Hansen: Skimming into good vibrations

If you can imagine surfing culture maybe 50 years ago, that's what skimboarding is like today: young, eclectic and positive.

It's a fun, rambunctious family with distant cousins in Japan, Chile, Australia, Portugal, Philippines, Spain and Mexico.

Dragging boards and an extra pair of shorts — or not — they show up at your house and hope you have a couch.

Hundreds of them showed up June 29 and 30 for the 37th annual Victoria World Championship of Skimboarding, aka "The Vic," at Aliso Beach. The men's pro winner was Blair Conklin, and the women's top pro winner was Keiao Gucwa-Bucasas.

For many of the competitors, however, it was clear that just being around their peers was what they valued most.

Kumiko Sawada, 20, of Japan took last place in the women's pro division yet could not stop smiling. She said this was her third Vic competition and she loves coming to Laguna Beach. She and her entourage of about a half dozen friends stayed in Laguna for five days.

More locally, the Hudson family saw both dad and daughter competing. Joss Hudson was in the 40-and-up amateur division while Kira, 11, vied against girls her age.

"The family vibe is just fantastic," Kira said. "It's really fun. I like it better than surfing."

Former world champion George Bryan of Laguna, who now focuses his time on filming the sport, said the camaraderie is an outgrowth of the sport's difficulty.

"It's so hard to do that everyone who is into it is willing to give their time," he said. "Almost everyone has a mentor who took them under their wing. It's easy to give a little advice and make people a lot better."

If you didn't know it, you would not believe this was a full-throttled competition.

It's obvious that skimming is more closely aligned with the skateboarding community than surfing has been. If you have ever been to a skateboarding competition, then you know.

It's not as if the skim contestants don't care — they do. It's just, well, different.

Perhaps it's because the total prize money — $6,000 — is not enough to quit your day job.

Or that the relatively small group of pros is like a family of brothers and sisters.

Unlike surfing, no one really cuts anyone off. How ridiculous would it be to have two competitors running side by side toward the wave, elbowing each other for position?

Furthermore, this is not like traditional team sports with overzealous parents shouting obscenities from the stands. More likely, a competitor is board clapping another's ride because it was so awesome.

This is not Pop Warner football with some blaring fight song at half time with vows to kill the opponent.

Instead, at these events, the world-famous KROQ radio station plays Queens of the Stone Age onsite and people dance.

Make no mistake: Skimboarding is tough — in a strategic, athletic, yoga kind of way.

If you think about it, in one fluid motion it combines earth, water and sky like some ultimate Greek sport.

It takes endurance, anticipation and enormous creativity and courage.

It also takes extended families who are supportive and open. They bring tents, lawn chairs, coolers and coconut water.

They realize that it's more than just the sport. It's the community.

It's a small, independent family that is growing larger every day but so far has not lost its identity and friendliness.

Here, take that wave. It's yours.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

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