Tex Haines and the evolution of Victoria Skimboards

By DIANNE RUSSELL

According to Tex Haines, owner of Victoria Skimboards, the theory of skimboarding can be traced back to the first time someone skipped a pebble across water. Any flat thing, if accelerated fast enough, can bounce, or skip, plane or slip across water in a near frictionless manner.

“Hawaiians were surfing thousands of years ago,” he said, “and in Greek mythology, even the gods surfed.” Conveniently, two of the surf goddesses possessed the enviable power of generating waves.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Tex Haines in front of Victoria Skimboards

However, as the modern story goes, the beginnings of skimboarding can be traced back to Laguna Beach in the 1920s. Two lifeguards came up with the idea of using round discs made of redwood to help them slide easily across the water. The sport remained small until the 1960s when a new design resembling a miniature surfboard was created.

Over time, the progress from wooden round skimboards to the skimboards of today, has everything to do with Tex Haines. In 1980, Victoria Skimboards introduced the very first foam core skimboard that was covered in fiberglass and resin. Victoria Skimboards and The Vic competition, which is the oldest and most prestigious contest of its kind in the world, put skimboarding on the map and made the shop a hub for information about the sport.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

(L-R) The timeline of skimboards. Over the last 50 years, Haines has accumulated a collection of skimboards that displays the progression from wood to foam, as well as the changes in shapes and designs.

The walls of Victoria Skimboards serve as a museum – each board reflects the history of the sport – and they also tell a story. One has a strange “butterfly effect” tale associated with it. “At one point, the owner of the board with the red dot came back to use it, maybe for the last time,” Haines said. “Sadly, the attempt failed, the board filled with water, but it turned into a lifesaving event when the owner discovered a diver in trouble directly below the skimboard.”

How it all started

Haines’ history is also reflected in the boards – and the surfing memorabilia everywhere in the shop. The photos of his mother as a young girl with her surfboards hold special meaning.

As fate might have it, his roots go back to Hawaii. “My mom was born and raised in Hawaii,” he said. “As a young girl she had a plank surfboard. Duke Kahanamoku would go by her every day at the Waikiki Club and ask her if she’d like to go out. She surfed with him all the time.”

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Lynn and Tex Haines, with Tex holding one of the trash pickers he makes. He picks up trash every day, anywhere that he’s at – park, trail or beach.

His connection to the ocean goes back even further. “My grandfather was a sea captain who walked away from his overcrowded house in Sweden at age 14 (or so). He went across Sweden to the far side and jumped on a boat and became a sailor. He eventually became a chief pilot with Matson Cruise Lines.”

Although he might credit his love for surfing and the ocean to his mother, Haines ascribes his approach to business to his father.

“My dad was a doctor, and his parents were both doctors, so I have an interesting perspective on business,” he said. “He didn’t care about money particularly; he made a modest salary. He was there to help people because that was his life. So, I grew up with that role model for business, which has worked out really well for me.”

Raised in Altadena, Calif., Haines (whose real name is Charles Leroy) credits his nickname, “Tex” to a short and early stay in Texas.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Chase Boyer, who has worked for Victoria Skimboards for four years

“I’m a product of Texas by two months,” he said. “My dad got the GI bill for education so his obligation was to go to Texas during the Korean War and fix the thumbs of recruits who forgot to lock the bolt on their guns. The war ended about two months after I was born, and my parents beat it right back to Pasadena. They were calling me little Tex and it just kind of stuck.”

Haines started surfing at San Onofre when he was 6 years old. The family made frequent pilgrimages down to Laguna. “My parents rented a little cottage on the stairs at Victoria that was just big enough for two cots and my parents, and we put the boards in the rafters. We’d set out for a Sunday morning for San Onofre.

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“Victoria is where I first saw skimboarding,” Haines said. “I looked down on the beach and saw people sliding around. I was 11 years old and thought, ‘This is easy,’ so we made our own wood boards. We found a piece of plywood and hacked it out and painted it. We talked a lot about it – what I like to call market research. We did a lot of market research between the ages of 11 and about 22, so when we decided to do it (make our own boards), it was fun and no one else was really doing it and it was the easiest thing in the world to get excited about, so we went into it.”

When Haines and his friend Peter Prietto decided to start making skimboards, they both worked at Rainbow Sandals in Dana Point. “I was off in the corner gluing the straps down,” Haines said. “The (glue) fumes were getting to me, and I didn’t think I should keep doing that, so we got some plywood and fiberglass and started making boards. The owner of Rainbow Sandals was very cool about letting us work part time and that set us up for transitioning perfectly.”

Haines founded Victoria Skimboards back in 1976 along with partner Peter Prietto.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The logo, which is constantly changing

“They asked Hobie in Dana Point to take a few boards to sell and they said, ‘yes,’” Lynn said. “It was our first retail store. Hobie played a huge part in our success.” It seems they still do. The Ranch furnishes lunch for The Vic competitions.

Haines met his wife Lynn, who describes herself as the “bean counter” of the operation, on a blind date.

“We never formally met, but I knew who he was,” Lynn said. “I worked at a surveyor’s office in Downtown Laguna and scored, believe it or not, a nice little studio at Victoria Beach for $120 a month. But I was born in New York. My mom lived here, but shortly after she met my dad and got married, he got a job at Pan Am right out of the military and they moved to New York – where he flew until they divorced. Then my mom and I came back to Laguna. She was a bartender at Coast Inn for many years. My first job was a bus girl at the coffee shop back in the day.”

Their blind date (which Haines admits was several hours long) was at Salerno’s. “We discovered our bucket lists and reading lists were the same,” Lynn said. “We both loved Grapes of Wrath and we wanted to go to Greece.” They married in 1982.

Their daughter Carly, 28, graduated from LBHS in 2014. She’s a brand representative for Celsius and lives in town. According to Lynn, “I graduated from LBHS in 1974 and it was fun having her go to the same school.”

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Customer checks out the boards

First shop

“We lived all over town (Sun Valley Drive, Top of the World) then we moved closer to my mother on Oak Street,” Haines said. “We started Victoria Skimboards in a previous location in the canyon; we were there from 1979 to probably 1987.” In ‘87, they moved to the current location. “George Burkhardt was building this complex (and had built others) and wanted us to buy it. He set the tone for artists by supporting them and keeping housing simple.” The Haines live in the front house, have retail space and rent out the workspaces/studios. The board manufacturing is done in San Clemente.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

“Skimboard” magazines. The first issue (1985) had to be typeset back in those days.

Chase Boyer, who handles the shop’s social media, said, “Customers consist of about 75% tourists and 25% locals; we do repairs, etc. Skimboarding – and coming to work here – changed my entire life.” Boyer competes in The Vic, and this year, he’ll be competing at the professional level.

The Vic

How did The Vic, the most prestigious skimboarding competition, come about?

Haines explained: “I have two older sisters and a younger brother. One sister is in Utah and the other lives at Top of the World; she does a lot of landscaping around town. My brother lives in Honolulu; he’s a developer over there. Joy, my sister here in Laguna, who was part of the pioneer Title IX women athletes at Stanford, is responsible for the idea for The Vic. She said, ‘you should do a contest.’”

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Photo by Mike Sparks

Chase Boyer at Aliso Beach

It took a year to put it together and in 1985, only 10-12 people showed up. Now The Vic has 130 contestants from all over the world, 500 spectators, and for about the last 10 years, it’s been live streamed. Held at Aliso Beach, it will happen on August 17-18 this year.

“I would like to see it be a sport in the Olympics in 2028,” said Haines.

“There are more and more wave pools opening up,” Lynn added.

Now inland skimboarding is also popular – folks are skimboarding in the canals of Amsterdam, on sand dunes and on golf courses.

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Photo by Lou Boyer

Boyer competing in The Vic, 2023

Haines still skimboards about once a week. Every Saturday from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., he hosts Saturday sessions at Aliso Beach, bringing hot coffee and donuts to everyone present, giving tips and letting anyone borrow and try the latest shapes and creations. Anyone can attend.

Even though skimboarding has evolved tremendously since Victoria Skimboards opened in1976, Haines still has dreams to fulfill.

“This is the capital of the world of skimboarding, and we need to think about it in terms of bringing up the next generation of skimmers,” he said. “For instance, I’d like to see a skim camp and skim club as part of the schools. We’re losing the kids because the price of housing is so high that we’re not getting as many families here – that’s for sure. So, we really need to work to keep skimboarding alive and well.”

Victoria Skimboards is located at 2955 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach.

For more information, go to www.victoriaskimboards.com.

Follow Victoria Skimboards on Instagram @victoriaskimboards.


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