Joe Surf: Skimming the surface for a different kind of ride

July 13, 2011|By Joe Haakenson
  • Tex Haines, who started Victoria Skimboards, left, and Bill Bryan, right, chat during a legends exhibition at a Victoria Skimboards contest in 2003.
Tex Haines, who started Victoria Skimboards, left, and… (Don Leach, Daily…)

Yes, I know, the blockbuster event of the summer — the US Open of Surfing — is just a little more than two weeks from getting underway on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier. But the biggest surfing event in the world isn't all that's taking place on our beaches these days.

Before we watch to find out if Huntington Beach local Brett Simpson can be the first in the men's pro division to win the US Open title three consecutive years, we have the 35th annual Victoria Skimboards World Championship of Skimboarding at Aliso Beach Park in Laguna Beach on Saturday and Sunday.

Some of the best skimboarders in the world will be at Aliso Beach showing off some sick tricks that you probably have never seen — unless you've watched a lot of skimming lately.

Granted, that's not a lot of you.

But skimboarding has been around a while and has its roots in surfing. In fact, Tex Haines, a pioneer in skimboarding who owns Victoria Skimboards in Laguna Beach, said the sport's relative obscurity is not necessarily a bad thing and not necessarily something that can be overcome.


One side of Haines would love to see the sport grow, simply to help his business and businesses like his. He and his buddy Peter Prietto began making skimboards in the mid-1970s, with help from legendary surfboard designer Hobie Alter.

"Hobie bought 'em on the spot," Haines said. "He just said, 'Get me more.' He was so open-minded about it. There was none of this, 'Let's see how things go.'"

The business has grown to where they ship their boards to more than 20 countries worldwide, but the last couple of years have been tough, with sales dropping by 50% since 2009.

There is also the side of Haines that doesn't want the sport to become "exploited," as he put it. It's kind of like that secret surf spot you want kept secret.

Haines will be at Aliso Beach this weekend watching some of the world's best skimboarders, including many from Victoria Skimboards' own professional team — like Matthieu Thibaud, Morgan Just, Brandon Rothe, Jon Howell, Tony Bianchi, Chris Splendore, Michael Brickle and Teddy Vlasis.

Haines, 58, used to get out there himself quite a bit, but now prefers the "safer" sport of surfing. His journey to get where he is today is worthy of a book, and in fact is something Haines has been contemplating for a while now.

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