Skimboarding is a fun and rewarding hobby but can be pretty challenging to learn.
Trust me, I made just about every beginner mistake you can when I started out. I'm not proud of it, but I learned a lot and want to share my mistakes so you can avoid them.
The biggest mistake that new skimboarders make is throwing their board out in front of them and running after it instead of doing the one step drop. Other common mistakes are choosing the wrong board, starting out too fast before learning the basics, using improper body mechanics and not practicing enough.
If I could go back and give myself some simple advice, I’d have saved myself quite a few slams, less sore muscles and probably a couple months of learning.
I’ll help you avoid my mistakes by showing you the 15 most common mistakes new skimboarders make and what you should do instead.
1. Throwing The Board Out In Front And Running After It
The most common mistake new skimboarders make is how they get set on their board.
They’ve seen veteran skimboarders get on their board with a lot of speed and obviously want to do the same thing.
Unfortunately, they often think that means running, throwing the board in front of them, and trying to run after it as it skids along and then jump onto the moving board.
It ends up looking something like this:
Consider the physics behind it.
You’re running at a certain speed holding your board, which means your board is also going the same speed.
If you add force to the board by throwing it out in front of you, you’ve given your board additional momentum and will have to run faster just to catch up.
This technique leads to all sort of problems:
- The board will not fall properly and dig into the sand/water – stopping completely
- You'll slow down trying to get your feet right as you jump onto the board
- The board can skim away in all sorts of directions making it hard or impossible to jump on
- The board can turn making it difficult to jump on
- The board can end up whacking your shins and this is extremely painful.
Instead, the two best ways for anyone (including beginners) to get on their skimboard and maintain speed are the one-step drop and the monkey crawl drop.
These techniques take some practice to get right and you may need to start out slower than if you threw the board in front of you, but in the long run they are SO MUCH more effective and will help you maintain a lot more momentum.
Notice that ‘drop’ is the key word here.
Essentially with both methods you’re running, dropping the board (since it’s already going the same speed as you), and stepping onto it.
To do a one-step drop:
The one-step drop is the most common technique for getting onto your skimboard and works well for sand and shallow water.
- Run at a moderate speed holding the board to your side with your front hand on the side and your back hand near the back of the board (about 9 and 5 o’clock, or 3 and 7 if you’re goofy).
- While your back foot is planted and your front foot is stepping, drop the board in front of you, making it land as flat as possible.
- Finish the final step with your front foot, then cross over with your back foot landing on the board first.
- Transition your front foot from the ground to the board, bending your knees a bit, and centering your weight over the board.
To do a monkey crawl drop:
The monkey crawl drop is a slightly more difficult technique and is designed for you to get onto your board and maintain speed in deeper water.
- Run at a moderate speed holding the board with your hands on either side (somewhere around 3 and 9 o’clock).
- As you run, still holding the board in both hands, bend over and let the board lightly skim the water. Keep the board nice and flat against the ground.
- Flatten your hands out on the top of the board and step onto it with your back foot.
- Transition to a more upright stand (knees bent and weight centered) as you bring your front foot onto the board.
2. Learning On A Wooden Skimboard
Another big mistake that new skimboarders make is choosing the wrong board.
Wooden skimboards are cheap, and widely available, so naturally most people start skimboarding on a wooden skimboard. However, wooden skimboards are small, heavy, flexible and not very buoyant — all bad characteristics for skimming long distances or catching waves.
When comparing wooden skimboards to foam skimboards, beginners are much better off starting with a foamie or fibreglass board. They are more expensive but they are well worth the investment.
Upgrade as soon as you can.
Check out some of the best skimboards for beginners if you need a place to start.
3. Having A Board That Is Too Small
A larger skimboard spreads your weight out over a larger surface area than a smaller board — allowing you to keep your balance easier, skim further, and skim faster.
Most beginners grab a small, wooden board because they’re more available and less expensive.
Then they have a tough time getting down the basics and ultimately less fun — and end up quitting before they ever even really started.
The bigger the board the easier it's going to be to learn. Click here to learn exactly what size skimboard you should get. If you're unsure you should always go bigger instead of smaller.
Even if you buy a cheap board try to get the largest sized one possible.
4. Leaning Back Too Much
Another common beginner mistake is to lean back too much, out of fear of falling — which is actually counterproductive.
While leaning too far forward will make the nose of your board dig into the sand, leaning too far back will make the board slip out on you. This can cause some serious falls because the board will slip extremely quickly and you'll fall flat on your back or ass, which can be really painful.
The key is to keep your weight centered over the board and lean forward a little bit. It’ll take some trial and error before you get the hang of it.
While bailing a few times (and maybe a few on top of that) is likely, sand is pretty forgiving to fall on (if you start slowly). Don’t be afraid to take a nosedive every now and then while you’re learning.
5. Starting Too Fast
I know I just said that falling is okay, but falling because you’re learning at top speed is a bit of a different story.
Starting fast without mastering the mechanics of your drop can be dangerous. I’ve seen more than a few rolled ankles from people who never really learned the basics of how to skimboard but dove in headfirst at full speed anyway.
Learning the right technique is hard enough without sprinting into every drop.
Take it slow at first, learn the right technique, and add speed when you’ve got it down.
Begin without running at all and just practice your one step drop. Then progress to a walking speed on dry or wet sand then a slow jog and eventually only working up to full speed once you are extremely confident with your drop.
This may take you a few sessions to get right and while it can disheartening to not be skimming well the first time you try it trust in the process and you'll get there.
To get better faster don't just practice at the beach. You can practice your skimboarding almost anywhere – from your carpet at home to the grass in your backyard.
6. Forget To Bend Your Knees
If you find yourself hopping on your board and standing straight up, you’re just making this harder on yourself and you're more likely to fall.
A slight to moderate bend in the knees will help to minimize the impact of hopping on and allow you to dynamically adjust your weight to stay centered over your board.
You have knees for a reason — don’t forget to use them.
7. Not Getting Enough Practice
Some people pick up skimboarding because they think skimboarding will be easier to learn than surfing — but skimboarding takes A LOT of time and practice to master.
You really have to put in the hours. There’s no shortcut.
Get to the beach or lake as often as you can. Focus on your fundamentals first. Learn to drop in and center your weight on the board.
If you can’t make it to the water, practice the footwork of the one-step drop at home on carpet or grass.
Put in the work and you’ll get there.
8. Not Engaging Your Feet and Core
Skimboarding is a full body activity.
Your feet help you stay stable and make turns, don’t just plant them on the board and ignore them.
Engage your core to maintain control over your board and keep your weight centered.
9. Skimming In Deep Water
Diving straight into skimming deep water on day one is a recipe for failure. Deep water is extremely difficult to skim on and it's something you should work up to.
Start out on wet sand or water that’s no more than an inch or two deep.
Anything more is just going to slow down your progress in the learning phase.
10. Expecting To Ride Waves Straight Away
Learning to skimboard waves isn’t something you can dive straight into either. The dudes you see on TikTok on Instagram smashing waves have probably been skimboarding for years.
Don’t expect to be catching waves straight away. Start out with flatland skimboarding or skimboarding on wet sand and work your way up from there.
Once you are able to consistently get on your board whilst maintaining a high speed then you can begin trying to ride waves.
They put in the practice, starting with the basics, and you should too.
11. Not Timing The Waves Properly
Once you're at a point where you can start on waves, the most common mistakes are with timing.
Wait for a wave to break and look for a second wave that’s going to break close enough to shore to reach with the speed you’ll have. This one’s your target.
Skim the water of the first wave as it’s rushing in or out (depending on how close the second wave is) to reach the second wave.
You want to reach the wave as it’s almost finished forming, if it has a lip you were too late.
Most beginners wait too long and don’t reach the second wave until it’s already breaking, then end up bailing in the wash.
Make sure the water you’re skimming on isn’t still, or dead water. You’ll lose too much momentum to catch your wave.
12. Not Waxing The Top Of Your Skimboard
Another simple, but costly, beginner mistake is to not wax their board.
Wax or stick on grips will prevent your feet from sliding off — providing more control and reducing the number of slams.
A slick board is hard to use and can lead to injury. Always wax your board or use traction pads (or both).
13. Thinking You Have To Wax The Bottom Of Your Skimboard
To specify, you only need to wax the top of your skimboard. Waxing the bottom of your skimboard isn’t necessary and will only provide minor speed improvements (if that).
You'll get a lot more speed by practicing your technique and getting better at the one-step drop and monkey crawl.
Some people swear by using specialized waxes to make the bottom of their skimboards more slick — but as a beginner, you don’t really need to worry about that yet. Even most pros don't wax the bottom of their skimboard.
14. Thinking You Need To Be Fit To Skimboard
One of my closest friends is a pretty big dude. He wanted to learn to skimboard but kept putting it off, saying he wanted to lose 15 lbs first.
Eventually I was able to convince him that if losing a few pounds was something he wanted to do, skimboarding could actually help him get there.
Think about it – skimboarding involves a lot of running and that's going to be great exercise and will help you lose weight. Weight only matters in skimboarding when it comes to choosing the right sized board.
If you've got a bigger build then get a larger sized board that is thicker and this will help you out a lot.
You don’t have to be in great shape to skimboard. It’s a great workout and no one is judging you for being out there having fun.
15. Not Wearing Sunscreen
Picking up a new hobby, like skimboarding, that gets you out in the sun more is great.
Just don’t put your long term health at risk — always wear sunscreen. You can also wear rash shirts and wetsuits to keep you protected from the sun.
Skimboarding isn’t as easy to pick up as you might think. It takes time, dedication, and developing good habits.
The most common mistakes that I see new skimboarders make are:
- Throwing their board instead of dropping it
- Using a wooden skimboard
- Using a board that’s too small
- Leaning back too far
- Starting out too fast
- Not bending their knees
- Not using their feet or engaging their core
- Not practicing enough
- Skimming in deep water
- Going straight for waves
- Mistiming waves
- Not waxing the top of their board
- Waxing the bottom of their board
- Thinking you have to be fit to skimboard
- Not using sunscreen