Introduction: How to Skimboard (Flatland)

On my first vacation to the Atlantic coast of France a couple of years ago I saw some guys boarding in the surge. They were not surfing in deep water nor towards but parallel to the coast line in very shallow water. It looked fun so I investigated in a near town and found out they were skimboarding.

There are two categories of skimboards: the flat wooden ones for shallow water (Flatland or Inland Skimboarding) and the sparsely thicker foam or fiberglass boards with which you can ride to the waves and back (Wave Riding Skimboarding). By now I own both types but in this Instructable I will focus on the flatland boards since in my opinion they are easier to learn.

The principle is simple. The skimboard is slipping on a very thin film of water between the board and the sand, so you can ride it till you get too slow and run onto ground.

The board has no fin so it can be ridden backwards or even sideways which is very nice if you want to do some tricks.

So what do you need to get started?

  • a skimboard of course
  • surf wax or traction pads
  • a body of water with very shallow areas or very shallow terminating waves (a couple of millimetres / 1 centimetre at max)
  • Sand with preferably absolutely no stones or rocks in it
  • the guts to jump on a slipping Skimboard at full speed :D

Is it dangerous?

Until now I did not get seriously injured as I was lucky enough to land on soft sand or in the water, but bruises are daily fare. Just start slow and if you have the slightest hunch something goes wrong abort the skim and try to prevent tripping on the board.

Step 1: The Board

If you have a surf shop near your location check it out. Maybe they have a couple of Skimboards as well and may even give you some good advice which one to buy.

But be aware. In touristic areas they'll try to sell you cheap useless stuff. The boards have fancy colorful paintings but consist of flimsy wood and/or are way too small.

In the picture is my third board. The first two were from tourist shops and not worth a single cent. But this one i got from a surf shop which earned me a lot of fun. It has a durable finish that even survives most contacts with stones. Be sure to buy a board that suites your body weight as it is essential for how far you can ride. The bigger you are, the more surface the board should have.

My woody board is 107 cm (about 42 inches) long and 52 cm (about 20 inches) in width, which is just fine for my weight of 85 kg (around 187 pounds). By the shape it is a "cruiser", opposing to the "trick" boards which are symmetrically on both ends.

Step 2: Maximize the Grip

Depending on the board's surface you will also need wax or traction pads to reduce slipperiness for your feet. Don't scrimp on this, in case of wax it costs only a couple of bucks and will save you a lot of pain.

If you buy wax choose the right one for your water temperature. Just rub it on the upper side of the board where you stand and you are good to go.

If you like to spend more money but save some time from waxing again and again you can also use traction pads made from foam. They give additional grip and also look awesome ;)

Step 3: Skimboarding Without Waves

If you want to skim at a pond or similar wave-less waters its a bit easier than at the sea shore.

Search for an area where the water is as shallow as possible for a length of at least 10 meters. The water should not be deeper as your finger is thick (optimal is a couple of millimeters) and the ground should be flat and stone-less.

There are no bystanders that might get hurt? Then let's go!

Hold the board with both hands, one at the side and one at the back of the board. Start running towards your desired start point aligned to your runway and drop the board slightly in front of you while you still run. Take care of the dropped board's direction. If the board is slipping correctly aligned with your desired direction jump on it with both feet. If you didn't land on spot and start falling, don't panic. Simply kick away the board with your feet sideways and start running again.

Did everything go well? Congratulations, you are skimboarding! :D

Step 4: Skimboarding With Waves

You are at the coast and the waves are running out very long and smoothly. The sand is fine grained and stoneless. Perfect skimboarding conditions!

Here comes the tricky part: the timing!

Stand in the surge near where the waves tend to stop and watch them coming in. You want to catch the exact moment when a big one stops far on the shore and starts rolling back. See how the water gets more and more shallow? As described in the waveless section before start running, drop the board in front of you, jump on it and ride as far as you can.

Don't look at the board or at the water around you as you might loose orientation. Keep track of your speed since the board stops abrupt as soon as it gets too slow to slip.

As mentioned before, if you feel like falling, kick away the board and start running. Most of the time you can prevent hitting the ground, which, depending on your residual momentum, might hurt a little ;)

Step 5: Conclusion

Skimboarding is an awful lot of fun. It is more independent from the weather and the equipment is a lot cheaper than e.g. surfing or wind surfing. It might even be a nice addition for surfers if the waves are too small to ride. All you need is your board and the shallow water. You can do tricks on the board and jump the waves or just battle your friends for the longest runs. Everywhere I go I have my boards with me. Just in case ;)

Please let me know your experiences with skimboarding, good spots to skim or how you liked my first Instructable in the comments. I am thrilled to hear from all you skimboarders out there...