Skimboarding comes to Paradise

Michael Stockinger

Unlike others who ride boards, skimboarders can do it all: puddles, lakes, oceans and, of course, our very own American River.

Paradise Beach, located near Sacramento State and behind Glen Hall Park on Carlson Drive, will be overrun with those who participate in the sport on Sunday for the tenth annual Skimfest.”It is the longest running inland skimboarding festival in the world,” said Lonnie “Lon” Porteous, co-founder of the event, in a telephone interview. “Inland skimboarding originated here in Sacramento, at Paradise Beach.”

“The world’s best inland skimboarders are in Sacramento.”

For those unfamiliar with the sport, skimboarding is a combination of snowboarding, skateboarding and wakeboarding, but is not nearly as limited by location.

It involves a flat, almost 3-foot-long board ridden, or “skimmed,” in shallow waters on almost any water body possible.

More adventurous skimboarders jump over objects, ride rails, or do a bit of both in and out of the water.

“I’ve always skateboarded and there’s a lot of crossover to the sport,” Porteous said. “People will ride frontside, bigside, do pop-shove-its, and ollies on the rails.”

Porteous, a veteran of the Sacramento skimboarding scene, began participating in the sport nearly 22 years ago when he and a friend would ride their bikes to the house of a guy who would let them borrow his board.

In 1997, Porteous and Mark Robinson, a fellow skimboarder and friend, began Skimfest as a way to bring skimboarders together and to bring more exposure to the sport.

“This is less of a competition and more of a gathering of skimboarders,” Porteous said. “There are a bunch of different spots people skim at, like Folsom Lake, Sacramento River in Elk Grove, Discovery Park and Paradise Beach.”

“It’s a time when everybody from these different areas could get together and skim,” Porteous said.Noah Lane, a close friend of Porteous, and co-organizer of the event said the sport’s Sacramento roots date to the ’70s.

“It actually started in Laguna Beach in the 1920s when surfers used broken surfboards to skim,” Lane said. “The Sac scene is really strong when the water levels drop in the American River to a level worth skimming, which is typically in July.”

Access to the sport is not limited by geography either, with skimboarders coming from Nevada, Utah, British Columbia, Australia and wherever else they turn up due to the sports’ growing popularity.

“We’ve done puddles in golf courses,” Lane said. “You could live in Kansas and skim. You could do it anywhere: river, pond, creek or stream.

New tricks, improved boards, new ramps and poles and the crossover of skateboarders to skimboarders have no doubt led to an increase in popularity.

“I can keep up with anybody, but it’s really cool because where else will I go down to watch people skim and see people showing me up?” Porteous said with a laugh. “I realize these people are really good.”

Porteous has even encountered children doing tricks that he wouldn’t have imagined.Lane, 24, has been skimming for nearly six years, has a skimboarding pond in his backyard, and is what you would call a professional of the sport.

“I’m sponsored by Nemo Skimboards, which pay for a bit of my travel, and I ride for Ground Zero Boardshop and,” said Lane, a marketing major at Sierra College who works as a valet when he’s not skimming.

Porteous, a cable technician in the downtown CalPERS building, is also sponsored.”I did artwork for J. Gordon Skimboards and then I began riding for them,” Porteous said.

Lane says the sport is super-relaxed and a great one for those who lack patience, in that you don’t have to wait for waves and you could get plenty of great runs in one day, unlike surfing.

Paradise Beach has unfortunately been the site of where people go to drink and party on the river, but many in the skimboarding community have been working to clean the area up of those who give the sport and the beach a bad name.

“We promote that it’s a non-alcoholic beach,” Porteous said. “We regularly clean up the beach and are always picking up stuff like glass so that we don’t get cut in or out of the water.”

Skimboarders also work with local environmental groups, such as Friends of the River, to clean up the river and beach. Both Porteous and Lane said they have a close relationship with local rangers.”We’re trying to get more positive people out there,” Porteous said. “Say there’s 10 to 15 of us out there ?” if it was a cleaner place, there could be 30 out there!”

Sacramento County Parks Ranger Supervisor John Havicon said skimboarders are, for the most part, good people who clean up their trash and follow the rules.

“We thought they would be a problem at first, but they haven’t really made an impact,” Havicon said. “Noah Lane has always contacted me about what they can and can’t do. He kind of keeps a lid on things.”

Havicon said the festival will not be a problem at all for the rangers, but the no-alcohol rule will be enforced.

“It’s a relaxed, helpful group with a good vibe, and there’s a lot of positive camaraderie out there,” Lane said.

The festival has always been held at Paradise Beach and 50 to 60 people are expected to participate in the competition with many more spectators.

There are five categories for competitors: groms (children), beginner, intermediate, advanced and girls.

“It’s judged on a point system based on flat-water tricks or tricks on rails and objects,” Lane said. “Anyone is welcome to come out.”

The event will begin around noon and runs on to the early evening, but those who want to compete need to show up around 11 a.m. for registration.

Skimboard makers, shops and clothing companies will be at the event as well giving prizes for those who do well in the competition.

“I would invite anybody to come out and experience the sport,” Lane said. “Get outside and meet people.”

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Michael Stockinger can be reached at [email protected]