Gliding over water or riding the waves, showing off some fancy moves even, skimboarding is a recreational beach activity that is gaining popularity across the world. It involves gliding on a flat board across shallow water on the edge of the shoreline. Many take it up on a whim while on vacation, and then stick to it realising its fun and excitement quotient. However, skimboarding requires a certain level of body control, strength and fitness.
Whether you are a professional skim-boarder or a newbie, being physically fit is a prerequisite. This becomes its USP too: skimboarding is an excellent and fun means to get fit. However, it requires a fitness regimen to start with. The pursuit of one powers the other, creating a fitness symbiosis that is worth your time and effort.
Skimboarding and the mind
The excitement of playing in water attracts people to do water sports. Kochi-based artist and outdoor sports enthusiast, Francis Kurien, popularly known as Franky, attempted skimboarding four years ago and has not stopped since. He founded Skim-B India, a skimboard brand and India’s first skimboarding community.
“Skimboarding makes me a 5-year-old kid joyfully playing in water,” says Kurien, who is also a cyclist and skateboarder.
Skimboarding allows you to unwind and takes you to an emotionally better space. Kurien connects the relief and satisfaction that skimboarding offers to the Blue Mind Theory.
Marine biologist and author Wallace J Nichols in his book Blue Mind, states that being in and around water can have a calming and healing impact on one’s mental state and overall well-being. Through stress alleviation, creativity and productivity are enhanced. There are community and social benefits attached to it too.
“Skimboarding is the gateway to water sports; it takes you closer to water and cherish it,” adds Kurien.
Skimboarding and fitness
Skimboarding is fun but demands full-body strength. One must follow the right fitness routines to perform and become efficient in it.
“Skimboarding involves running towards the shoreline, laying a flat board on the thin layer of water, and then swiftly hopping onto it, allowing for skimming across the water’s surface before riding waves or returning to the shore,” says Midhun Joshy, a skim boarder and photographer from Kochi.
“The pace and speed of skimboarding is the speed at which we run while dropping the board and landing on it. One needs to be physically fit to achieve that speed and endurance,” he explains.
For maintaining balance, control on the board, performing tricks, and adapting to changing water/wave conditions, microsecond muscle memory activation is important.
“While skimboarding, things can go wrong in microseconds. Hence mind-body coordination and muscle engagement from head to toe are crucial,” says Kurien.
The various muscle groups involved in skimboarding are leg muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles), core muscles, upper body muscles (hip flexors and abductors, gluteal muscles), feet and ankle muscles. These muscles need to be strengthened to improve skimboarding performance.
“Specific muscles used may vary depending on your riding style and the conditions of the beach or the shoreline,” says Kurien.
Fitness routines for skimboarding
Flexibility is a primary attribute needed for skimboarding.
“Flexibility to maintain a low centre of gravity, adapt to the board’s movements,” says Joshi. “It lowers the risk of injury, provides balance to maintain stability while skimming.”
Then comes the skill. “Footwork to control the board and execute manoeuvres, the body positioning on the board, right distribution of weight, and adjustment of the stance are all necessary for excellent skimboarding,” adds Joshi.
Kurien recommends including the following exercises in the fitness routine to improve the skills and condition the body.
Balance training/single-leg stance: Spend 30 seconds to 1 minute standing on one leg, then switch to the other. This improves your overall balance.
- Squats: Performing bodyweight squats or adding resistance with weights to strengthen the legs (relevant for pushes and manoeuvres).
- Lunges: Incorporate forward, reverse, and lateral lunges to target different leg muscles and improve stability.
- Push-ups: Strengthen your upper body, especially your chest, shoulders, and triceps, which are important for paddling and controlling the board.
Agility and reaction time:
- Agility ladder drills: Practicing agility ladder drills improve footwork and reaction time.
- Cone drills: Set up cones in different patterns and practice weaving in and out quickly.
- Planks: Perform front planks, side planks, and dynamic plank variations to strengthen your core, which enables balance and control.
- Russian twists: Sit on the ground with your knees bent, holding a weight or a ball. Rotate your torso from side to side to work on your oblique muscles.
Stretching: Incorporate regular stretching routines to maintain flexibility and prevent muscle tightness. Focus areas are legs, hips, and shoulders.
In addition to all these workouts, Kurien suggests running on the beach or swimming in the ocean to increase endurance.
Injury prevention: Even though it is a water activity, there are potential injury risks from slips and falls. Twisted ankles, sprains, and muscle strains are common too. Here are some of the ways through which you can minimize them.
Warm-up and stretching: Always begin your skimboarding sessions with a full warm-up to improve blood flow to the muscles. “Include dynamic stretches to prepare your body for movements,” says Kurien.
Balance and agility training: Incorporate balance board exercises and agility drills into your fitness routine to reduce the risk of falls.
Proper technique: Learning and practicing the proper skimboarding technique reduces the chance of awkward falls or collisions.
Appropriate equipment: Ensure that your skimboard is the right size and type for your skill level and the conditions you will be facing. Check your board regularly for damage.
Beach assessment: Before you skim, assess the beach and water conditions. Look out for the rocks, debris, or other hazards.
Stay hydrated: Cramps and weariness are risks that are associated with dehydration. Drink plenty of water before and during your skimboarding sessions.
Rest and recovery: Give your body enough time to rest in between sessions. Overtraining can result in exhaustion and increase the risk of injuries.
- Skimboarding is a fun water sport that can reduce stress and is also a great fitness activity.
- A skimboarding fitness regimen should include balance training, strength training, agility and reaction time drills, core stability drills, and stretching.
- The risk of injury in skimboarding is reduced by warming up and stretching, adhering to sound technique, balance and agility training, right equipment, beach evaluation, proper hydration, rest, and recovery.