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OCEANSIDE SKIM AND BEACH CULTURE

Story by By Candace Wu, Photography by Peter McCully

SKIMBOARDING IN PARKSVILLE

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Ryan Mountain skimboarding with friends

A small group of avid young athletes have an ambitious idea. “We want to make skimboarding to Parksville what surfing is to Tofino,” says 19-year-old Ryan Mountain, standing sun-kissed in the midst of Parksville’s iconic beach accompanied by a group of friends who share his passion for the up-and-coming ocean sport. 

It’s early afternoon, low tide—the perfect time to skimboard—and Mountain is dressed casually in board shorts and a muscle shirt boasting the acronym “OSBC,” which stands for Oceanside Skim and Beach Culture, a grassroots organization promoting the sport of skimboarding in Parksville Qualicum Beach, started by Mountain and his friends when they were in high school. Since its inception, the group has bolstered in size and popularity and it now hosts one of the biggest skimboard competitions in the country.

According to Mountain, Parksville Beach is “the perfect venue to skim” with its vast tidal pools and seemingly infinite coastline.

“The beach here is ideal,” explains Mountain, pointing to the leftover puddles of water from the receding tide. “At low tide these great pools form and that’s basically all we need.”

It’s that simplicity—a cornerstone of beach culture—that appeals to Mountain and his friends who have undertaken the task of promoting the skimboard scene in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

SKIMBOARD HISTORY

Flatland skimboarding is a sport on the rise in Canada, growing in popularity wherever one can find water. Its origins can be traced back to Laguna Beach, California in the late 1920’s when lifeguards used large planks of wood to skim the shallow end of the ocean. Since then, boards have evolved immensely but the idea has stayed relatively the same—find a pool of water, take a run at it, throw your board out, jump on it, keep your balance and, if you’re any good, start doing some tricks.

Mountain said skimboarders use oval-shaped boards that are one to three inches thick—bigger than a skateboard yet smaller than a surf board. In fact the sport exists as somewhat of a compromise between the two more popular board sports.

“It’s like skateboarding on the ocean,” says Mountain, noting the tricks one performs share skateboard lingo: ollies, shuvits, 360’s and big spins to name a few. “And since flatland skimboarding doesn’t use waves, we usually bring out rails, ramps and jumps that we’ve put together from scratch.”

BRINGING THE SCENE TO PARKSVILLE QUALICUM

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Justin Tryon, Julie Mountain and Ryan Mountain

Growing up in Parksville Qualicum Beach, Mountain says young people spend a lot of time near the ocean. And while our east-facing coast doesn’t afford us the overarching waves of Tofino, it does offer some of the most promising stretches of water for flatland skimboarding—a sport that thrives in less water and wind than the contrary. 

“In a way we were all kind of raised on the beach,” he says, on behalf of his friends who all seem remarkably at peace holding DB skimboards, standing barefoot on sandy Parksville Beach, waiting patiently in line for their respective turn to take their board for a skim across a residual pool of water.

“It’s great exercise and it gets you outside,” says Mountain, after gliding across a shallow basin of water. He warms up before trying something more technical. “It’s just fun and we can spend the entire day out here doing tricks and skimming back and forth—it’s a lot better than playing video games in the basement.”

OSBC was born out of that very ideology and Mountain hopes the idea catches on with other young people.

SPREADING THE SPORT

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Skimboarders in Parksville recently

“We want to encourage a younger generation of people in this area to get out and try skimboarding,” says Mountain. “We have one of the absolute greatest beaches for it, so why not?” 

After a few warm-up runs, the group unloads a wooden ramp and rail from a truck. They begin to set up what looks like a bike park within the puddles of water left on the beachfront. They look around and make do with what they have; a piece of driftwood turns into an object to skim over.

The boys line up and take turns hitting jumps in an effort to get some air and spin some tricks. They cheer collectively when somebody lands an impressive shuvit; and subsequently erupt in laughter when someone wipes out. Within the first few runs a group of curious passerbys has formed along the boardwalk and people of all ages are suddenly part of this spectator sport.

“People love to watch what’s going on,” says Mountain. “I mean, I think it’s a lot more fun to actually be skimboarding but it’s also really neat to watch.”

A SENSE OF COMMUNITY

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OSBC Skim camp last year (photo by Brenda Gough)

And just like that—with an expansive stretch of sand, a couple shallow puddles of water, handcrafted jumps and the flawless backdrop of Parksville Beach—a few ambitious boys have helped shape our region into a quintessential beach community. 

OSBC—an informal group dedicated to bolstering beach culture, and specifically skimboard culture—was created in 2010. It started out with a few adolescent boys who just wanted to skimboard and has since transpired into a sophisticated organization who puts on one of the biggest skimboard competitions in Canada.

OSBC will host the Parksville Pro/Am Skim Comp July 26, 2014, a competition which has historically brought together international athletes from as far away as Germany.

The OSBC team includes Mountain, Ryan Stewart, Peter Christensen, Jesse De Rosa, Cam Montrose, Landon Dziadyk and Justin Tryon. The boys were in high school when OSBC started. 

Now they’re on the cusp of adulthood watching a sport they brought to fruition flourish in their hometown.

Most of them now work part or full time jobs or are enrolled in university, however, they still find time to promote their favourite sport through OSBC.

Additionally, OSBC also offers a summer skim camp for kids aged eight to 14, along with private, semi-private and group lessons taught by founding members. Lessons are provided at either Qualicum Beach, Parksville Beach or Blue Back Beach in Nanaimo depending on the tide. OSBC also holds an annual skim jam at Qualicum Beach’s Beach Day celebration (July 13, 2014).

OSBC is operated out of Coastal Style Smithfords in Qualicum Beach where DB skimboard rentals and sales are available through the store. To sign up for lessons, register for skim camp or for general inquiries contact Julia Mountain (Ryan’s mother, affectionately known as “momma skim”.)

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