As we embarked on a new season for the Endless Wave Tour, one desire we had was to attempt to definitively define what is skim style and what is surf style. As many know, I often say that wakesurfing has no identity. It holds on to the sexy allure of surfing, while other board sports have moved past their birth and adolescents to form their own identity. Wakesurfing refuses to give up its grip on surfing, and is tethered year after year, with continual waves of marketing propaganda. Rest assured, you are not bringing the surf culture inland, nor would surf culture in its purest form want anything to do with your fuel guzzling, over priced, water polluting hunk of fiberglass, gelcoat and car parts. Lake/boat culture and beach/surf culture are different, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Consensus is not agreement, however, I think we can all agree that surf style wakesurfing at its simplest form is dominated by hacks, slashes, and carves much like your average shortboard rider in the ocean. You do not hack, slash or carve a skim board; you skim it or slide it across the surface. Skim boards do not have the fins to hold a strong hack, nor the volume to recover from losing the edge speed. Skim style riding on the other hand in its simplest form is dominated by surface rotations and spins, board slides and tail slides; again skimming or sliding across the surface.
At its most progressive level, surf style is dominated by large aerial or above the lip maneuvers. These maneuvers may be rotational in nature, like an air reverse or air 180, however the rider and board are rotating in unison. Where as the most progressive skim style maneuvers the board is kicked, pushed and rotated under the rider. The rider appears to be floating in the air, while the board underneath them is rotating waiting for the rider to land or stomp back down on it. For instance shuvs, big spins, kickflips and the countless variations. These are akin to street skateboarding and ocean skimming.
Volume here and there. When comparing each end of the spectrum of board shapes, there are mark differences between a surf style board and a skim style board, however, there are many grades of overlap between the two ends. Overall, surf style boards tend to be thicker than 1.5”, have some tail rocker and generally at least 2.5” of nose rocker, and at least two fins in excess of 3” in height. Where as skim style boards tend to be less than 1.25” (usually less than 1”) in thickness, have very little to possibly no tail rocker, and very low nose rocker generally less than 2” in total. Skim style boards usually have only one center fin, but may have additional fins, the fins are usually at least 5” in length (often in excess of 7” in length) and usually have a height less than 1.5”. Skim style fins are rigid and designed for tracking; surf style fins are designed for driving and flexing (loading and unloading energy). Skim style boards generally have very little to no tuck in their rails, instead the rails curve down to an acute angle, and precise edge. Surf style board have far more varying degree of tuck in their rails, generally progressively more rounded and tucked with very little edge as they approach the nose.
Surf style boards are directional, with clear differences in the volume distribution between the tail and nose of the board (i.e. a significantly greater amount of volume is found in the tail portion of the board than the nose). Skim style boards have more evenly distributed volume. This allows them to spin both on the surface and in the air more uniform on plane.
What's in a name. Is a “shuv it” performed on a board that would be easily argued as a surf-style board a ‘surf-style’ shuv-it? No, a shuv-it is a shuv-it. Is a shuv-it performed on a penny style mini skateboard different than a shuv-it performed on your average double ender street skateboard? Is it possible that the maneuver in question is more difficult on a certain style of board? Yes, that is certainly possible. But that does not mean the maneuver itself is fundamentally different.
If we are to consider a 'surf style' shuv-it as different than a 'skim style' shuv-it, then we must consider wake skimming and wake surfing as different sports. In reality, they are, but I am not sure people are willing to accept that quite yet.