R.J. Vernoia, of East Islip, 36, at Cedar Beach in Babylon,...

R.J. Vernoia, of East Islip, 36, at Cedar Beach in Babylon, where he'll be running the town's first skimboarding camp this summer. Credit: Barry Sloan

Kids won’t need a surfboard to ride the water this summer at Cedar Beach in Babylon Town.

For the first time the town will offer a skimboarding camp at the ocean beach, with lessons for those ages 6 to 17 in the sport that slowly is gaining popularity on Long Island.

“We thought that this would be a good amenity for Cedar Beach,” Babylon Deputy Supervisor Tony Martinez said, noting that the beach also is open to non-town residents. “We hope it’s going to be a hit.”

Enthusiasts describe skimboarding as a cross between surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding. Participants use a board that is typically smaller and more lightweight than a surfboard to “skim” the water close to the shore, with more advanced skimboarders attempting moves off the waves, said R.J. Vernoia, 36.  

Skimboarding Camp

Where: Cedar Beach, Babylon

When: July and August

Cost: $240 a week, not including parking

More info: sideslipskimboarding.com

The East Islip resident will be running the camp through his company, SideSlip Skimboarding LLC. 

The camp setup is similar to a longtime surfing camp that Babylon permits the surf shop Bunger to run out of Gilgo Beach. For no cost, the town will allow SideSlip Skimboarding to use Cedar Beach and place a shed in the parking lot for skimboard rentals and lesson sign-ups.

The camp will be held in a 25-by-200-foot area west of the swimming area of the beach, “far away from the swimmers so as to not interfere with them,” Martinez said.

The roots of skimboarding can be traced to the 1920s in Southern California, specifically Laguna Beach, according to American Surf Magazine. But it has been slower to catch on here, said Vernoia, whose background is in electrical engineering and who found people were fascinated by his skimboarding moves when he relocated to Long Island from Florida in 2016. 

“I had so many people of all ages asking me, ‘What is this? How are you doing that?’ ” he said. “I kind of had to build the knowledge base here for skimboarding.”

Vernoia said he started a business in 2018 and offered private lessons and a small camp on the beach at Robert Moses State Park, but longed for a larger, more formalized setup. He said he doesn't know of any other town-sanctioned skimboarding camps on Long Island.

Registration will be open to 25 participants a week, with sessions in July and August. The camp is $240 a person, plus the cost of parking. Participants must sign a liability waiver from the company, Vernoia said. 

Cedar Beach is an ideal location for skimboarding, with shifting sands and smaller swells, he said. 

The sport can appeal to those who aren’t strong swimmers, and because skimboarding is done on the shore's edge it also allows for more social interaction with those on the beach, according to Vernoia, who said it also can help participants develop resiliency.

Pamela Brinkman, of West Islip, said her 7-year-old son Bayard’s balance, coordination, strength and focus all improved due to skimboarding camp at Robert Moses last year.

“It challenged him physically, mentally and I loved that he learned how to be observant of the water and the waves,” she said. 

Rafael Hines, 62, of Greenwich, Connecticut, whose children attended the Robert Moses camp, said the experience introduced his son, now 15, and his daughter, now 14, to a new skill set and now they also surf.  

Eric Stark, 29, of Ridge, is a special-education teacher who will work as a skimboarding instructor at Cedar Beach this summer. 

“For a lot of parents, they worry about surfing lessons for their kids out in the ocean, but this they can try right on shore so they feel more comfortable,” he said.

Marie Fischer, 45, who owns the surf shop Nalu Dry Goods in Bay Shore, had all three of her children take skimboarding lessons at Robert Moses. 

“It’s not as well-publicized or ‘glamorous’ as surfing but it’s just as fun, if not more,” she said.  “I think it could be a really popular sport and there’s a lot of shoreline on Long Island.” 

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