Tropical storm Irene served up a heaping plate of great surf for the pro and amateur skimboarders at the East Coast Championships in Dewey Beach, held Aug. 13-14.
“The hurricane off the coast produced unreal conditions and we got some big shore breaks,” said Skim USA Executive Director Harry Wilson. “There were a bunch of aerial maneuvers that worked and some were able to wrap into the tube.”
One hundred and sixty men, women, and children converged on Dagsworthy Street for the second largest skimboarding event in the world (the largest event is held at Laguna Beach — the birthplace of modern skimboarding) and the event went off without a hitch.
“It’s a lot of work to put this event together,” said Wilson. “But it is really rewarding. I’ve been running surfing and skimboarding competitions for 30 years and I enjoy the skimboarding events the most. The arena is smaller and there is a lot of cheering.”
“Also the camaraderie of the skimboarders is a wonderful thing,” said Wilson. “You get a good vibe.”
“We all know and compete against each other so we try to trade off sets if we can,” added local professional Bill Baxter. “It’s also the end of summer and people are tired so they are mellower but sometimes it can get pretty competitive but usually guys pretty much understand.”
Skimboarders of all ages cheered for each other, and they had plenty to cheer about because there was plenty of competition.
The junior men’s division was dominated by the North Carolina skimmers, and some of the semifinals were decided by half a point, but this year marked the first time in skimboarding history that the East Coast captured the top four spots in the pro finals.
“Even though it’s called the East Coast Championship, skimmers from the West Coast come over to compete and they are all really good,” said Wilson. “It gives us a lot of pleasure to beat them.”
“It’s great to have the title on the East Coast,” said Baxter. “They’ve had it staked for some time now, but the talent level is rising in every level — so this is a good start.”
Former East Coast Champion Paulo Prietto couldn’t recapture old glory and earned seventh place in the pro division, but it was the “super heat” that caught the most attention.
The “super heat” was composed of all the first place amateur finishers, regardless of age division, competing against each other.
Mikey Gullick of Florida’s west coast earned his way into the “super heat” by winning his Menehune division (9-11 years old) and wowed the crowd by finishing fourth.
“You wouldn’t think that he would do that much in the ‘super heat’ because he’s so young, but he placed fourth and against guys five times his age,” said Wilson.
“It’s crazy seeing the little guys go toe-to-toe with the older guys,” said Baxter. “It will be interesting to see where skimboarding will go in the future.”
Caitlin Wier was one of only nine female competitors, and placed third in the “super heat” while Watkins Holt of Kill Devil Hill, N.C. pulled down the victory in what Wilson could only call a, “spectacular showing.”
Baxter and his professional colleagues will travel to St. Augustine, Fla. this weekend for one of their last two competitions of the year — the other is in Laguna Beach.