Austin Keen ran to the gnarled shore break, pulled up the wave, then made a move no one has ever done in a skimboard competition.
He did a full flip over the wave, and somehow his board landed under him. The crowd watching the Oktoberfest skim championships went mad on the south side of Balboa Pier, jumping to their feet and screaming, the sound of cowbells ringing.
“My board flipped halfway through, I was afraid of hurting myself,” he said afterwards.
It was a moment of rupture, and why not – given that Keen had been proclaimed 2013 United Skim Tour world champion minutes earlier.
After the final round, where Keen knocked out Brandon Sears, the Georgia native who now lives in Dana Point was carried across the sand on the shoulder of friends, a moment of victory for the first world champion.
“It’s the best time of my life,” he said.
The United Skim Tour took professional skimboarders on eight stages around the world, all the way to Brazil, with the final event being held in Newport Beach. It was a close race for the title, with Keen neck and neck in the points with two-time world champion Sam Stinnett of Laguna Beach.
Ahead of the semi-finals, Stinnett said it had been a stressful year.
“After six months of work it’s really hard to move up to number one and number two,” said the 20-year-old. “It’s very stressful. ”
But after Stinnett failed to advance to the semi-finals and Keen was able to secure a place in the final – the new champion received greetings and hugs in celebration.
The event had a record attendance this year. When Main Street Surf Shop first hosted the event nine years ago, 16 pros and 48 amateurs signed up. This year 50 pros and 148 amateurs showed up, more than any other year, said event organizer Brian Boyle.
Stinnett has been making history since his debut and is blown away by the fans rising through the ranks.
“They are breathtaking,” he said. “They are going to take the sport to the next level.”
Newport skimboarder Omar Meddeb agreed. He said the standard is getting “crazier and crazier every year.”
“I have a handful of proteges here… they do the maneuvers of the professionals. The level of progression is through the roof, ”Meddeb said.
For Stinnett, the best part of the sport is the camaraderie. It’s a very close-knit scene, especially at the event held in Newport Beach.
“I think the sickest part of the event is you know everyone,” he said. “With skimming, you go to the beach and you know everyone. It is a small united family.
Keen was beaming after his victory, with people coming to take pictures with him and hugging him to congratulate him.
“I am still in shock,” he said.
When asked how he was going to celebrate, he replied “have a healthy breakfast”. Then he thinks.
“I’m going to party, probably.”
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