Riding new waves: How the pandemic helped create India’s first skimboarding community in Kochi

Skim-B has been empowering water sports enthusiasts in Kochi and beyond with budget-friendly handcrafted boards and exciting lessons.


Published Jul 26, 2023 | 3:00 PMUpdatedJul 26, 2023 | 3:00 PM

Franky recognised the potential for Skimboarding in his hometown Kochi, which boasts an abundance of water bodies and significant shoreline.

It was the beginning of the pandemic. The country was learning to adjust to a life of confinement, a life that Francis Kurien aka Franky did not find himself getting used to.

Francis always thrived in the great outdoors where he embraced his passions as an enthusiastic skateboarder and cyclist, a budding surfer, and an unapologetic adrenaline junkie.

“I missed hanging out with my friends. Most of all, I missed the thrill of having a daily skateboarding routine. The lockdown was in full force and it was raining heavily too, both these aspects were not conducive for skateboarding,” says Franky.

Also Read: How the largest running group of senior citizens is defying age barriers

A serendipitous find

Franky and his close friend Sreekumar teamed up to co-found Skim-B.

Franky and his close friend Sreekumar teamed up to start Skim-B. (Supplied)

At this juncture, along with his business partner and friend, Sreekumar, he looked out for a new obsession, an activity that was interesting and involved high levels of energy that they were used to.

Franky stumbled upon skimboarding, a sport which, according to him, was relatively unknown in India until then. Skimboarding is a sport that involves standing on a surfboard-like board and riding across shallow water or waterscapes, usually while sliding one’s feet along the surface.

The appeal was obvious. Skimboarding is like skateboarding. Both board-based sports require balance and coordination and involve similar tricks. However, skimboarding belongs to the water sport category. And in that sense, it was “just like skateboarding on water,” shares Franky.

Surfing vs skimboarding

“I was scrolling through Instagram one day when I stumbled upon the account of Adrien Raza, a popular urban skimboarder from France. Intrigued, I delved into learning more about skimboarding on YouTube,” he recollects.

Franky found himself irresistibly drawn to skimboarding, primarily because of its versatility.

Unlike surfing, skimboarding doesn’t require huge waves. Surfers go out into the deep ocean or sea and then ride huge waves back to the shore. They wait for bigger waves that can give them the thrill of surfing.

Skimboarders, on the other hand, catch waves breaking on the shore. Partaking only required a board, determination, and a range of aquascapes to choose from, including serene lakes, picturesque beach shores, and convenient inflatable skim pools.

He recognised the potential for it in his hometown of Kochi, which boasts an abundance of water bodies and a significant shoreline.

Also Read: First transgender to officiate a sports event in India calls for national policy

The birth of Skim-B

The founders handmade Skim-B's first skimboard using old plywood, and inputs from a popular US-based skimboarder.

The founders hand-made Skim-B’s first skimboard using old plywood. (Supplied)

“Sreekumar and I did not waste time. We handmade our first skimboard using old plywood and inputs from another popular US-based skimboarder, Casey Gackle,” shares Franky.

After a week, they took their homemade board to the beach when there was no one around, and eagerly put it to use. Unfortunately, it broke after a few attempts, he recalls.

Unfazed by the initial setback, the duo persevered in crafting a variety of skimboards, exploring different shapes, sizes, and materials.

Franky’s prior knowledge of surfboards and his natural talent for crafting using resin proved invaluable, making their experimentation process smoother.

Onboarding new boards

This year, they launched two user-friendly skimboards under the brand name Skim-B — the Fishtale and Tadpol. The Fishtale comes in striking colours, catering to individuals taller than 4.5 ft.

Meanwhile, the Tadpol, also available in the same vibrant hues, has been specifically designed for individuals shorter than 4.5 ft. Franky emphasises that managing weight is not a major concern, as one can easily handle it with both types of boards.

Both models have received praise for their affordability, with prices starting from ₹ 4,999. Franky proudly claims that they offer budget-friendly boards that are unmatched in durability, making them the strongest options available.

Also Read: How Soliga tribal youth are taking to sports to keep the bottle at bay

Budget-friendly experiences

Their classes cater to skateboarders and newcomers.

Their classes cater to skateboarders and newcomers. (Supplied)

“The main driving force behind establishing Skim-B was to enhance the outdoor life experience, while also being affordable. Skimboarding proved to be a magical way to get closer to the water and enjoy thrilling moments without the need for waves or deep ocean access,” Franky told South First.

Skimboarding can be divided into two main types — flatland skimboarding and wave skimboarding.

Most beginners, as recommended, start with flatland skimboarding. Later, some may venture into wave skimboarding, which requires wave knowledge, timing, and precision, explains Franky.

After attending a skimboarding class, individuals experience the exhilarating thrill of skimboarding, which commences at ₹1,200 per person or ₹900 if they are accompanied by a friend.

Following this introduction to the sport, they are presented with the option to either purchase or rent skimboards for their ongoing learning.

Also Read: Wimbledon is raving about Kerala’s ‘Backwater Grand Prix’ 

Fostering an inclusive lifestyle

Introducing skimboarding in Kochi came with its fair share of challenges, primarily centred around raising awareness and building a community. To overcome these hurdles, Franky and his team provided free skimboarding classes to evoke interest.

The classes catered to both skateboarders and newcomers, enabling them to learn about the sport and improve their boards through research and development.

Social media played a significant role in raising awareness. The Skim-B Instagram page showcased skimboarding in a simple and appealing manner, attracting potential enthusiasts.

“The community in Kochi also played a crucial role in building the skimboarding ecosystem, providing honest feedback, and contributing to the sport’s growth,” he asserts.

Focus on basics 

The classes are designed to cater to all ages and body types.

The classes are designed to cater to all ages and body types. (Supplied)

“Skim-B takes pride in being an inclusive and welcoming community, ensuring that everyone has a safe and enjoyable time. Our skimboarding classes cater to all ages and body types, focusing on teaching the basics and minimising injury risk,” he explains.

The Skim-B team selects water-based urban spots and beaches around Ernakulam for lessons and in-house events like Game of Skim.

Recently, the community has found a home ground near Vypin LNG Road, boosting their popularity.

Skim-B tailors its boards to suit individuals’ height, weight, and preferences. They get orders from Mumbai, Goa, Tamil Nadu and many other states now.

Also Read: Rajasekar Pachai: Mental fitness over physical fitness to scale Everest

Promoting positivity and wellness

Skim-B’s presence in K-town has also brought attention to the benefits of skimboarding in terms of improving mental well-being, referred to as “Blue Mind” theory.

According to Franky, skimboarding’s proximity to water positively affects the mind and body, providing a meditative and peaceful experience.

The team actively promotes sustainability and instils a sense of responsibility among its members. They lead by example, ensuring that they do not bring any plastic waste to the beach or other water bodies during their activities.

Skim B team seeks partnerships with vendors who can recycle or upcycle the waste they collect.

“Through various events, skim jams, and beach clean-ups, we encourage members to participate and actively contribute to the community. By promoting the beach lifestyle and making skimboarding accessible to a broader audience, we aim to serve as a gateway to water sports in India,” he declares.

Also Read: Cuba to provide its expertise in health and sports to help Kerala grow

A rapidly growing community

Skim-B’s community has experienced remarkable growth, with over 150 active skimboarders in Kochi presently.

The sport has been witness to a multitude of inspiring transformations. It has captured the hearts of individuals who had no previous involvement or interest in sports.

The community has over 150 active skimboarders in Kochi.

The community has over 150 active skimboarders in Kochi. (Supplied)

Kottayam-based make-up artist and model Neha Ann Varughese had a love-hate relationship with water until recently.

“I was always drawn to water sports even though I didn’t even know how to swim! I came across Skim-B on my Instagram feed, and decided to try skimboarding,” says Neha.

Even though she was hesitant at first, Neha quickly took to it. “It might be difficult to ‘find your balance’ at first, but it is worth it!” she adds.

Freelance photographer Midhin Joshy aka Koshy had always been passionate about sports, so it was only fitting when he decided to venture into skimboarding. “It is now an integral part of my life!” he exclaims.

Skim-B’s community members have also appeared in a Sony Alpha camera advertisement by Ajay Menon and a music video by actor Sreenath Bhasi.

“I was overwhelmed when Rahul KP, a player for Kerala Blasters, recently acquired skimboards from us. He even shared online videos of himself trying them out,” reminisces Franky.

What’s in store

Skim-B has ambitious plans for the future, with a primary goal of expanding production to reach a broader audience.

They aim to make skimboarding more accessible and affordable to people worldwide, encouraging more individuals to try the sport.

“We are particularly excited about launching the Skim-B affiliate programme. This will enable community members to choose to make some money on the side,” says Franky.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Rex Roy (@trexroy)

Additionally, they are eyeing expansion across different locations in India, aiming to create a thriving skimboarding community.

“Furthermore, we also plan to host India’s first Flatland Skim Competition soon,” shares Franky.

Skim-B is also working on developing its website, packaging, and logistics, aiming to partner with e-commerce platforms.

Once their website is fully operational, they plan to offer products that align with the skimboarding lifestyle, including apparel and accessories.

(For details, visit Instagram @skimb_india or Facebook SkimB)