Skim Slam highlights growing sport in V.I.
Published: June 18, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - It was the last year Konner Kendall could compete in two age divisions, so the 15-year-old Antilles School student went all in.
Kendall was one of the 44 local competitors to participate in the seventh annual Skim Slam All Ages Amateur Skimboarding Contest Saturday at Morningstar Beach.
The two-time Junior Division champ did not win a title - he finished runner-up in both the Junior and Men's Divisions by one point each - but Kendall said he was very satisfied his performance and impressed with how the sport has progressed in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"This sport is really building," Kendall said. "When I first started to compete at this event five years ago, there were only like 20 people here, and just a couple sponsors. I've basically grown up through Skim Slam and it's great to see how big it is now."
Skimboarding is a sport similar to surfing, but takes place near the shore. A skimboard, usually made of fiberglass or carbon fiber and high-density foam, is much smaller than a surfboard and is used to glide across the water's surface.
It begins on the beach, with skimboarders running and dropping the board onto the thin wash of previous waves and then using their momentum to 'skim' out to breaking waves and return back to shore with a few tricks mixed in.
Ray Whittemore, a California native, his younger brother Charlie and their childhood friend, Josh Rutty, started the website, SkimCaribbean.com, which has been the main sponsor for the contest the last seven years.
"This year was cool because we had a lot of new faces, and hopefully, we'll be seeing them more in the future," said Ray Whittemore, who got into skimboarding after his father, Alan, constructed a skimboard in the family garage more than 30 years ago.
"I feel like the V.I. is leading the way for skimboarding in the Caribbean right now. We're in communication with kids from lots of islands, and it's our goal to bring them all together for bigger competitions in the years to come."
Nine girls competed Saturday, which set a record at the event, and Quintin Chiapperino made the trip up from St. Croix.
"I asked him if there were more skimboarders down there and he said he was the only one," Whittemore said. "We'll have to change that."
The skimboarders were divided into four different divisions and charged the skim at Morningstar Beach all day in front of a large crowd. There were between four and six skimboarders in each 8-minute preliminary heat as each participant was judged on their top seven waves going both directions.
The Top 5 advanced to the finals in each division, which included a Groms Division (10-and-under) and a Women's Division.
One of the newest members to the Skim Caribbean team, Cody Merritt, edged out Kendall for the Junior Division (boys 11-15) title, while Dalton Parr repeated as Groms Division (boys 10 and under) champion.
Marina Parlato was the top women's performer, and Adam Fuller won the Men's Division title, which included all skimboarders who were 16 years old and up.
Taylor Steele, who took fifth in the Men's Division, also won the Best Wipeout Award, while Matthew Soeffing took home the Sportsmanship Award. Two-year-old Mateo Freyn couldn't wait to get in the water - even during live competition - and was the youngest competitor.
"These athletes are really reaching new heights," Whittemore said.
Professional skimboarder Alejandro Lopez, a 20-year-old St. Thomas native, performed a demo during the lunch break, and will be competing at the Victoria Skimboards World Championship of Skimboarding (WCS) in Laguna Beach, Calif., later this summer.
His younger brother, Nick, 17, was the reigning Men's Division champion at Skim Slam but is sailing a 60-foot boat to Portugal, where he hopes to represent the USVI at another major skimboarding competition. Nick Lopez is expected to turn pro next year, Whittemore said.
"I learned how to skimboard and surf when I moved here," said Kendall, an Arizona native. "I look at people like Alejandro and Nick and I just love their life. They do some unbelievable stuff on a board and I try my best to emulate them."
Major sponsors for the event included Evolution Surf and Skate, Community Foundation for the Virgin Islands, Caribbean Surf Company, Island Sol and many other local contributors.
Whittemore also announced Skim Caribbean will be offering camps this summer with freelance skimboarding instructors on St. Thomas. The first 5-day camp starts at 9 a.m. today at Morningstar, and the camps will go for the next two weeks and throughout the summer. For more information, call Whittemore at 998-4625 or to register, go online at www.SkimCaribbean.com.
- Contact sports writer Aaron Gray at 714-9102 or email email@example.com.
2012 Skim Slam Final Results
Saturday, Morningstar Beach, St. Thomas
Groms Division (Boys 10 and under)
1. Dalton Parr
2. Sean Godfrey
3. Christian Freyn
4. Cody Bryan
5. Alex Cavagnaro
1. Marina Parlato
2. Adelaide Jones
3. Sydney Gurlea
4. Annie Ellis
5. Alexa Murdjeff
Junior's Division (Boys 11-15)
1. Cody Merritt
2. Konner Kendall
3. Jeffrey Thompson
4. Karson Kendall
5. Tommy Gibney
Men's Division (16 and up)
1. Adam Fuller
2. Konner Kendall
3. Johnny Carpenter
4. Nolan Diehl
5. Taylor Steele
Mateo Freyn age 2
- Source: Skim Slam organizer Ray Whittemore