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Monday, January 30, 2006

The Skimmers

A space in space
Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros

The skimmers

Lanky Mark is obviously obsessed with his skimboard (skiffle to Americans, skidboard to Aussies and Kiwis). He is in love with the offshore wind that had playfully tussled his unkempt hair before it headed out to sea. His eyes were admiring the frothy seashore, lapped endlessly by the waves he had fallen head over heels with. And then he ran to pick up the right wave – the very secret of skimming.

To have good wave judgment, say, employing some spectral profile to decipher the contents of the sea's brains, would lead to a successful flip or a headstand. Using such technique, Mark amazed me with an ollie bringing his body to a turnaround with skimboard magically glued to his feet like iron filings attached to a horseshoe magnet. I was left there some distance from him shaking my head, clapping like another Chapman wild over Lennon, my eyes deepoceangreen with envy.

I just happened to bump into lanky, bubbly Mark and his crowd of skimmers at the remaining minutes of my stay in Agusan. I was walking my way from Trianggulo in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte to the port to catch the boat back to Cebu after a successful climb to Mt. Magdiwata, a caving activity and a trip to the Agusan marshland in line with the Naliyagan festivity of Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur when a guy named Rich called my attention.

"Miss, climber ka?" he asked. He was there sitting on this bench in a carenderia, while there I was slowing down my pace some minutes before he had thrown at me the question hoping to feast on adobong dabong (stir-fried bamboo shoot) for lunch at the eatery.

After we went through that rite of exchanging halllleerrrrs, and after getting my serving of the tempting bamboo shoot strips fried in soy sauce made all the more palatable by the aroma of crushed garlic, Rich ushered me to his motorbike and sped away to their office in barangay Talisay, close to the Nasipit wharf. I met the rest of the gang – fellow nature freaks I would say - skimmers Bryan, Ronky, and Mark.

It was so easy to connect with them as we shared the same passion and love for the great outdoors. We easily jibed, except that though I love the surf, sand, sea, sun and the froth at the breaking of seawaters, I am a total stranger indeed to skimboarding. Well, it’s because my being uncoordinated remains a strong force to reckon with.

Mark was the most talkative. Oh, well, they all talked about lots of "nature stuff", but Mark had the most stories. I spent most of the afternoon with him while waiting for the Cebu-bound ship. He did an aerial to begin with, catching the air off of a wave and landing back on the face of the wave.

And there I was etching on the sand what I believe am only good at – figuring out this relationship between the art of skimming on waves and the art of skimming the waters of life. Mark said something that it would be best to choose a flat beach. Of course, of what good will bumps and humps and jagged and rocky areas do to your board and skimming pursuit? The sight of dents and the pain of failure for sure.

"See here, L (my name shortened)," Mark shouted like a pro-skim instructor waving his skim and pointing to the surf "the best time to begin running for a wave is right after the wave breaks. Once we reach the water or wet sand, we throw down the board so we can jump on it."

He did the act with so much ease and grace that for a beginner like me would give tummy knots. Somewhat physically challenging! I learned that it is more difficult than it looks at first and many people don’t stick with skimboarding because learning to ride the skag is too hard.
However, with persistence and patience, even the most uncoordinated person can learn to skimboard. That's what am told, so I bank on the encouragement (*smile!). Well, all aspirants have to take a few bruises learning how to get themselves first on the board. Close to the real picture. We do have our brushes with the bruise-inducing, pressing issues of our lives. The art of gliding through either harsh or tamed waves is for us to muster.

To skim through life, we must be prepared for the waves and learn to inhale the offshore winds and exhale inshore winds. To deal with our skims, we must keep our weight centered over the board, keeping it pointed towards the ocean. Talking of balancing our priorities, our schedules, our decisions, our quality time. Toward the ocean. Not against it. Toward the sun. Not against it. There might be instances when nature would call us to go against the elements. Say, fly a kite against the winds or be like the pink salmons traveling back home against the currents. But with skim, we learn both to face the harshness and the friendliness of the oceans. With life, we bring ourselves to look at our concerns squarely. It is common to accelerate too quickly and lose control in skimming so that it is important not to run too fast. That brings us closer to the facts of life: Man can play neurotic and can be one. With fame, fortune and wealth all fleeting he easily loses control. So skimboarding rule applies to life as rule of the thumb: Don’t run too fast. Just run this race. Run and arrive somewhere.

Then the skimboard meets the ocean, the riders' weight must be on their back foot so the nose of the board does not catch on the water. If this is applied to how we deal with life, we would be neatly gliding up over the waters of challenges instead of plowing through it.

By being insistent, persistent and consistent, the rest of the moves would be executed flawlessly. If the rider has enough speed, balance and ability to turn, he can do various maneuvers while banking off the wave and riding toward the shore. Unlike surfing, skimboarding allows for the ability to spin, greatly increasing the rest of the possibilities on moves.

Skimming I think is not just awesome. But very awesome! No wonder it has won popular approval even in the absence of early records and even if its history is shrouded in mystery. Here in Cebu, how the sport was introduced to local folks is not annotated but there is the Liloan Skimmers Club headed by Daisy Senido creating waves in this kind of aquasport. It is expected then that this art of riding a board across water or wet sand would take more beach buffs creating more tricks where there’s about an inch of water.

After that ceremonial rite of tying around my right ankle a piece of his life and culture – his Manobo tribal necklace – Mark encouraged me to take an idyll with the waves through skimming, to have my own magical transport to some other horizon through the skimboard, and to love the psyche of every skimboarder. Well, I do am beginning to love the sport long before I can even do my very first ollie. Matter of fact is, I have been beautifully skimming through my life's waters all these years.
(For your comments, reactions, suggestions and contributions crank up my addy: pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com).