MARQUETTE - If you've been to the beach lately, you've probably seen kids skimming across the shoreline on what appear to be miniature surfboards.
It's called skimboarding and like so many extreme sports, it originated in southern California. It's not quite as popular in this area as surfing, but it can be done almost anywhere and by almost anyone. Will Olesak of Marquette has been skimboarding for two years now.
"All you need is a board that fits your size and style, and water," he said.
Will Olesak cuts across a sandbar on his skimboard as Conrad Esslin carries his board back for another round near the Upper Harbor in Marquette last week. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-ZaleskI)
The most important aspect when investing in a skimboard is the size. Skimboards are all sized on the weight of the rider. They come in sizes from extra small for weights under 80 pounds up to extra large for weights up to 220 pounds.
Once the correct board has been selected, the next thing is to choose the right type of board to fit your style of riding. There are three common types: inland, high-performance and foam boards.
The inland boards are usually made of wood and meant for doing tricks. They also tend to stand up against harsh environmental elements like rocks and shells.
"You can essentially do a lot of the same tricks you can on a skateboard. I can do shove-its, body varials, and ollies."
- CONRAD ESSLIN
The high-performance skimboards are usually made of several layers. The outer layer or shell is usually made of fiberglass, carbon or Kevlar and the inner layer or core is made of a high-density foam.
The last type of board is a "foamy" which has more buoyancy for riding waves, much like a surfboard.
Finding a spot to skimboard isn't always easy.
In this area of the country, the type of skimboarding is called flatland skimboarding and can be done nearly anywhere, including lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds, puddles - even wet grass.
"Rivers are actually one of the best places to skimboard, especially if you can find a place where the water is really thin," Olesak said.
Water that is ankle deep or less is ideal.
Once you find a spot the next step is actually riding.
There are two basic methods, dropping or throwing the board. When dropping the board you begin by running and then placing the board at your feet as you step on. Your foward momentum carries you across the water. The throw method involves throwing the board out in front of you and then running and jumping onto it.
"I like to run with the board and drop it at my feet and ride it," Marquette resident Conrad Esslin said.
Esslin has been skimboarding on and off for about 10 years and has become more serious about it in the last two years.
After mastering riding the board, the skimmer can incorporate tricks into the ride.
Esslin said that some people think that skimboarding is a lot like skateboarding.
"You can essentially do a lot of the same tricks you can on a skateboard," he said. "I can do shove-its, body varials, and ollies."
The sport becomes easier with practice.
"There are a lot of Internet sites out there that can help you out," said Oleska.
He recommends checking out the Dashboard Skimboards website at www.dbskimboards.com.
Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.