If you slept in, you missed it. Last Sunday at Aliso Creek Beach, Laguna Beach native Sam Stinnett won Victoria Skimboards’ World Championship of Skimboarding a second time in a closely contested men’s pro final that got underway early to take advantage of optimal surf conditions at low tide.
“I didn’t really believe I could do it,” said the current United Skim Tour points leader of his repeat performance. “It hasn’t really hit me yet.”
Battling three other finalists and spotty surf, Stinnett nailed a “360 shove out to a front-side hit” halfway through the heat that he figured “really scored big.”
Stinnett’s signature trick may have made the difference in his one-point victory over 2010 winner and 10-year pro Morgan Just. “Winning the Vic was the biggest win of my entire life. I was hoping to feel that feeling again, but it got cut short,” said a disappointed Just. “That one point took me out.”
Stinnett tries to keep track of how he and his competitors are doing during a heat. “You kind of know what place you’re in before the heat’s over,” he said. “You have to kind of do the math and see what tricks you can do to get that score to make it through.”
Local skimming legend and 12-year pro Paulo Prietto, who took best wave honors but failed to qualify for the finals, watched from the judge’s scaffold. “[Stinnett] was actually my pick,” he said.
It was Stinnett’s technical tricks and superior wave riding that put him over the top, according to Prietto. “That’s where I saw the difference,” he said.
Laguna native Blair Conklin retained second place in the UST standings, finishing a half point behind Just for third. Brandon Sears took fourth.
Pamela Simpson, founder of Skim Chicks and driving force behind the recent growth in women’s pro skim boarding, was on hand to announce the top eight in the women’s pro division. In only three years at the WCS, entries in the division have gone from four in 2010 to 15 this year.
Keiao Guewa-Buscasas came from the north shore of Oahu to win her first WCS after a runner up finish in ’10. Siobahn McAuliffe and Stephanie Magallanes, both of New Jersey, finished second and third, respectively.
Stinnett, who turned pro at 14, earned his first tour victory at the 2009 Oktoberfest in Balboa. He now has six victories overall and is the defending UST champ after winning three of eight events last season.
“I can remember [Stinnett] skimboarding at 5 years old,” said Prietto. “It’s not like he came out of the blue.”
Prietto’s skimming roots go deep. His uncle Peter Prietto co-founded Laguna-based Victoria Skimboards with Charles “Tex” Haines in 1976, and helped launch the first WCS the following year.
Thirty-six Vic contests later, a record 126 entries in 11 divisions, including 30 pro men, competed in what has become the premiere skimboarding event in the world, attracting skimmers from as far away as Japan and Brazil.
With little or no financial incentive, the 29-year-old Prietto, who won the first two UST titles in ’06 and ’07, has had to pull back on his competitive involvement with the sport to concentrate on providing for his growing family. “If [prize] money were there, I’m sure I’d be chasing after it,” he said.
The owner of 14 world titles, 39-year-old Bill Bryan just missed this year’s finals, finishing fifth. And while Bryan might disagree, Stinnett sees pioneers like he and Prietto beginning to give way to a new generation of riders. “I think it’s the start of our era,” said Stinnett.
“Change is going to happen eventually,” said 26-year-old Just. “I’m going to stay healthy as long as I can and be part of it as long as I can.
Prietto seems ready to embrace that change, becoming a skimboarding ambassador of sorts. He runs a local camp that teaches the next generation of skimmers. And his recent appointment as a UST director means he will continue to shape the sport that helped shape his life. “To be happy in life, you just have to follow your passion, whatever that may be,” he said.
For complete results of the 2012 WCS, visit www.wcs.victoriaskimboards.com.