Contest director Ryan Parola slaps a lil wedge silly. photo-Debi Parola
Wintertime in Santa Cruz provides surfers powerful North swells with chilly, raw, and sometimes downright heavy surf. As the days shorten and become darker, hardcore surf enthusiasts are rewarded with perfect sandbars and juicy waves.
It is these winter months that Santa Cruz surfers live for, and despite the occasional summer time south, it’s during this season that they get the majority of their surfing fix. There’s a different breed of resident wave riders however, who long for the summer months of sun, steep beaches, warm water, and high tide wedges.
As opposed to surfers, who paddle their way into waves, these athletes actually run at the waves, chasing them down like amphibious track stars. Skimboarders, as they’re known, prefer the mellow waves found during the summer and can be seen in dense packs at just about every beach with shorepound in town.
Despite a huge local skim scene, there aren’t many events to allow the area’s talent to show off their stuff. Back in Aug, 2001, Santa Cruz skimmers Ryan Parola, Timmy Hunt, Dan Turner, and Jesse Beer, began meeting at Paula’s Restaurant every Friday morning, hoping to brainstorm ideas for a successful local skim contest. As a result of these meetings, the Senseless Skimfest was born. By organizing the event, which they chose to run at the skimmer friendly shores of 26th avenue beach, they hoped to provide local skimboarders with a chance to compete in a fun, low pressure event, and enjoy a nice day at the beach with their friends and family in the process.
“ We saw the lack of local contests and we thought that we could do something about it. It started out just as an idea among friends, and kind of just took off from there”, reflects Parola on the birth of the Skimfest.
The contest began as a grass-roots, do it yourself style affair with a mellow crowd and only twenty competitors. Now in it’s ninth year, however, the contest has grown dramatically. Last year, along with increased sponsors and prizes, the event drew fifty five competitors and hundreds of spectators.
Now in it’s ninth year, the Skimfest is looking to be bigger than ever. Set to take place on Saturday, August 22nd, the event will draw the area’s best local professional and amateur skimboarders. Amateur divisions include: 17-under, 18-25, 26-and up, as well as an open women’s division. The Pro division is all ages and features such local talent as Ben K, Chris Alreck, Geoff Hughins, Corey Ryan, Jesse Helm, and Gary Velo, just to name a few.
Parola, the Skimfest is a labor of love, an event he devotes endless hours towards planning, organizing, and facilitating. As contest director, he’s responsible for a number of duties, yet relies on a devoted crew of volunteers to help keep things running smoothly. This year, he’s enlisted help from two of Santa Cruz’s most well respected skimboard legends, Chris “Chappy” Chapman, and Josh “Skimpy” Evenson, who will lend their expertise as announcers.
“ I’m honored and thrilled to have these guys helping out at the event,” says Parola of the addition of Chapman and Evenson to the Skimfest. “ It’s good to see them back in the scene, and I’m stoked to have them be a part of the contest”.
New to the Skimfest this year is the incorporation of solar powered energy. Independent Energy systems is bringing their solar power trailer down to the beach to power the event. By utilizing solar power, Parola hopes to reduce the event’s carbon footprint as well as inspire people to think Green. The contest’s other sponsors include: Surftech, Roush Creations, California Grown, Ocean Native, Debbie Parola Photography, 831 Media, Ocean Minded, Dakine, and Reckless. All competitors receive an original Senseless Skimfest T-shirt, designed by renowned local artist FJ Anderson, as well as lunch provided by Aloha Island Grille.
Whether you’re an upstart skim whiz looking for a chance to show your stuff, or a extreme sports loving beach enthusiast looking for some exciting entertainment, head down to 26th next weekend, the action is sure to leave you Senseless.
What-9th annual Senseless SkimfestWhere- 26th avenue beach, Santa CruzWho- Pro division-all ages17-under18-2526-and upWomen’s OpenWhen- Saturday, August 22nd