No ski. No paddle. Just a man and his disc.
It ain’t no secret that I got a little crush on the new era of skim. Beserkers like Brad Domke skimming Nazaré, Jaws and Puerto Escondido on a fifty-three-inch, flat-rockered, finless disc.
And Austin Keen, the two-time world champ, and his gotta-see-to-believe boat wake hijacks. Oowee etc.
Last Tuesday, Austin, who is twenty eight years old, was invited to the Surf Ranch by a skim fan who’d hired out the tank. And Austin, who’d spent the last two years dreaming of hitting the joint and who went to the Founders Cup just to get a feel for it, figured he’d make his first wave a run-in takeoff.
“I wanted my first experience to be skimming right into it,” he says. “I was shitting my pants. I didn’t want to blow it. Every wave counts. But I’d been wanting to do this for a long time. If you look closely you can see me shaking like a leaf, hoping I time it right. ”
The no-paddle, run-in takeoff ain’t easy.
“I watched the other guys I filmed the wave and watched the timing over and over. The wave moves really, really fast. I was in the back room for thirty minutes, scrolling through my phone, watching it, making sure I had the timing right. I had to get out super early because while you’re sliding, the wave is moving fast.
“I was on the sidelines and you hear that train moving and as much as I wanted to wait longer, I made myself run before the wave was even there. I knew by the time I started sliding out, the wave would be forming and then starting to break. I got there right as it was lipping up and I hit it and beat that first mini barrel section, where the pro’s take off, and then got a nice little barrel section off the bat.”
Austin says that everyone, from the lifeguards, to the jetski guys to the workers and his skim-fan patron were thrilled by the event, but somewhere out there in the ether, watching on some webcam, was an overseer who told Austin he couldn’t skim anymore unless he had a leash attached to his board.
(The pool owners fret that a leashless board will bounce around, get washed over the bank on the side of the pool and damage the lining. It ain’t paranoia. Both commercial Wavegardens have been closed down for ripped linings.)
“So I called the maintenance guy over and asked him to drill a hole in my board,” says Austin. “I was able to skim for the rest of the session, sometimes paddling into waves on my surfboard, sometimes stepping off the ski and skimming the wave.”
After posting of his adventure, Austin says he was contacted by Kelly Slater who was “curious” how, a, shimmed onto a wave, and, b, how he got into the pool in the first place.
“He thought it was pretty rad,” says Austin.
Now…now… you ain’t feeling these skim jams?
“Me and guys like Brad Domke, we’re all surfers,” says Austin, who rode half his waves on a five-ten Gamma. “It’s another avenue for us to surf and this is our little niche way of doing it.”