As a skimboarder, I have recently visited Manasota Beach, a small beach located in Englewood, Florida.
The way I, and most visitors, arrive at this spot is via Manasota Beach Road, which ends with a small drawbridge spanning the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).
The main structure of the road features well-maintained restrooms, showers, and vending machines.
When you enter the beach, you follow a sidewalk with large and small shark teeth set into the concrete that leads you to a ramped boardwalk past a lifeguard shack in the center of the beach.
The beach is long and wide with thick sand that doesn't blow in the wind as easily as the sugar sand from the beaches to the north.
The Riding Conditions
This heavy sand slides really nicely and works great as wind weight.
Aqua blue water fading out into deep tones of green and blue line the sand making the backwash of crashing swell appear extra bright white.
The beach transitions nicely to the water, allowing for effortless sand or water drops to skim.
The crescent shape of the beach provides subtle conditional changes giving a variety to the swell.
The conditions on our visit were as follows:
Water Quality: medium/low red tide present in low ppm;
Weather: Southwest Florida in its summer glory with hot 87-91 °F (30-32 °C), sunny, and wind out of the northwest;
Swell: mostly mid-to-small swell sets spaced with two-to-three green waves sized 1-2.5 feet;
The Skim, The Scene, and The Community
Low tide, high tide - it doesn't matter. There is always something to slide.
However, our favorite period was falling tide with wind out of the northwest. These conditions produce hip-to-chest-high waves and several small wedges across the beach.
Like most things in Nature, this isn't consistent, just our experience.
We spent three days skimming in preparation for our review of the beach.
We had two days of the falling tide with a northwest wind and one day of low-to-no wind with a northeastern swell.
The northeastern swell was a lot of fun and technical - timing is critical.
If you visit this spot and can't wait for "perfect conditions," it seems almost every evening after 5-6 pm, there is something to skim.
The scene at Manasota is ideal. There is a medium/large group of locals that skim here regularly.
I do admit I am biased as I am a local. However, it is an unspoken rule that all are welcome.
The more experienced skimmers are like big brothers to the less experienced, regardless of age.
If you are visiting, it is easy to find yourself unconsciously a part of the group, running defense from beach walkers or being cheered on when you slam a ride.
Red Tide and Sandbars
Let's be realistic. Every beach, swell, or scene has its downfalls, so for the real-life skim problems, we focused on the obvious.
First, one of the worse Florida leviathans, the "Florida Beach Walker." This amphibious humanoid has a direct wormhole to your line.
The beach walkers here are abundant, grazing for shells and switching to Karen mode upon the first site of skimmers.
To be fair, the beach is for everyone, and most skimmers would agree that a bit of etiquette would go a long way.
Worse than the beach walker is the current red tide appearing at low levels along the Manasota Key.
In some years, red tide is especially concerning due to the supercharger up in Tampa, known as Piney Point. Red tide is an algal bloom with a very high concentration of algae.
The species Florida's Gulf Coast is known for is called Karenia Brevis.
This algae phenomenon is very concerning because of its significant impact on land and marine life.
Unfortunately, in 2021, the bloom caused massive fish kills from Tampa Bay to South Sarasota.
Also, it has made many beaches uninhabitable with dead fish, terrible aroma, and the signature respiratory irritation.
The good news is that this too shall pass.
For more information on the red tide, I recommend starting with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website.
It has excellent links and palatable information.
Closing our focus on Manasota Beach, we often found the swell breaks late and close to shore due to shallow depths and sandbars.
It is a far contrast from the east coast of Florida. But we have to play our cards, right?
The waves aren't huge, but they do pose different challenges and are still a lot of fun.
Whether you are on vacation or just looking for a different shoreline, Manasota Key has something to offer you, with a variety of conditions that require little planning.
The technical skimboarding break and the incredible community are reasons enough to check it out.
Words by Mikey Sanderlin | Skimboarder