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As one of the largest and more important skimboarding companies in the game today, Exile Skimboards is overseeing much more than just board and gear design. Exile has expanded their operations significantly, moving into competition design and administration. Exile Skimboards have hosted and been the primary sponsor for many high-profile skimboarding competitions in recent years, and 2019 saw an expansion of this trend.
One of the coolest pro skimboarding competitions Exile put on this year in 2019 was the 2019 Exile Oktoberfest, which saw some of the foremost men’s professional skim boarders take to the water at Newport Beach, California. This year’s 2019 Exile Oktoberfest was pretty interesting for a number of reasons, and it was definitely a roller coaster in terms of weather and surf forecasting.
Initially it looked as though a hurricane swell might end up slamming the beaches of Newport Beach, CA just in time for the competition, but as time went on it became clear that the hurricane swell had not materialized. In fact, part of the men’s professional competition had to be postponed one day and moved back to the next day due to the surf being too small.
The next day was still fairly small sized surf, but the men’s professional skim boarders made the best of it all the same. One thing that many casual skimboarding fans might not realize about competing in smaller surf is that it forces the competitors to be much more aggressive about executing technical tricks. When the waves are absolutely massive, then it becomes more about scoring performances simply on the merits of riding a larger wave successfully, with style, and with perhaps a small amount of technical or trick oriented riding.
In smaller surf though, the skimboarding professionals really have to prove their mettle with an arsenal of difficult and eye-catching technical maneuvers and board-spin tricks. This is definitely one of the ways that skimboarding is considerably different from surfing, in the sense that skimboarding has so much more potential for technical board tricks, almost like skateboarding does.
The 2019 Exile Oktoberfest might have been a little bit short in the big waves department, but it certainly was not lacking in intense competition and impressive showcasing of technical capabilities by all the pros in attendance. For the benefit of skimboarding fans all over the world, continue reading on to learn more about this 2019 skimboarding competition!
Highlights From The 2019 Exile Oktoberfest Pro Skimboarding Competition
A lot of the highlights from both the Men’s and Women’s Pro segments of the 2019 Exile Oktoberfest were relegated to the technical tricks category. Given that there weren’t really any massive wave breaks to speak of during the 2019 Exile Oktoberfest, the competitors really had to dig deep and come up with some truly creative technical skimboarding lines.
The smaller Newport Beach shore breaks weren’t terribly impressive, but they were good enough for these outstanding skim pros to put on a technical clinic during this season’s Oktoberfest contest. Gerardo Valencia and Sam Stinnett were two pros that put on an incredible display of technical prowess, stringing together insane barrages of board spin and shove-it type tricks during Round One. Those two competitors especially were completely throwing down on the smaller breaks, and their board-spin trick combinations were certainly big highlights for this year’s Exile Oktoberfest.
We also got to see Tim Fulton using his elite pumping technique to generate huge power and speed during his lines, especially considering how small and slow the waves were overall. In terms of the single most impressive trick or trick combination from the 2019 Exile Oktoberfest competition, that had to be Jack Klingman’s super clean 540 shove-it in Round One of the contest.
1st Place (Men’s Professional) – Blair Conklin
Blair Conklin is an absolute mainstay in the world of Men’s Professional skimboarding, and he is a laid back kind of guy that you could find any old day at Laguna Beach having fun and training for his next skim contest. Certainly no stranger to the podium as one of the more seasoned professionals in the game these days, Blair is a competitor who was able to capitalize on the smaller wave breaks that were hitting at Newport Beach for the 2019 Exile Oktoberfest.
Blair was performing pretty consistently for the duration of the event, and his consistency paid off when he found himself competing in the finals against fellow elite skimboarding pro, Austin Keen. This final contest between Keen and Conklin turned out to be super close, and definitely one for the books. A significant set seemed to appear out of nowhere heading into their final showdown, and both skim boarders took full advantage of this lucky set.
Both of them charged into the breaks with a backside approach, and both competitors used the larger waves to throw massive air drop aerial tricks. Blair Conklin had a noticeably bigger and cleaner air than Austin Keen did, and plus Blair was able to stick the landing with a better follow-through overall. This gave Blair an initial edge over Austin Keen in the finals, and it more or less set the tone for how the finals would progress.
Conklin turned on major style mode for the final round, really letting himself flow through the larger waves and execute some nasty wraps and cutbacks toward the end of the finals. He was able to pull off an array of backside wrap turns that were extremely smooth, and he ended up making them look easy. Topping it all off though, was Blair’s gnarly frontside layback turn that really put his points over the top from the judges.
Blair’s massive frontside layback turn was so good that it prompted his contest rival, Austin Keen, to pull off one of his own. Austin’s didn’t score quite as high though, and it really was not as smooth as the one Blair was able to pull off successfully. As if that performance from Conklin was not enough already, he closed out his Finals performance with an incredible line.
Conklin was able to hit a backside ollie 180 on his approach line, followed by a huge 180 air drop from the lip all the way back into the flats with a clean landing. This again prompted Austin Keen to try and match Conklin’s trick, but he just wasn’t able to reach the same scoring level that Blair did. Blair ended up taking first place after that insane final round performance, and there was no dispute about that outcome at all.
2nd Place (Men’s Professional) – Austin Keen
Like Blair Conklin, Austin Keen is another titan of men’s professional skimboarding and has been for quite a few years now. Austin didn’t necessarily have a commanding or flawless run at this year’s 2019 Exile Oktoberfest competition, but with that being said, he definitely did bring a lot to the table. In fact, Austin Keen was almost knocked out of the competition heading into the final round when he had a heat showdown with fellow competitor, Jake Stinnett.
Jake was giving it everything he had toward the end of their heat competition, and in the final seconds of the heat Jake put up some really well executed lines. By the time the judges scores were in however, it was clear that Austin had surpassed him by only 0.2 points! This narrow victory allowed Austin Keen to move forward into his final round contest between him and Blair Conklin.
This theme of barely beating his heat competitors would continue with Austin Keen, as he then had to go head-to-head against up and coming men’s professional skimboarding athlete, Lucas Fink. It was a tight battle between Austin Keen and Lucas Fink in the semifinals, but through Austin’s vast experience and consistency he was able to knock Lucas Fink out of the contest by another slim margin.
The final round was an amazing situation out in the surf, given that at the time Keen and Conklin were gearing up for their final round performances, the waves were doing absolutely nothing and it wasn’t looking too good for the final round surf. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a random set appeared on the horizon. So out-of-nowhere that it prompted the contest announcers to comment that Poseidon himself was watching the competition with good favor!
This miracle set ended up creating the perfect tone for the final round showdown between Keen and Conklin, but unfortunately Austin Keen was not able to do enough to secure the victory for himself. In fact, it was almost as though Austin Keen was forced to emulate the tricks and technical approaches that Blair Conklin was taking, simply because Blair was performing so well in this competition.
Keen seemed to realize that if he was going to have any chance of beating Blair in the eyes of the judges, he was going to have to outperform Blair’s own lines against him. Unfortunately though, Austin Keen simply was not on Blair’s level at the 2019 Exile Oktoberfest, and thus ended up in second place at the conclusion of the final round.