Everything about skimboarding and which skimboards are best for catching waves
I’m sure you’ve heard of a skimboard once, but most people have no idea what the word means. Unlike a Stand Up Paddle board, a skimboard is only meant to catch waves and quickly move over shallow water, therefore the boards are a lot smaller.
Whereas paddle boarding is often about stability, skimboarding is about catching those waves and taking risks. So you will often fall into the water, where that is not the case with SUP. On the other hand, you have more adventure and adrenaline, so getting wet in your swimwear doesn’t matter!
The approach is very different, so you also need a different board. A skimboard is small (between 110 and 150 cm long) and made of wood or foam. So you have a lot of flexibility to move fast with the waves but less balance.
Because foam skimboards are a bit larger and have more buoyancy, they are easier for beginners to use and more suitable for waves. Advanced skimboarders are more likely to go for a wooden skimboard to achieve high speeds on shallower surfaces due to less friction.
How does a skimboard work?
A skimboard offers a unique experience. If you look at the small board you would think that you would sink to the bottom instead of sliding over the waves, but nothing could be further from the truth!
Once you’ve mastered the sport, you can even skim towards the waves with your board and ride them for a while, like surfers. As you can see above, you can even make decent jumps if you have enough pace, but that’s not the case for beginners.
It feels great to glide across the water’s surface, but how does skimboarding actually work? Below is a short physics lesson to make this clear, so you will immediately understand what a great experience skimboarding is.
Displacement of water
A skimboard is a small craft that essentially works like a boat, but uses human power instead of an engine. However, both have one thing in common: when they move, they move water. The more water they move, the slower they move.
Because human strength is much more limited than an engine and runs out after a certain amount of time, the aim of skimboarding is to use as little energy as possible to move across the water.
If the skimboard has to push a large amount of water aside, this means that the user will lose energy and slow down. That’s why skimboards work perfectly in shallow water – they have less water to move.
The ground effect
It’s not just the shallow water itself that makes a skimboard move forward. Because the board is so close to the bottom, small masses of swirling water are formed under the board. This happens when the board pushes the water down, but the ground pushes it up again. This is called the ground effect.
Simply put, this works just like a rubber duck that you push to the bottom and come back up again. The pressure exerted on the water between the duck and the bottom creates movement, which the skimboard uses to move forward.
These swirls of water prevent the board from touching the bottom. This creates the skimming effect until you end up in deeper water, where buoyancy and speed are needed to keep skimming. Think, for example, of a helicopter that floats for a moment just after take-off and almost touches the ground.
The blades are beating up air to vortices, which hold the helicopter up even though it has just left the ground. This effect allows the helicopter to “shave” over the ground at low altitude and you can see the swirling air in action as the blades blow up dirt and dust particles.
Does “pumping” work on skimboarding?
A common term among skimboarders is “pumping“. This refers to the movement a skimboarder makes with his legs when he reaches deeper water, so that he remains afloat.
Skimboards have a smaller surface area than surfboards. This means they don’t float as long as surfboards and that’s why skimboarders have to pump when they reach the point where the waves stop.
To pump, a skimboarder moves his front foot up and down on the nose of the board, keeping it afloat longer and travelling faster and further across the water.
Surprisingly, this movement actually slows down a skimboarder. But that doesn’t mean the board will sink. Pumping is a rocking motion – rocking the board back and forth creates a small impulse that temporarily holds the board on the water surface.
When skimboarders repeat this movement quickly, the board sinks and springs right back out of the water.
Now that you’ve figured out how a skimboard works we’ll continue with an introduction to the boards themselves and which boards you should choose to start skimboarding yourself.
How do I choose the right skimboard?
Het kiezen van de juiste skimboard kan lastig zijn. Het goede nieuws is dat een maattabel en een paar wetenschappelijke regels de meest voorkomende twijfels zullen oplossen.
How do you choose a skimboard? Write down your height and weight first, because these are important factors to pay attention to, just like with a SUP board.
Then ask yourself a few questions: are you a beginner or an experienced skimboarder looking for a new challenge? Would you like to go skimboarding more often and live near the water, or do you just want to do that on holiday or once in a while? This is important to know what the board you are looking for should meet.
Most of the manufacturers make foam skimboards on the inside and fiberglass and/or resin on the outside. Carbon boards and wooden boards are (again, just like SUP boards) the more expensive variants that are more often used by professionals.
Foam models have a higher buoyancy and are widely used by skimboarders who want to tackle waves, while skimmers closer to shore normally use wooden boards because they are heavier and can move really fast over shallow water.
Different types of skimboards
Skimboards vary between 110 cm and 150 cm in length and between 45 cm and 60 cm in width, depending on the rider’s physical characteristics, level of experience and type of ride (waves or flat water).
Thickness plays a crucial role in how the board will work. Thick boards will glide better, but won’t turn as well because they don’t react well. In other words, are you looking for speed, tricks or a balance of both?
Boards that are too warped are slower and can easily be picked up by medium to strong winds. The most common tail type in skimboards is the pintail, because it adds extra stability to the board and gives less resistance.
As a rule of thumb, a larger model (in height and width) will be faster, but will not rotate fast if you want to move with the waves. Smaller planks are usually less stable and slower. Rule of thumb number two: buy a board that comes about halfway up your chest.
Prices of skimboards
Wooden skimboards are generally cheaper than foam skimboards and carbon boards. Above all, you need the best equipment for your height, weight, experience and what you want to use it for.
For skimboard tricks it is necessary to have a good grip deck on the skimboard. You can also use wax, but a good grip also helps when performing tricks such as jumps. A skimboard wave is not a surfing wave.
Size chart skimboards
Weight of the boarder
< 36 kg (children)
114 x 48 cm
36 – 45 kg
122 x 49 cm
45 – 63 kg
130 x 50 cm
132 x 51 cm
63 – 82 kg
133 x 51,5 cm
73 – 91 kg
133 x 52 cm
82 – 100 kg
134,5 x 53 cm
91 – 109 kg
137 x 54,5 cm
Now that we know what a skimboard is, how it works and how to choose a board, it’s time to find one and take it out to the water. In contrast to a SUP board, a skimboard is often very cheap to buy and you don’t have to doubt about it for a long time if the board meets the above criteria.
I would like to wish you good luck with your skimboard adventures and if you want to share your experiences or even have pictures that I can use, this is very welcome!
Have you ever been on a skimboard before? How was your experience and do you intend to do it more often? Let me know in the comments!
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