LBI Skimboarder Siobahn McAuliffe Second Best in the WorldMcAuliffe Takes Second, Magallanes Third at Victoria World Championships of Skimboarding
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When Siobahn McAuliffe started skimboarding in Ship Bottom 10 years ago, there weren’t any girls down at the water’s edge. She was 14. The sport was so small that she basically knew everyone with a skimboard – and they were all guys.
In actuality, McAuliffe started skimming at age 9, playing around on little wooden toy boards. “I remember that we would be down there with the families and they would say ‘Let’s go get ice cream,’ or ‘We’re going up to eat lunch,’ and I would just stay at the water and keep skimming,” McAuliffe said this week from her home in Cedar Run.
Without anyone around her skimming, she eventually lost interest. But as a teenager on vacation in Florida with her family, she saw serious skimmers on real boards. That year she got a skimboard for her birthday. Now 24 years old, she recently took second place among women at the Victoria World Championships of Skimboarding at Aliso Beach Park in Laguna, Calif.
It’s been a passionate drive for McAuliffe, who is essentially second in the world after her big result.
Skimboarding is still considered a relatively small sport and a “little brother” of surfing. The first documented skimboarding was in the 1920s by lifeguards around Laguna Beach, Calif., where McAuliffe was the week of July 7 and 8. Skimboarding became somewhat of a progressive sport in the 1960s when beach culture was a focus of American life. Among those to really drive the sport were Tex Haines and Peter Prietto, who formed Victoria Skimboards in the 1970s. Prietto’s nephew is one of the most dominant skimmers in the sport today, and Haines is still running the company.
The sport enjoyed a spike in popularity in the 1980s, when many beaches on LBI saw kids tossing boards and sliding toward the waves. After a hiatus, there’s been a steady growth over the last 10 years, and LBI happens to be a big part of that.
The first summer, McAuliffe went to the beach every day with friend Steve Shattuk from the mainland, and then fell in with kids who were riding almost every day from May to October. At the time it was Reed Crosby and Connor Willem, both of Surf City as well as Chris Brown of Ship Bottom, who were already competing in some regional events.
“It really started with Reed Crosby and the whole crew. I wanted to skimboard all the time. I think it was 2005, before I ever did the annual contest in Sea Bright, Reed ran this little contest on his own in Surf City. It was myself and one other girl. And I took second!” she recalled. “I was so disappointed; I thought ‘I can’t ever lose again.’ And I went up to the Skim Jam in Sea Bright and got first.”
That was the start of years of good results for McAuliffe. At the same time she was getting more involved, LBI’s young skimmers were getting more serious. The Surf Shack brought the first Zap Skim Jam to Barnegat Light in 2006. Locals had a chance to compete against some of the best skimboarders in North America, and after rubbing elbows with pro talent, they started working harder. They donned wetsuits and extended their season, some riding all year ’round.
In 2007, McAuliffe graduated from Southern Regional High School and took first in the Skim Jam. The following year, she repeated the victory and started riding for Wave Hog Surf Shop. At that time, owner Marco Grasso was repping for Victoria Skimboards and got her a sponsorship.
“She was better than most of the boys then. She still is,” offered Grasso. “With the way she was skimming and her results, we had to sponsor her. And if you go up to the beach here (Ship Bottom) now, you see all sorts of girls skimming because of her.”
She was also approached by Extreme Outdoor Supply, based in Utah, through Facebook about skimming for them.
“It was kind of random, so I was a little skeptical about signing with them,” she admitted, “but then I saw their name on some videos and decided that they were legitimate. They’ve been really good to me.”
She was now competing annually in the Barnegat Light event, the Outer Banks Skim Jam, the Florida Pro/Am Championships, the South Side Shootout at Indian River Inlet, and the East Coast Championships, which doubled as the World Amateur Championships, in Delaware, all sanctioned by Skim USA, the sport’s governing body. Extreme was able to pay for her entry fees and provide her with gear.
“If I had to pick out a strength of Siobahn, it would probably be her style, and ... her backhand,” opined Willem, who is also one of the Island’s best surfers.
Skimboarding is somewhat of an offshoot of surfing, borrowing from snowboarding and skateboarding. Surfing offers many avenues. Women’s surfing has an entirely different marketing esthetic, and many women adopt a graceful gliding style, rather than attacking the waves.
But skimboarding is basically one avenue. While McAuliffe has no lack of grace, skimboarding requires going fast at waves that break violently on the beach – with a lot of spills.
“It’s more aggressive. You have to go as hard as you can,” she explained. It’s also the ultimate leg workout, sprinting in soft sand and retrieving a board from the waves. Ten- and 12-minute heats are excruciating.
This year was her first trip to California for the Victoria World Championships of Skimboarding.
“It was cool just to go out there because this is the first time I got to meet Tex Haines, the owner, after riding for them for so many years. All shapers and the guys at the shop, I’ve e-mailed and talked on the phone with, but I finally met them face to face.”
The event featured 14 women from both coasts, one of whom was Stephanie Magallanes (known in skim circles as Steph Mags) of Beach Haven West. Magallanes is two years younger than MacAullife and began skim boarding shortly after McAullife.
“It was really a tight little scene,” said Willem, “and all of a sudden there were these two girls around.”Magallenes won the Sea Bright Skim Jam Pro/Am Women’s division back in June and is competing in Portugal this week.
“I had been the only girl until then, so there was a little bit of jealousy. She was so good right off the bat,” admitted MacAullife. “Up until this trip we had a good relationship, but we became good friends on this trip.”Magallanes, who works as an instructor at the Jersey Shore Skim Camp in Sea Bright, wound up in the same semifinal as McAullife. Hoping that one of them would advance, they placed first and second, both going to the final.
“Here are two girls from the same state, from the same beach, and we were in the finals of the world championships together,” marveled McAullife.
In the 15-minute final (the longest McAullife had ever competed in) MacAullife went for the biggest waves and executed a clean hit with a 360 out of the move. Keiao Guewa-Buscasas of Hawaii took first, but McAullife was very pleased with her finish. Magallanes finished a close third.
Just to get to the championships, McAullife had to take time off from her job at Applebee’s in Manahawkin. Before this job, McAullife worked at the High Tide Deli in Manahawkin and Subs N’ Such in Beach Haven. She said all of her employers have understood her goals and worked with her to get the time off to travel and compete.
McAullife is also interested in graphic art.
“When I graduated, I didn’t have much interest in anything but working as much as possible, saving money for food, hotels and gas to get to the next contest,” she said.
But in 2010 she went to the Art Institute in Jacksonville, Fla. She missed home but found a deeper appreciation for art. Upon returning home, she and friend Ben Raimo of Harvey Cedars started a clothing company called Strobe.
“We just had all of our new stuff printed,” she added, “so in September, I’m going back to OCC and then transferring to Flagler College or Stockton State. Stockton has one of the best art programs.”
The skimboard world is still a small one. Some would like to see it stay small, while others want to see it grow.
“I want to see more girls get into it. There were 30 men and 14 women; that’s a huge difference. I want there to be 30 girls, and I want people to pay more attention to women’s skim boarding,” she stated.
There are also some thoughts of becoming an instructor. She has helped out her friend Garrett Mink, who runs School of Skim, working specifically with some of the female students.
“I met so many people in California; I’m planning on going out again next year. But if I’m going to win, I have to bite the bullet, put on the wetsuit, boots and gloves, and skim all winter,” she said.