Last week, professional skimboarder, Austin Keen rode the Kelly Slater Wave Pool at the WSL Surf Ranch, making him the first person to ever skimboard the wave pool. (And even though he did it perfectly on his first try, it was certainly not easy.)
We had the chance to chat with Keen where he discussed how he got into the Surf Ranch in the first place, how management dealt with his desire to skim, what skimboarding the wave was like, the community’s response, and plenty more …
It can be very difficult to get a session in at the WSL Surf Ranch. How’d you manage to pull that off?
I’ve always wanted to skim the Surf Ranch since the first time I saw a video of it. I finally got to see it in person when I attended the Founders Cup. While I was there, I had a ton of fans come up to me; which I did not expect at all. Maybe at a skimboarding event, but certainty not at a surfing event in Lemoore, California.
Some of those fans were a group of professional wake surfers. Just a couple months later, they invited me to surf the wave pool with them during a session that they had purchased. So I grabbed my skimboard and joined them.
How did management handle the fact that you wanted to skim?
That was one of the hardest parts. Because they hadn’t seen it before, they had all types of concerns. Like, if the skimboard will damage the floor that I was planning to slide off of, if it was even possible in the first place, what if I get hurt … The list goes on. So finally, they said I could do it as long as I attached a leash to my board. So I drilled a whole in my board and attached a leash.
Run us through the process of actually skimming it.
This was another one of the hardest parts. Even though I got it first try, I had to take off before I even saw the wave, which I have never done before. When skimboarding in the ocean, you can see the wave, and time your take-off around what you see. At the Surf Ranch, I had to take off before I even saw the wave. So even when I was sitting down in a room at the Surf Ranch, I was studying videos on how the wave develops because I knew that I had to get it done first try.
If you look at the video, you can see me shaking because I was so nervous. I just spent an hour trying to convince management to let me do it and I knew that if I didn’t get it first try, they would probably push the whole thing aside because like I said, they didn’t really know what skimboarding was.
Furthermore, I saw this as a huge opportunity to show the world what skimboarding was. It’s a small industry and too many people think that skimboarding is a tourist activity and not an actual sport.
What was the response like from management, the surf community, and the skimboarding community?
Oh man, the response was great. Everyone was really hyped to see it happen in person and on video. Kelly Slater and a handful of other professional surfers left encouraging comments on the video that I posted. The skimboarding community was definitely hyped and above all, I want this to serve as a platform for skimboarding.
After this video, I hope to see people take charge in the skimboarding community because like I said, it’s a small industry and we need some leading figures to organize and structure what we do. Maybe one day in near future, skimboarding will be included in the Olympics because it’s a sport just like any other. In fact, a lot of skimboarders are really good surfers. The two translate very well.
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