PPD Showcase: Robert Gallagher Captures Skimboarding Culture

By David Schonauer   Thursday October 1, 2015

There’s more to skimboarding than you might have imagined.

“This not surfing. This is running, full-sprint, launching into oncoming waves, 360 aerials, tube-riding before landing back on shore, ideally untouched!” says Los Angeles-based commercial and editorial photographer (and Pro Photo Daily reader) Robert Gallagher.

Gallagher says he didn’t know much about skimboarding until this summer. Watching a couple of young men casually skimming around on the beach in Santa Monica, he became intrigued and wanted to learn more about the sport.

“I figured there has to be more to it that just a fun thing to goof around with at the water’s edge,” he says. “So I decided to follow my curiosity and find out more about this under-the-radar-sport. I’m always looking for interesting subjects to shoot for personal projects, ideally that have not been covered too much before, and what I found was not just a great visual feast of a sport, but a whole sub-culture.”

Everything he learned pointed him to one place: Aliso Beach, just an hour and a half down the 405 freeway in Laguna Beach, California. It was there, in the 1920s, that skimboarding was invented when local lifeguards improvised wooden discs to glide across the water's surface and meet incoming breaking waves.

“Aliso is still generally considered to be the best place on the planet to skim,” Gallagher. “People move here just to build a life around skimboarding and compete against legends of the sport.”

That group would include Austin Keen, the 2013 skimboarding world champion, whom Gallagher photographed for his project. Among his other subjects: Tex Haines, the founder of Victoria Skimboards (and who, says Gallagher, is the father of modern-day skimboarding) as well as ranked skimboarding competitors Alexandra Badie and Tim Fulton.

“I shot over the summer, leading up to the skimboarding World Tour event that takes place at Aliso on the last weekend in August. “Victoria Skimboards also hosts Saturday sessions at Aliso, which is an open event to learn and skim with pro riders. I decided those events would be a great opportunity to meet the key people and familiarize myself with the locals. After a few weeks I got to know who’s who and a great set of character portrait subjects were soon coming thick and fast. I love to shoot portraits of people who are effectively in their element, maintaining that authenticity and intensity. I want to be able to almost taste the salt water just by looking at them.”

Gallagher plans to use the images in a promo piece, and perhaps later publish a skimboarding book.


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