Those kids you see on those fancy boards sliding across the shallows at South Beach are not skimboarding. They're just dabbling in the latest extreme sport, spending their cash on a fad that's been dressed up with designs, paint, and lots of publicity -- which is true of most extreme sports. For several decades young Miamians had gone skateboarding (via boards made by nailing skate wheels to a piece of two-by-four) down handicapped ramps at public schools; BMXing, as in riding a bike through dirty, muddy, highly unlevel terrain; and skimboarding. The real thing involved searching trash piles for a piece of plywood about three feet wide and four to six feet long. When it rained back then, Miami-Dade's terrible drainage allowed water to build up in the swales, tiding over into the street and covering the sidewalk. Bring out the board, place it at the edge of the puddle, run full speed, jump with force onto the board, and leave the rest to physics. No tricks. No judging. No wetsuit with the brands of sponsors embossed. No TV. No money. Just fun, fun, fun. Alas, these days are long past. Parents want their kids to have it better, so they buy the little ones brand-name minisurfboards and take them to the beach, forgetting that the real joy wasn't in looking cool or even in performing well. It was losing control and sliding all over without cracking your skull, then coming up soaked, muddied, bleeding, bruised, and smiling ear to scraped ear.


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