Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Newton and Idiolect at the Beach


My sons spent the weekend studying Newton's Laws of Physics, some cultural anthropology and a new idiolect.

They all participated in the Skimbash in Santa Cruz.

The skimbash was a skimboarding competition. A skimboard, for you not-so-hip people, is a small surfboard-like device used to ride along the beach and in shallow water. The overwhelming majority of skimboarders are boys and men, who happen to have regular access to the beach, and a certain kind of athletic grace combined with fearlessness. It is a small but quite distinct subculture. Kids start skimming at age five or six, and pros are as young as fourteen. As I observed at the competition, the skimmers who are the most fun to watch are the 12 to 14-year olds. There are very few in the oldest category, 30 and up. If you are over thirty and still skimming, be prepared for lots of Geritol and hip-replacement jokes.

What sport could be more attractive to my kids? It is a perfect storm of boys, most less than ten years older than they are, who are incredibly athletic and daring and cool. Boys really love to look up to other boys just a bit older.


Not many moms there. Thank god my kids have not realized how uncool it is to have your mom with you at a competition. I had a chance to study these older boys closely for two long days. There are definitely worse crowds to hang out with. The thing that really stood out to me is that skimmers as a group seem to appreciate creativity, individuality, and innovation. They have four main things to work with: 1. their skills as skimmers 2. their board 3. their attire (trunks slung a bit lower than decent seem to be preferred), and 4. their hair.

This creativity is very well expressed in skimmers' idiolect. No, I'm not insulting their intelligence. Idiolect is the speech habits peculiar to a particular person. The dynamic language that skimmers use is quite funny. Too bad I didn't understand a word of it. I could have used a translator. My boys have new vocabulary now.


As a mom, I have to say the skimbash was one of the most unorganized organized sporting events I have ever been to. But if you are going to be at a competition where no one has the least idea when you might be competing, you might as well be at a beach all day for two days on a beautiful weekend. It is so much better than being at a soccer tournament in Dixon, CA on a day when it is 105 degrees in the shade but you didn't know you had to bring the shade with you. So I sat on the beach in my chair and tried to locate my inner zen and let my boys just hang out and skim. I tried to block out the occasionally inappropriate music and concentrated on what words and phrases like dank, rootbeer-style, sex-change, shove-it, schwag and shwack, nar-nar, minibucket, and wrap-it-like-a-Christmas-present could mean. Oh, wait a minute, I know one: sick! I know what sick means! It means cool! I probably spelled it wrong though.

My husband could not locate his inner zen. Everything about the competition drove him berserk, especially the lack of schedule and having no idea what was going on. He couldn't take it, he had to leave. I had to take it, I'm the one that promised the boys they could compete and I wasn't about to leave them there by themselves. Too much Red Bull around. Besides, they had been practicing skimming all summer for the competition.


My boys spend most of their waking hours propelling themselves or objects through space. Skimming is a great example, with the added complexity of having to read the ocean conditions and waves. It also requires understanding and physical implementation of Newton's laws.

Briefly stated, the three laws are:
1. An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by a net force. (Timing of running and throwing the board down)
2. Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration. (Those really big waves can trash you)
3. To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. (When you fall it really hurts)


I should have known that last one when I thought I was a cool mom and did some skimming with my boys last November in Hawaii. I was looking pretty good until I fell. Hard. And the equal and opposite reaction to my wrist was a fracture and the first cast of my life. I'm retired now.

Oh by the way, at the skimbash, my 8 year old placed second in his 8 and Under division, my 9 year old placed fourth and my 10 year old third in the 9 to 11 division. I have to admit that I was thrilled that everyone got a prize. And they had a blast!!
(First picture is my 9 year old, second is a pro who won the competition, third is my 7 year old, fourth is a 14 year old pro, last picture is my 10 year old. Photos by me.)

3 comments:

The Big Boss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chigiy at Gardeners Anonymous said...

Your posts are getting better and better.
They are very fun, funny and entertaining.
Tell the boys 'congratulations'.
They are dank.

Great photos

Amber said...

The organizer of the O'Neill Skimbash responds to my post:


I enjoyed reading your blog. I am very glad your sons did well. Receiving prizes and trophies in recognition is encouraging and exciting to them I'm sure. I love watching the little guys skim. The 8-under final is more excting to me than watching the Pros. As a member of the "Geritol-division" and father of a 1.5 year old son (with another one due Nov. 12) my interests these days are more influentially prioritized by my kids rather than my selfish interest in how well I skimboard. 

I am very impressed by your new found knowledge of "skim-culture" from just a couple of days on the beach. I can tell you're a smart lady (afterall, it's not often I get hit with a new word that I don't know the meaning of; "idiolect" - did you google or thesaurus that one?). Anyway, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the "skim-crowd" is much like any other sports crowd. You don't hear "split-finger; knuckler; slurve; squeeze-play; or 7th-inning stretch" much anywhere else than at a baseball game. I wouldn't be surprised if the phrase "double-oh-three, doubleohthree, idiolect, blueberrybasil on two, hut-hut" came out of Brett Favre's mouth while calling a play during a football game. It seems most sports do indeed have their own lingo and skimboarding is not exempt. If you want a translator next year, I'll volunteer if you'd like. And like other sports groups they contain people from all different walks of life. Some good, some not so good. People who enjoy inappropriate music, people who enjoy something more tasteful. Some people who enjoy long hair, short-hair, colored hair, dreadlocks or maybe a combination of one or more.

This may sound like I'm trying to defend something, but I think I'm just trying to point out to parents who may (and I'm not saying YOU do) think that skimboarding will turn their kids into some type of derelict, they're dead wrong. They will do that on their own whether or not they skimboard, play baseball, football or become President of the United States.

One last comment before I sign off. I know the schedule is somewhat of an issue. And I'll try to explain why it is an issue. First, the Pros get to choose their own schedule depending on the conditions. They may choose to skim early in the morning or late in the evening. The other problem is I never know how many people will sign up in each age division. Many years ago when there were fewer skimboarders everyone would sign up on the beach the day of the contest. The contest at that time was completed in a single day. Now that there are more skimmers these days, we now encourage everyone to sign up days before the contest and the reason behind a late-fee for beach entries. The number of skimboarders in each age division determine how many heats will be run. For example, if there were 20 skimmers in the 8-under division. I would have had to run some of those heats on Saturday. Instead there were only 5 skimmers in the division so I had to run a final only on Sunday a.ka. "finals-day". I think you understand, I'm just trying to explain things. At the world championships of skimboarding in Laguna Beach they run into the same problem which is why they have specific verbiage on their entry form that states: All competitors must be prepared to spend ALL day on the beach during the entire event, otherwise risk missing their heat. Miss your heat, and miss your chance to skim. Perhaps I should add the same verbiage to the skimbash entry form also.

I do hope you had a good time because that's what it's supposed to all be about anyway. 

Best, Mark