Skimboarder / Wakesurfer
Team PowerBar member Austin Keen is a World Champion Skimboarder, content creator, and an action sports ambassador. With a unique skillset that makes him a leader in the sport, he is one of the most photographed action sport athletes on social media. His content has been featured in commercials and on TV Shows such as MSNBC’s Make Me A Millionaire Inventor, Comedy Central’s Tosh.0, and The Real Housewives of OC. Crowned with a World Title the year prior, in 2014 he was recognized in SurferToday as one of the top 20 Most Influential in Wave Sports. By 2015, Austin was looking to evolve his talents and discovered the sport of wakesurfing. Shortly thereafter, he acquired a sponsor in that discipline and became the sports’ most recognizable athlete.
Not only is Austin sharing his creativity with the masses online, he is dedicated to spreading the joy of action sports within his own community. By teaching children and veterans skimboarding techniques, he hopes to inspire the next generation.
What initially got you started in skimboarding?
I grew up surfing in Georgia where there’s limited wave action. I started skimboarding because it was a way for me to stay active and have fun at the beach even though the waves were small and breaking close to the shore. The first time I experienced surfing a wave on a finless skimboard, I was hooked.
At what point did you think you could make a career out of skimboarding?
I’ve always wanted to make a career out of my talents and have a job doing what I love. It’s been a series of leaps of faiths, hard work, and staying motivated. January 2014 was the first time I was able to support myself with my athletic career. I am constantly evolving (i.e. into wakesurfing) which helps keep my ideas innovative. I have the most fun free skimming and creating original, creative content which has proven to be valuable to my sponsors.
You moved from Georgia to California. Was this an obvious move at the time or more of a leap of faith?
It was both, especially since I was in love with my 1975 BMW and was excited to drive it across the country. But moving west to California was a definite no-brainer for me, as it put me in touch with the best shore break beaches for skimboarding.
What would you say was your “big break”?
For years, I wished and hoped for a big break, but it never came.
I think it’s been a number of small victories and successes that have gotten me closer and closer to where I want to be. I’ve been carving my own path, and although it’s been a lot of hard work, I try to enjoy the journey as much as possible.
Your content, whether it be videos or images, definitely stands out on your social channels. What do you think sets you apart from other content creators?
Sometimes I wonder the same thing because there are so many talented people out there. I truly love what I do and have dedicated time and energy to perfect it, so maybe that bona fide passion and drive is what sets me apart. I also think I’ve been able to showcase my sport with some original and creative video ideas such as “Hijacking a Boat Wakes”, “Triple Board Transfers”, “Bungee Wakesurfing”, and “Jet Ski Whip Ins”, etc. It’s important for me to stay creative and challenge the expected.
You’ve had a lot of “mainstream” media spotlight (photo and video shoots). What’s the coolest thing you’ve done thus far?
My biggest media showcase is my social platforms. My sport has never been on TV or had a big audience, so when Facebook and Instagram came around, I decided to create my own spotlight.
My first video “Hijacking a Boat Wake” was played on ‘The Ellen Show’, which was awesome, but they never mentioned me by name. My project with Clarion Marine may be a favorite of mine. It’s a music video, shot on a boat in San Diego, and it’s all about having fun with my good friends at Funk Shui Planet music. I often jam with them when I’m in town so the music video felt like a natural extension of how we really act. I recently performed for Jeep’s 2017 summer commercial which is airing right now – which is probably the biggest single televised project I’ve done.
You’ve done a lot of international travel in the last few years, what’s the favorite place you visited and what about it made it such a great experience?
I love going to new places but I think one of my favorite places is Bali. I love the vibe, the waves, and the beaches. It’s hard to pick one but one of my best trips may have been my trip to Australia this past March. I was able to participate in the Noosa Festival of Surfing on behalf of Chaparral Boats, visit Noosa and do some skimboard transfers during the event. I was also able to conquer one of my biggest personal fears and go sky diving!
You’ve done some work with Wounded Warriors, teaching them how to wakesurf. Can you talk a little about these events you participate in and why they’re important to you?
I’ve been blessed to work with the Wake For Warriors foundation (www.wakeforwarriors.org) - https://youtu.be/T71NiK4MqlA . It’s a grass roots organization, started by an amazing veteran that takes wounded veterans wakesurfing. For many of them, it is their first time out on a board. I get to spend a whole week with some of strongest and most determined human beings while they defy their own disabilities. It’s cool to be able to have a good time and share good vibes with people who have sacrificed so much.
For anyone who’s watched your videos or seen you compete, you seem to have a “grip it and rip it” mentality. Do you do anything to prepare yourself, perhaps before competing, to get yourself in the right mindset?
Beginning in 2013, I think Yoga and Meditation played a big role in my mental success in competition. However, the determination to push myself and achieve certain goals fuels my competitive nature. My latest big victory was at the 2016 VIC World Championships of skimboarding in Laguna Beach. This was a huge achievement for me, it was definitely on my checklist of goals that I wanted to accomplish. Since I had previously placed 2nd twice in the years prior, I was even more determined to win. But I think I’m a lot calmer in my own head while riding than I look from the outside. I’m focused, calculated and in a very calm happy place when I’m performing at my best.
What inspired you to start wakesurfing?
Growing up, I always thought it would be amazing to ride a never-ending wave behind a boat. I never thought I would get the opportunity but in 2014, Freewaters put me in touch with legendary wakeboarder and godfather of wakeskating (similar to wakesurfing with a smaller boarder and no foot bindings), Scott Byerly. He took me out for the first time and a few months later I signed with Liquid Force Wake. From there, my wakesurfing journey began.
You’re an accomplished skimboarder and wakesurfer, what’s the next big thing you’re hoping to accomplish?
I want to continue to create awesome, inspiring videos that motivate people to be true to their creative talents and pursue what they love. A goal of mine is to perform one of my stunts like, “Hijacking a Boat Wake” in an action film with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I’ve always focused on bringing skimboarding to a larger audience and give it the exposure it deserves. I think if you are good at something that you love, you want to share it with as many people as possible.
Can you describe your typical day?
My typical day may consists of, but is not limited to, the following things:
Coffee, waves, beach, boat wakes, creating music, listening to music, ping pong, Frisbee, skateboarding, spikeball, hustling new projects.
Do you have any hopes or goals for the sport of skimboarding in terms of growth for the next couple of years?
My goal is to inspire the next generation of skimboarders. There are some very talented kids out there who can take skimboarding far into the future. In the summer, I share my techniques through my skimboarding camp, Skim Tybee. I’d also like to keep pursuing mainstream media opportunities, like television and print magazines with a large reach, as that goes a long way toward creating awareness for our sport.
My hope is that skimboarding will eventually reach a level where there is a well organized and world recognized tour with large sponsorship fuel and live webcasts for every event.
Bryan Soderlind @thegoldenbear
Andre Magarao @andre_magarao
Fabiana Badie @lagunasocal