The History of Flatland Skimboarding

Skimboarding originated as a tool for lifeguards to travel down the beach quickly in the mid-1920s. The lifeguards would use a simple piece of wood and skim down the shoreline to help decrease the amount of time it took to get to swimmers in need.                 

A lot has changed since then. Foam skimboards took over the wave world and wood skimboards evolved into flatland skimboarders allowing people to take their skateboarding skills to the beach.                

Flatland/inland skimboarding has been growing in recent years and for good reason. You can skim damn near anywhere. A tidal pool, a river, a flooded street or your backyard are all options in the world of skimboarding. Pinpointing where flatland skimboarding started isn’t possible, but you can track its growth through influential riders, skimboard companies and contests.

One influential players in the advent of flatland skim world is Jim Gordon, Owner of J-Gordon Skimboards. 

“I started making skimboards around 1980, and my boards were made for waves," Gordon said. "At first when I was selling my boards to Go Skate in Santa Cruz, CA. I didn’t know they were sending my boards to their Sacramento store. When I found out I asked if the Sacramento guys drove clear down to the ocean to skim. They told me they were skimming in the rivers in Sac and they were doing skateboard-style skimming (no rails at that time though). They just sled on logs and tables and ollie over stuff. That was a few years after I started making ocean boards (the early 80s). When foam skims became popular for wave riding, my wood skims died and the inland guys kept me from going under.”

The “flatland/inland concept” has always been there, it just took the right series of events and people to gain notice.

“(Lon Porteous) didn’t ride for me until I think it was in the early 90s, but he said he always had one of my boards. Just like Mark Robertson. Both of them are like God Fathers of skim for inland/flatland skim,” said Gordon. “As far as I know they were the first guys to make and ride rails. What’s funny is they were both little kids when they rode my boards and now they are middle-aged adults.”

Robertson and Porteous and their crew created Skimfest for the next generation that was coming up, riders like Matt Head, John Minns, Noah Lane, Tim Pepper, Kyle Lynch and a plethora of other skimmers in Sacramento and the Pacific Northwest who are all in their late 20s and early 30s now.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, Skullskates (PD), Kayotics (John Minns) and Zed Skimboards (Jeff Zamluk) were some of the companies that pushed the sport and helped it progress. Later on Richard Doctor, Isaac Thomas, Tony Saddler, Timothy Mackey and Bryce Hermansen and the rest of the Dash Point crew created DB Skimboards in Washington State. Skimboarding grew exponentially in the Pacific Northwest and Sacramento. Other areas where skimboarding existed gained more attention like Utah thanks to likes of Mike, Rich and John Gardner and Australia with Nemo skimboards. Victoria and Surftech even started making flatland boards.

“Basically, there was a huge push in the late 90s early 2000s. It was during this time that basically most of the advance tricks were borrowed from skate or snowboarding and implemented,” skimboard legend Kyle Lynch said.

Kayotics, DB and Blister Productions all released skimboarding videos that showed the world what could be done with a skimboard in your own backyard. More flatland contests joined the likes of Skimfest in Sacramento, the Virgin River Clas- sic in Utah, the DB Pro/Am in Washinton and the Zed Island Skim Sessions in British Columbia.

As more riders and competitions appeared websites like the former, Tydle Magazine and started popping up to promote skimboarding. The more recent (now and Flatland Magazine), continue to push news and media to a larger audience than ever. Now, people skim the Great Lakes, Texas, Holland, Germany, New Zealand, Poland, Louisiana, Poland, England and countless mudflats, flooded golf courses and fountains all over the world. People are even crazy enough to actually try to start a local skim tour (the now defunct Northwest Skim Tour) as a first step to create a full flatland tour bringing all of the contests and crews together. A flatland tour is not crazy anymore and the contest scene in Europe is thriving with the European Skimboarding Cup in full swing.  

The flatland skimboarding scene continues to evolve and grow with each passing summer and has a promising future.

In terms of figuring out where flatland skimboarding started simply put by Lynch “guys have been hitting log rails and natural obstacles basically forever,” so you can’t credit any one person with what propelled all of this into motion, but you can see the players that pushed the sport to the next level.