Professional skimboarders Dave and Tom Bracht have been riding for more than a dozen years, but they still recall days spent on the beaches of Delaware when they first learned about the sport.
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“The main thing we'd do is come down and be at the beach all day,” said Dave, 25. “Then one time we saw some kids sliding on one, and from then on that was all we wanted to do.”
“When we tried one for the first time, we were instantly hooked,” said Tom, 24.
The two brothers, who live in Ocean View, got the bug while they vacationed in a camper with their parents, spending two weeks on the south side of the Indian River Inlet bridge. The family of four would make the drive every year from Pennsylvania, camp and play in the sun. Eventually, when the boys outgrew the camper, the family upgraded to a second home in Bethany, but the boys still spent all day at the beach.
Dave admits they wanted to learn surfing first, but he said their parents thought it would be too dangerous. It was also a matter of logistics: Tom said surfboards didn't fit in their parents' car.
They now surf during the winter because it's nearly impossible to get the movement needed to skimboard when wearing a 5-millimeter thick wetsuit, but, the boys say, they got the better of the sports.
“This is one of the best places in the world to skimboard,” said Dave of the beaches that stretch from Rehoboth to Bethany.
The brothers look the part of professional skimboarders - dark sunglasses and appropriately styled skater shoes, with tans at a time of year in Delaware they could get only from traveling. Tom drives a Toyota Tacoma with a hard top, which makes for easy storage of the waist-high, carbon-fiber sheet that is three-quarters-of-an-inch thick and weighs only a few pounds.
They're sponsored by Exile Skimboards and were the brains behind the company's board model called the chub scout.
Tom said they created the board, which is a little heavier and wider than the average board, because they couldn't find a board that allowed them to go as fast as they wanted. The brothers solved the problem themselves by modifying a board they were already using to increase its volume, which allows the board to go faster, said Tom.
Then Exile made some, and now they're being sold all over the globe, Tom said.
The brothers said they didn't turn professional to make money, but they have participated in contests up and down the East Coast and in some California hot spots. Each has two undergraduate degrees from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla. Dave has degrees in business and youth ministry, while Tom has degrees in business and personal training.
“There's not much money in it. You don't make a living in skimming,” said Tom. “What I always try to do is skim at a professional level. It's about having control over something that doesn't want to have any control.”
Dave said they went professional after entering a number of amateur contests and doing well.
“We really just wanted to challenge ourselves and compete against the best,” he said.
It's those memories as young men and experiences as professionals that have inspired the two brothers to create the RELYance Skim Camp.
They said the camp will be family oriented with reasonable pricing. The camp will be held all summer at Tower Road, Delaware Seashore State Park, just south of Dewey Beach, and they'll be offering regular, Christian and advanced skim camps, weekend sessions, private lessons and surfing lessons.
“The biggest thing we really want to be are positive role models. So many people are good at different things, but they aren't good role models,” said Tom. “We want to put out a positive vibe and surround the kids with all high-character people.”
There will be high-level skimboarding demonstrations and teaching, too - the basics for beginners and advanced techniques for the ones with experience. Exile Skimboards, which sponsors the brothers, will be available for campers to use and try out boards.
“We want to help the best get better,” said Dave.
Tom said they'll teach what has become second nature to them, including heat strategy, wave knowledge and what spots get the good swells when the waves are blowing in a certain direction.
“That's the biggest thing...the wind,” said Dave. With a strong wind coming out of the northwest, he said, the best location would have been the south beach at Indian River Inlet because the jetty would be blocking the wind.
For more information on RELYance Skim Camps, including pricing and camp scheduling, go to www.relyanceskimcamp.com or call 717-343-3588.