki after the crowds have left.

"Kailua Beach is a good spot, too, for beginners," Cress said. "I got started when I was on vacation in Florida. I saw others doing it and gave it a try.

"I was hooked. And then I got home and realized that Sandy Beach is one of the best places in the world for skimboarding."

As it is a high-energy sport, one practiced in the very maw of the heaviest waves in the islands, it is a dangerous affair.

"There is an inherent risk in the ocean," Cress said. "We're right in that shore-pound, right where the wave crashes against the beach."

It's not just dangerous for the skimboarder.

"You can kill someone. Someone was killed at Hapuna Beach (on the Big Island) by a skimboarder and also, unfortunately, at Sandy's a few years back," Cress said. "So never go directly at anyone in the water, no matter what your skill level is. I really want to emphasize that the skimboarder needs to take responsibility for his actions and be aware of people in the water."

The first move you learn is the one step. Having made sure your path is clear of people and large rocks, run along the beach with the board in your hands, drop it and immediately hop on. Try to make the move from dropping the board to riding on it in one step.

"You're going downhill so keep your weight low," Cress said. "If you knew you were about to step on something slick and downhill, you'd want to get centered and have your weight forward."

Skimmmers learn a great deal about the action of the waves and the movement of the sand under them.

"When the waves get small and stay small, it pushes all the sand back up on the shore," Cress said. "So the beach gets real steep. Also, that makes the water deeper closer to the shore so the waves come all the way up before they break. So the best time to go skimming is when a large swell arrives after there haven't been any waves for a while," Cress said.

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