You’ve probably heard of skimboarding and kiteboarding, but here’s a fun fact: both sports stem from a unique pastime called pypo boarding that originated in Seaside and spread across the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s.
In fact, the pypo board was among the earliest adaptations of Oregon Coast surfing from its roots in Hawaii. The pypo boarder runs and jumps on a thin wooden board in an inch or so of ocean water and surfs along the sand. Advanced boarders, given primo beachfront conditions, can ride across the sand, ricochet off a wave and drive back to the shallows — all in one go.
Because Seaside’s wide sandy beach is so flat, this early water sport flourished and some say was dubbed pypo boarding after the The Pypo Club, a thriving 1960s Seaside nightclub that hosted then up-and-coming entertainers like The Kingsmen, Gene Wilder, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. (Also, pypo is said to mean “kick” in Hawaiian.) First housed upstairs from the swimming pool and skating area at what was then the Seaside Natatorium, the club was a popular gathering space for all ages and a main player in the local music scene and surf culture.
Featured in a 1964 issue of Life magazine, pypo boarding was described as somewhat of a thrill sport: “You put your board down on the spume of the water’s edge, take a running leap onto it and skim away for a breathless 35-foot ride. If you want a longer trip at speeds that can break your leg if you fall down, you can hitch your board to a bike.”
In its early days, pypo boards were homemade from a good, old-fashioned circular (or pizza-shaped) marine-grade plywood cutout. Life magazine describes it as a “28-inch-wide wooden disk coated on the bottom with a smooth layer of plastic.” After painting, sealing or shellacking the cutout, a beveled edge was added. This early inception wasn’t ever commercially manufactured like its later kin, the now-popular skimboard, which is shaped like a small, narrow surfboard.
Josh Gizdavich, owner of Seaside’s Cleanline Surf Shop and a Seaside native, says his older brother gave him his first pypo board at the ripe old age of 8 in the mid-1960s. Back then, Gizdavich remembers spending all summer pypo boarding and looking for cans and bottles to return for a nickel along the shoreline.
These days, pypo boarding has all but fallen off the radar. The latest innovation of skimboarding is its melding with kiteboarding. The sleek and minimal design lends itself nicely to progressing tricks and aerial maneuvering. Those who look closely at modern kiteboarding footage, though, can still see inspiration from its pypo prototype, born in Seaside.
Visitors looking to try their hand at skimboarding and get a taste of the pypo experience can rent a skimboard from Cleanline Surf or Seaside Surf Shop. Another great nearby spot, says Gizdavich, is Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site, just south in Cannon Beach. Always practice ocean safety and be mindful of your physical fitness and balance abilities, but with a range of facilities and choice spume at the right tide interval, what’s stopping you from sailing on sand, Seaside-style?