It used to be that, when lying on the beach on a hot summer day, your biggest worry was being bonked by an errant Frisbee. Now you should keep an eye out for sand skiers. There aren't many of them, but they're there, industriously slogging away.
Although even in California—where the sport started, of course—sand skiing will probably never take the place of roller skating in Venice, skim boarding at Laguna Beach, or volleyball at Malibu, it may soon find its way into the repertoires of beach bums who are perpetually looking for brand-new ways to have fun-fun-fun. All it takes is ordinary cross-country ski gear—wooden skis without wax or skis with plastic, no-wax bottoms, and lots of muscle.
Actually, sand skiing is not a whole lot of fun-fun-fun; it's extremely grueling and seems meant mostly for people who are so deep into wintertime cross-country skiing that they can't bear the thought of an endless, skiless summer. Because sand is nowhere near as slippy-slidey as snow, forward progress requires great effort. The ski techniques used by the desperate hot-weather fanatics on sand look roughly like snowshoeing, and their movements resemble those one might make wading in waist-deep water—short, choppy and laborious.
"I'd suggest this for someone who doesn't want to be off skis in the spring, summer and fall," says Wayne Northrup, the owner of Adventure Ski and Sporting Goods, Inc. in Brooklyn, who confines his sand skiing to Coney Island. "Despite no glide, sand skiing can be used to train for cross-country skiing. And it's great for toning your arms, stomach and legs. I think it would be a perfect training diversion for long-distance runners. The first time I did it, I was exhausted after three blocks."
Sand skiing competitions have been held on both coasts, mostly in California, and Northrup, who has almost single-handedly taken on the sport's cause in the East, plans to sponsor races at Coney Island. The beginners' trail is right in front of Nathan's Famous.