Austin Keen ran toward the gnarly shore break, rode up the face of the wave and then did a move no one has ever done in a skimboard competition.
He did a full flip above the wave, and somehow his board landed under him. The crowd watching the Oktoberfest Skim Championships went nuts on the south side of the Balboa Pier, jumping to their feet and screaming, the sound of cowbells ringing.
Oktoberfest Skim Contest top placers:
First: Austin Keen
Second: Brandon Sears
Third: Sam Stinnett
World Title race:
First: Austin Keen
Second: Sam Stinnett
Third: Perry Pruitt
“My board went upside down halfway through, I was afraid I was going to hurt myself,” he said afterward.
It was a go-for-broke moment, and why not – considering Keen had minutes earlier been proclaimed the 2013 United Skim Tour World Champion.
After the final heat, where Keen took out Brandon Sears, the Georgia native who now calls Dana Point home was carried up the sand on the shoulder of friends, a moment of victory for the first-time world champ.
“It’s the best moment of my life,” he said.
The United Skim Tour has taken professional skimboarders to eight stops around the world as far as Brazil, with the final event held in Newport Beach. It was a tight race for the title, with Keen neck-and-neck in points with Laguna Beach’s Sam Stinnett, a two-time world champ.
Going into the semi-finals, Stinnett said it’s been a stressful year.
“After six months of work, it’s really tough coming down to the wire for first and second,” the 20-year-old said. “It’s very stressful.”
But after Stinnett didn’t advance in the semi-finals and Keen was able to secure a spot in the finals – the new champ was given high-fives and hugs in celebration.
The event had a record turnout this year. When Main Street Surf Shop first put on the event nine years ago, there were 16 pros and 48 amateurs who signed up. This year, 50 pros and 148 amateurs showed up, more than any other year, said event organizer Brian Boyle.
Stinnett has been doing the event since it started, and is blown away by the amateurs coming up the ranks.
“They’re blowing minds,” he said. “They’re going to push the sport to the next level.”
Newport skimboarder Omar Meddeb agreed. He said the level is getting “crazier and crazier every year.”
“I have a handful of protégées here … they’re doing maneuvers the professionals are doing. The progression level is through the roof,” said Meddeb.
For Stinnett, the best part of the sport is the camaraderie. It’s a tight-knit scene, especially at the event held in Newport Beach.
“I think the sickest part of the event is that you know everybody,” he said. “With skimming, you go to the beach and you know everybody. It’s a tight little family.”
Keen was beaming after his win, with people coming up to get photo ops with him and offering hugs to congratulate him.
“I’m still in shock,” he said.
When asked how he was going to celebrate, he said “eat a healthy breakfast.” Then, he thought it over.
“I’m going to party, probably.”