Let’s invent a new kind of surfing with Blair Conklin

Blair Conklin is at the center of the foamy-and-finless movement, shredding the gnar at the confluence of skim and surf.

10 years from now we will look back and see Blair’s watercraft as either early prototypes of now-standard equipment, or as colorful relics in surfing’s hardgoods recycle bin – discarded next to cans of spray-on traction and nose guards.

But when we saw clips of Blair paddling a skim into waves at the BSR Surf Ranch it hit us that in the world of wave pool surfing, there are many new surf sports to debut. Given the tools and from what we’ve seen, we think he’s just the person who can do it.

Blair’s a champion skimboarder (3X), a competitive aerial surfer (Stab High) and an environmental scientist (!!!) Perhaps it’s this mashup of skills that give him the confidence and steez to surf and skim in totally new places.

He doesn’t like the current state of wave pools in the U.S. And told us you either have to be super-skilled to skim these pools or super-rich to ride them (Kelly’s). He wants to design a new kind of wave pool, one that is “friendly and accessible” for all.

Blair can do it. His career is taking off with a growing YouTube program Skid Kids. He has his own signature Catch Surfboard models. And he’s now on the same surf team as Mick Fanning, having just signed on to Reef.

But skimboarding? Skimming has always been the runt of the litter in surfing’s family of sports – reserved for sunburnt drunks and kids who can’t swim. Will this man change that?

Blair Conklin at BSR Surf Resort. Image by Chris Monroe
Blair Conklin at BSR Surf Resort. Image by Chris Monroe

Hey Blair, thanks for chatting with us. What is your favorite wave pool?
My favorite wave pool is actually one that doesn’t exist yet- does that count?!  Kalani Rob and Cheyne Magnusson, two guys I am lucky to know, teamed up and bought a wave pool in Palm Springs recently, which I think is going to be something a whole level beyond anything that exists to date. The location will make experiencing a wave pool accessible to many more people, especially those in Southern California, which I think is important. I chatted with both Kalani and Cheyne about what they are building and the excitement in both of their voices indicates that they have something really special coming! 

Are there any pools you’re itching to try but haven’t yet?
I would love to skim or stand-up boogie at Kelly Slater’s wave pool. The surface has barely been scratched for exploring what boards work best on these waves – I personally have the most fun on a skimboard or a foam board that has some pop when riding in a pool. I have ridden the Waco pool a few times already, but I’m already itching to go back and spend some more time on finless boards there.

Blair Conklin
The psych-up pre BSR session. Image by Chris Monroe

Which pools are best for Skim entry and why?  
Kelly’s pool is unique because there is the possibility of running into the wave from the bank on the side of the pool, but unfortunately, they don’t allow anyone to stand or run on the bank whatsoever. The pool rules also require you wear a leash, which doesn’t exactly cater to the skimboard riders. With that being said, you don’t need to necessarily run into the wave in order to “skim” it. At the Waco pool, there is no option to run from the edge of the pool and slide out to the wave. The only way to get into that wave other than paddling would be to acid drop from the eight-foot wall and tear every ligament in your body, but I’ll leave that up to Harry Bryant or Mason Ho. With that being said, I still had a blast riding my skimboard at Waco, and just ended up paddling onto the wave instead of running out to it. Paddling into a wave on a skimboard is less like paddling and more like swimming since the board has so little buoyancy.

Blair Conklin
Blair comfortable in the air on one of his Catch Surf designs. Image Chris Monroe

Are wave pools accessible to the average skimmer, or do you have to be Austin Keen?
I would say wave pools are unfortunately only rideable if you are an advanced skimboarder. The existing wave pools can only be ridden on a skimboard by someone who is super comfortable with running fast and planing long distances or comfortable with paddling on a board that is equivalent in size and volume to a 7yr old’s shortboard. As for accessible – I don’t think wave pools in the U.S. are accessible period. It seems as though you either have to be a celebrity, millionaire, or highly ranked in competitive surfing in order to even get a shot at riding a legit wave with enough power to get barreled or do an air. I hope that can change in the near future.                

If you could design a pool, specifically for skim what would it look like?
I better keep those ideas to myself, for now, ideally one day I hope to create a skim wave somewhere!

Crystal Ball: Ten years from now do wave pools have additions or designs to be skimboarded as well?
Definitely. I think that wave pools will eventually be designed so that there is a style of wave for everyone. Waco is really unique in that they can generate all different types of waves at the touch of a button – having the same wave over and over that everyone rides the same way isn’t exciting. I think being able to create a wave that attracts a range of people, whether it be a wedge for bodyboarders, an air section for surfers, or a sandbank for skimmers, is the future of how these pools will be made.

Also in the future, do you think there will be a specific wave pool culture – what’s it going to look like? Will it mirror surf or be more like wakeboarding?
I do believe there will be a wave pool culture and I hope it’s one that is friendly and accessible for all. I could see communities being built around wave pools, almost like a neighborhood playground. I worry that these pools are going to make surfing more of a competitive sport rather than a form of self-expression.  

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