It's about time

The Victoria Skimboards World Championship of Skimboarding has been a summertime staple in Laguna Beach throughout the years but when the 34th edition of the competition gets underway this weekend, it will, as Trigg Garner put it, launch two "monumental" happenings.

For the first time, the event will feature a Women's Pro division in a major skimboarding competition, and all that happens on Saturday and Sunday at Aliso Creek Beach, can be seen in the first live video webcast of a professional skimboarding event.

"The excitement surrounding the event this year is electric and it can be directly attributed to the addition of the female professional division and the live web broadcast," Garner said. "For me, it was great to see the women organize themselves to affect positive change in our sport and I hope the mantle of working together for the benefit of the sport is continued by both the men and women as we move forward.

"As for the city of Laguna Beach, it was the birthplace of modern-day skimboarding and is the Mecca of our sport. The current press surrounding 'The Vic,' as many call it, can only help to bring recognition to our town during tough economic times and hopefully will continue to put skimboarding on the map. This could be a big year for professional skimboarding, professional women and live video webcast, and we are excited to play an integral role in helping to push the sport forward."

Pamela Simpson and Richard Tibbetts, who launched the SkimChicks organization in April, have been waiting for the coming weekend for quite some time.

SkimChicks, which boasts 18 female skimboard competitions, is one of the main sponsors of the world championships.

"We're both really happy, as a company, that this day has come," Tibbets said. "I just think it's a really good first step for the women in a really great sport."

"We're beyond excited," said Simpson, a resident of Laguna Beach. "We have girls coming in every day from all over, Hawaii, Florida, Delaware, Canada. There's going to be some great competition taking place over the weekend. "

Garner said that as of Thursday, 107 competitors were entered in the championships, several of whom are local, others from out of state and international competitors from Japan, Mexico, Portugal and the Philippines. Age divisions include 8-and-Under (two competitors); 9-11 (five); 12-14 (8); 15-17 (25); 18-21 (13); 22-24 (seven); 25-29 (four); 30-39 (four) Pro Men (27) and Pro Women (12). International competitors are coming from Japan, Mexico, Portugal and the Philippines.

Brandon Sears, last year's Men's Pro winner, is back to defend his title.

Simpson and Tibbets said that of nine of the 12 competitors entered in the Women's Pro division are Skim Chicks members.

One SkimChick who has a keen eye on the first Women's Pro title is Lanakila Kelliher who flew into town Sunday from her home in Maui. Kelliher figures to be one of the key contenders for the division title along with SkimChicks Keiao Bucasas of Hawaii, eight-time champion Shonna Cobb who Simpson said is traveling down from Seattle for the event, and last year's winner, Anna Prophet who formerly lived in Florida but is now in Dana Point.

"Even though this is a competition, I feel like the camaraderie between us women is really strong," said the 32-year-old Kelliher. "This is such a big thing, to be part of the first Women's Pro event. It's empowering to us women. We just want to be recognized.

"I have been skimming since I was 14, with my brothers on Makena Beach back home, and I always had to compete against the boys because there never was a women's division. So, this is huge."

In her mid-20s, Kelliher was diagnosed with Graves Disease, a thyroid disorder, and later had surgery to remove her thyroid. A year-and-a-half after that surgery, she came to Laguna Beach and entered the world championships for the first time. She said she lost out on an amateur division title by "one-half point" to Cobb in that 2006 event.

She is entering the world championships at Aliso for the fourth time this weekend.

"The thing that I'm so stoke about is that instead of this feeling like a harsh competition, I feel like this is a group of women who have come together and are rooting for each other," she said. "We are here to help increase awareness of women's skimboarding in the sport. I am just so excited about being in the very first Women's Pro.

Perhaps the skim gods will smile on Kelliher over the weekend.

They didn't on Monday.

During her first skimming session at Aliso, Kelliher said that during one ride, she went up and hit the lip of a wave and when she came down, the force of the impact snapped her board in half. It was a custom board shaped by Brent Edwards of Maui Skimmers and it had sentimental value: Kelliher, an artist who describes herself as a "fine artist with graphic tendencies," had placed custom images of her late-mother on her board whose edging, she said, was done in genuine gold leaf.

"I was a little stunned," she said. "I was upset and called Victoria Skimboards and they told me to come in and take a look at some of the boards there, that they'd give me one, if I needed it. They were so awesome and I want to give them plenty of thanks for helping me. I have a friend coming in to town here who is bringing in another of my boards, so we'll see what board I go with on the weekend."

At the conclusion of competition on both Saturday and Sunday, Garner said a beach clean-up will take place.

"Victoria Skimboards team rider Jasmine Joy has always worked to give back to the sport of skimboarding and felt that a beach clean-up was a perfect way to do that," Garner said. "Aliso is a very popular beach and our contest brings more traffic which can result in more trash on the beach which is where the skimboarder makes his or her home. Naturally, she wanted to make sure that we leave the beach cleaner than we found it in order to preserve it for the future of not just the sport, but people wanting to enjoy the beach, in general. We are excited that she is bring such an energy to the beach clean-up."

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