It’s not enough to say that professional skimboarder Blair Conklin does things the average human can’t do; more accurately would be to say that he does things the average human can’t even understand. Watch one of his many YouTube videos — all of which have tens of thousands of views and comments — and you’ll see him on the beach, curly blonde hair flying as he sprints toward the shore, then drops his board and glides straight into an oncoming wave. In a flash, he U-turns into it before riding the barrel all the way to the end. The airborne twists and turns are hard to fathom for anyone remotely acquainted with the concept of gravity. Rewatching it in slow-motion does little to help: Was that a 180? No, it was a 360. And did he just flip the board underneath his feet? Yes, he did. (The move is called the Backside Three Shuv, and he’s the king of it.)
You’ll often find Conklin — who is currently ranked the #1 skimboarder in the world — performing these acrobatic feats in Laguna Beach. The SoCal surf town isn’t just one of the best places to find waves that were made for skimboarding; it’s also the birthplace of the sport (and the ultimate place for luxury beach getaways). “The story is that, in the ‘70s or so, lifeguards would have these little planks of wood or circular disks, and they would slide across Main Beach. It was how they got around,” Conklin says. “Now it has evolved to have more wave riding.”
Conklin too got his start in Laguna: From just 1 year old, he called its beaches home, growing up in a contemporary bungalow right above a stretch of beach known for its excellent skimboarding waves. As a young boy, he gravitated toward the sport that he saw happening right outside of his window, and eventually, he rose through the ranks of Laguna’s local skimboarding stars.
It’s no surprise then that, even though Conklin’s talents have taken him around the world — from French Polynesia and Portugal to Mexico and the Maldives — his hometown is still his favorite place, both on and off the waves. A big part of the reason why is the camaraderie: “It’s such a small community here,” he says. “You can go out anytime and you’re going to run into some surfers and skimboarders.”
One of the places you’ll find them is at the Sandpiper, known affectionately by locals as the Dirty Bird. “It’s the official watering hole of Laguna,” Conklin says. “Everyone who goes out ends up there at some point in the night.” Another favorite for a night out is AhbA on Pacific Coast Highway, which has a speakeasy right next door. “They call it ‘the office’ because you have to walk through a little office to get there.”
Of course, if you want an almost-guaranteed chance to catch a glimpse of Conklin in action, your best bet is to head to 1,000 Steps Beach, where one of the area’s most famous breaks is just down the shore, edged by a rock formation that causes a rare second break running perpendicular to the shoreline — and making for double the skimboarding waves. And if, after seeing the master, you’re inspired to try it out yourself, Conklin even gives the occasional VIP lesson, a service offered through Adventure IO exclusively to guests — and Exclusive Resorts Members — who stay at the Montage Laguna Beach.
Photos courtesy of Anne Menke.