The Coastal Sussex Interview – Jason ‘J-Dub’ Wilson

by Dave on June 5, 2009

As first appeared in Coastal Sussex Weekly, May 14, 2009:

CSW: What does Dewey Beach mean to skimboarding and what does skimboarding mean to Dewey Beach?

JW: Skimboarding has been pretty big in Dewey for probably close to 30 years. We’re coming up on 30 years of the East Coast Skimboarding Championships running, and to me that event marks the beginning of skimboarding being a big thing in Dewey Beach. My father started that event. His name is Harry Wilson, and he started that event because he originally owned Dewey Beach Surf & Sport and a skimboard company, Sandblaster Skimboards, and he began running that event to promote both of those things. And it’s grown and grown. We’re going into our 28th year now. That event is what got skimboarders into Dewey Beach and basically put Dewey Beach on the map as the east coast skimboarding capital. Along with that, the shore break is excellent here in Dewey Beach, which makes it a great place for skimboarding. As you know, there’s not the best waves for surfing all the time because it breaks right on the beach, so with all that shore break out there, it produces some great skimboarders here in Dewey Beach.

CSW: What do other skimboarders from around the country say when they come to Dewey Beach?

JW: People love Dewey Beach. For one thing, when they come here, it’s kind of something to be a skimboarder. People know what it’s about from that event running here so long, from what we’re doing with our skim camps and our shop here. Skimming is definitely something that’s associated with Dewey Beach. A lot of these traveling skimboarders who come here, what they really like about the waves, we call them “liners,” when the waves peel down the beach, right along the beach and you get that nice, glassy line coming in. That’s something that a lot of West Coast riders really like. They don’t get those defined lines and glassy skimboarding waves out there, they get more wedging waves that break off of rocks and coves. Great waves, but definitely different than what Dewey has to offer. We’re known for long liners, shore break and a place you can have a good time. They’re kind of blown away by how much skimboarding is recognized as a serious water sport here.

CSW: The event itself, the East Coast Skimboarding Championships, has grown from a sort of sideshow at the beginning to now it encompasses the whole town and is a premier event.

JW: It’s definitely a premier event, and it’s almost like the capper to the summer. It’s the middle of August. It’s a lot of kids’ last weekend at the beach, and I know when I was younger the end of summer was marked by the East Coast Skimboarding Championships. It’s cool that the town has embraced skimboarding so much because it is something that’s good for this town. It’s good for the kids to be involved with and have something to do besides Dewey Beach being known as a bar town. It’s nice to have skimboarding right there associated with it as a good positive thing for people to get into.

CSW: Most people don’t know that you’re a Top 10 professional skimboarder, too.

JW: I’ve been competing professionally for about 10 years now. It’s funny to think that. I’m 26 years old and I started competing professionally when I was 15 or 16. I’ve maintained pretty close to the Top 10 every year. Some years I’ve been up in the top 3, sometimes just outside the Top 10. It fluctuated up and down the ranks, but I’ve stayed up there and feel like I’ve become a pretty recognizable skimboarder, not only for competing in events but for what we’re doing here in Dewey Beach spreading the sport and getting kids into skimboarding.

CSW: You also have a team, right?

JW: We do. Recently, our team has become a pretty big focus of our business. We’re making a full-length DVD that’s going to be out in June, that showcases all our team riders on it – one guy from Mexico, couple of guys from California, couple guys from here in Delaware, some younger guys from our camp. We’ve established a pretty killer crew to represent and be the face of Alley Oop.

CSW: Almost everybody around here has been to an East Coast Championship or seen guys skimming on the beach. What’s it like in other locales, being a traveling skimboarder?

JW: Each location has something to offer – Cabo San Lucas, Laguna Beach, Portugal – each place has its own vibe and its own unique features to offer as far as waves and just the people there and the lifestly of the town. Dewey is one of the biggest crowds that I’ve seen, but for instance Portugal, you could feel the Portuguese pride. I remember being in the semifinals with Joey Vavala, a rider from here, and a guy from Florida with a Portuguese rider and you felt the USA versus Portugal vibe there. In Mexico, it’s more of a laid-back vibe, a lot of people on the beach drinking Corona. It’s more of a laid-back, less official event, but it’s one of the best skim spots in the world there, where the waves are thumping.

CSW: Do you ever go anywhere and have people look at you like “What the hell are you doing?”

JW: All the time. All the time. People think we’re surfing. Some people call it sand skating or sand surfing. When I tell them it’s skimboarding, they say “That’s not skimboarding!” They know skimboarding as taking your little wood board and riding across the sand. That’s what they associate skimboarding with. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the story of “yeah, me and my Dad, we got some plywood and shaped it up, poured on some fiberglass on there – yeah, I’ve made a skimboard.” And they don’t realizing the boards we’re riding now, the technology and everything that goes into it has come so far. When they see us out there going out and riding waves, getting tubed and getting air, they don’t even fathom that it’s skimboarding. People don’t realize the craftsmanship. Made out of carbon fiber. Serious shaping going on with the rails and the rocker of the board. They’re right up their with the technology that surfboards and snowboards use.

CSW: You have your own model skimboard here at the shop, right?

JW: I do have my own board with ZAP Skimboards. It’s available here, right along with just about every other pro rider’s board that’s out there.

CSW: What else is going on here at the shop as you prepare for the summer season?

JW: Right now we’re consumed with getting the shop ready to be open full-time which is getting ready to happen after this weekend. We’ll be open 10-5 during the week, later on the weekend. Getting some new arrivals in: men’s clothing, women’s clothing, skimboards, skateboards, flip-flops, it’s all coming in right now. Trying to get it all in and priced. We’re getting ready for our summer camps, free clinics on the beach in Dewey, lessons at Sea Colony and any other private lessons that anybody wants to schedule. There’s a lot of logistics that go along with running all of these camps, getting our employees ready, and just preparing to have the shop run all summer smoothly. We’re ready to jam on it.

CSW: Tell us about the free clinics on the beach here in Dewey.

JW: The free clinics we started last summer. They’re aimed to get these kids who are here for the summer or some local kids to try skimboarding, try some boards, meet some of our counselors for skim camp and meet other skimboarders. We were getting about 20-30 kids every Saturday.

CSW: Do you see some of those kids then going on to participate in skim camp?

JW: We did have a fair amount of those kids either coming in and doing a full camp or buying a board. The clinics have been really good for us as far as getting people into our service or purchasing a board or just getting kids into skimboarding.

CSW: When do those free clinics start?

JW: The clinics start the third weekend in June. They run from 9-10 on Saturday mornings here on New Orleans Street. You can check out our web site or stop in for more info.

CSW: Speaking of the web site, people can get everything that’s here in the shop online, right?

JW: We try to keep our web store current with our inventory in the shop as far as Alley Oop gear, skimboards and accessories. Just about everything here is on our online store, so if you’re not here you can always purchase what you need before you come to the beach.

CSW: What other events are you involved with this summer?

JW: This year, Alley Oop got involved with Skim USA, which is one of the main organizing bodies for skimboarding events on the East Coast, and we’re the host sponsor of the South Side Shootout, which is a pro-am event. It’s the first event of our pro tour and it’s also an amateur event through Skim USA. It’s down at the south side of the Indian River Inlet on May 30th and 31st. It’s a great event for anyone who wants to compete in skimboarding – amateurs are welcome to enter – and just for anyone who wants to check out some great action on the beach. Our movie will be premiering that weekend at the Movies at Midway, too, so May 30th and 31st is a big weekend for skimboarding here. People can get more info on the South Side Shootout by checking out SkimUSA.com.

CSW: Tell me about the DVD.

JW: The Alley Oop DVD is called “Promo Means No Dough.” The title kind of says it all. It’s a promo, we’re not making any money off of it. You can get it with any purchase here at Alley Oop. We’re going to premiere that at Midway on May 30th. It’s free, and we’re doing it at their upstairs screening room. That’s a big thing for us. It’ll show what our team’s all about. We’re excited to showcase all this work we’ve put in over the last year trying to collect all this video footage of beautiful skimboarding.

CSW: Thanks, Jason. Good luck this summer.

JW: Thanks.

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