Zap Pro/Am World Championships of Skimboarding held its semi-finals on Friday, August 11, 2017 at Dewey Beach, Del. Produced by Megan Raymond
The pros were back at Dewey Beach on Friday to kick off the 36th annual Zap Pro/Am World Championships of Skimboarding.
After a five-year hiatus where the amateurs received the top billing in the event, the professionals were back to share the stage – Dewey Beach waves.
The skimboarding championships marked the opening of the annual Summer Vibes Fest that features competitive skimboarding, stand-up paddleboarding and skateboarding across three events over five days.
Jason Wilson, owner of Alley-Oop Skim Inc. in Dewey Beach, said his family has been running the event since the '80s and his company took it over six years ago and built Summer Vibes around it.
"We are trying to offer something for everybody and make it a true beach fest," Wilson said. "It grows each year and people from all around the world are making their way here to compete."
The festival brings about 200 competitors and their families each year from as far away as Japan, Portugal and Mexico, but also thousands of spectators from around the world, Wilson said.
While he said the main goal of the event is to promote youth activities, it was the veterans of the sport who grabbed the spotlight on Friday.
The morning started off with a dozen heats featuring the professional skimboarders, and judging from the reaction from the crowd of more than 500 people watching along the beach, they didn't disappoint.
Local skimboarder Lucas McCoy was thrilled to be back at Dewey Beach on Friday after a one-year absence and competing against the world's best. He held his own in the first heat by placing second and moves on to the next round and hopefully into Sunday's final.
"Last year was the first time I couldn't compete in Dewey because it was strictly an amateur event, and I turned professional," said McCoy, who lives in Dewey Beach and has competed in the event for 15 years as an amateur.
"It’s real fun skimming against these guys. It brings the best out of you. It’s an honor because these waves don’t do these guys justice because they can really skimboard on some really big waves. It’s really fun competing with them on your own turf."
Four-time world champion Sam Stinnett said skimming the waves at Dewey Beach is different, and sometimes more difficult because they are smaller than what he is used to on the West Coast.
"The waves in California are more powerful and there is a lot more risk," said Stinnett, who placed first in his heat on Friday and moves on to the next round. "The timing is different and it’s a whole different game out here."
The Laguna Beach, California, skimboarding champion said the Zap Pro/Am World Championships of Skimboarding is a great event that brings a lot of recognition to a sport that has been trying to grow its audience. He believes the Dewey event is one of the tops in the circuit.
"The sport is still fairly small and I think business-wise it is kind of flatlining," he said. "But the number of people participating in the sport is growing rapidly. I think it is just a matter of time before someone catches on and helps push this sport to the next level."
For 2016 world champion Blair Conklin, the Dewey Beach event is one of his favorites not only because of the great competition, but also because of the people.
"I love it here," said the California skimboarder. "There are a lot of talented kids out here and after coming here for so many years, I've made a lot of good friends."
Dewey Beach has not only been a great place for the competitors, it also offers a large viewing area for spectators as well.
Jen Santini, of Milton, grew up in Delaware and has been to Dewey Beach more times than she can remember. Friday marked the first time she has watched the skimboarding competition.
She was there with her family watching her friend's kids and her daughter's friends compete in the amateur competition.
"I didn't realize it was this big and that people from all around the U.S. are here to compete," she said. "It's been really fun watching the young kids doing it and everybody showing off their skills."
For Dan Hochrein, of Baltimore, timing was everything. While he and his family often come to visit Deleware's beaches, it's usually farther south, he said. This year, he decided to stay in Dewey Beach, just off the Dagsworthy Street Beach where the competition was taking place.
"This is pretty impressive," he said. "My kids do some skimboarding, but these guys bring it to another level."
While the flagship event of the Summer Vibes Fest is the Zap Pro/Am World Championships of Skimboarding, Wilson said the two other events were added to draw even a wider range of board-sport enthusiasts.
The Rehoboth Am Skate Jam, held Aug. 19 at Epworth Skate Park in Rehoboth Beach, features the best local skaters in street and bowl competitions.
The East of Maui SUP Sprint Challenge at North Beach, held on Rehoboth Bay near McKinley Street on Aug. 18, features stand-up paddlers of all skill levels in a 3-mile race.
Wilson said the festival isn't just about the competition. He calls Dewey Beach a center of skim culture, and that's what the Summer Vibes Fest celebrates.
"It's fun and good to promote what is good for Dewey Beach," he said. "This is pretty grassroots with a lot of volunteers, but there is a lot of local interest. The town is behind us and we really try to give back."
Reach Jerry Smith at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JerrySmithTNJ.
If you go
• The 2017 Summer Vibes Fest started Friday with the Zap Pro/Am World Championships of Skimboarding, which will continue at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday on the Dagsworthy Street Beach in Dewey Beach.
• "The Art of Skim" will open on Saturday night, featuring miniature skimboards decorated by board riders and local artists. A silent auction will support Skim USA.
• The East of Maui SUP Sprint Challenge at North Beach follows at 4 p.m. on Aug. 18, at 125 McKinley St. in Dewey Beach.
• The festival concludes at 11 a.m. the next day, Aug. 19, with the Rehoboth Am Skate Jam at Epworth Skate Park, 19285 Holland Glade Road in Rehoboth Beach.