Personality Profile Examples
Sprinting toward the surf, Shonna Cobb flings a fiberglass board onto the wet sand. With a springy assurance, she leaps atop the narrow 4-foot-long board and glides into an approaching wave.
In the seconds that follow, she will have to calculate the wave's advance and the body movements required to sustain enough speed and balance to skim over its 4-foot face and into the air.
There is no soft landing. She completes the acrobatic trick, then falls into the receding shallow water at Balboa Beach, absorbing the impact with a tuck-and-roll motion.
"There's a reason why there aren't many women skimboarders," she says with a laugh. "It hurts!"
Cobb, 26, of Long Beach, is a full-time veterinary dental assistant and former dancer. She also is among the most accomplished amateur female skimboarders in the world -- and has the scrapes and scars on her shins and feet to prove it.
This year, Cobb and at least half a dozen other women skimmers go pro.
The rough-and-tumble sport was born in Laguna Beach more than half a century ago. Yet skimboarding is still considered the poor cousin of surfing, which provides longer rides on enormous swells. Skimming also commands a far smaller market.
"There's a ton of women surfers in the world today, but not many women -- or men -- who skimboard," said Butch McIntosh, editor and publisher of 10-year-old Skim magazine. "I believe that is because it is a brutal, demanding sport that beats you down into the sand."
Typically, the board hydroplanes across shallow water and, seconds later, smacks into a wave at just the right angle to glide across its surface. The goal is to turn around and surf back to shore.
Some maneuvers catapult the rider more than 12 feet into the air. The thrills last for 10 to 15 seconds.
Cobb, who has been skimming since she was 11, calls it "my meditation."
"The moment I start running toward a wave, I feel totally alive and in a zone of meditation and endorphin releases," she said, preparing to race toward an incoming swell on a recent weekday morning. "But if you hit the wave at a wrong angle, it's tragic. You're toast. I've cracked my head open a few times."
Over the last 14 years, Cobb has won all but one of the nine amateur events she entered. "In that case, I had stepped on a rock and punctured my foot," she recalled. "So I ran into a nearby animal hospital and had them stop the bleeding and close the wound with glue. Then I went back and took second place."
Cobb is the top contender heading into the inaugural Victoria Skimboards Professional World Championship of female skimboarding, to be held June 19-20 in Laguna Beach. She leads a field of half a dozen or so contestants.
"If the waves are big and scary, I can take them," Cobb said. "I'm not afraid to fall."
Winning the first professional women's world championship requires strong legs, abs of steel and a healthy dose of fear management. It will also call for putting up with the mocking from some male skimboarders who refuse to take their female counterparts seriously.
Men have dominated skimboarding championships for nearly a quarter-century.
"Skimboarding was born in Laguna Beach, for goodness' sake," said Englund, an avid surfer, sipping red wine in the city's Surf and Sand Hotel. "Now, finally, female skimming is going professional. The town should be blowing its trumpet about that."
Cobb, who has always been fiercely competitive, agreed.
In preparation for the big event in June, she has hired a physical trainer and practices as often as possible, preferably at high tide on the sloping shorelines of Laguna Beach, Seal Beach and the Balboa Peninsula.
Cobb grew up in Laguna Canyon. As a kid, she skateboarded with neighbor boys. But she also modeled children's clothes. At 8, she landed a role in the 1992 movie "CIA: Code Name: Alexa." She portrays a young hostage rescued by a detective played by O.J. Simpson.
In Little League she was a pitcher with a 60-mph fastball, and one of the first girls chosen an all-star. In her freshman year at Laguna Beach High School, she was varsity goalie on the girls' soccer team. Now she is dedicated to two pastimes: working as a veterinary dental technician and skimming.
"In a perfect universe, I'll win the championship and tour the world, skimming against chicks who are just as good or better than me," Cobb said. "Even if I don't win, I'll be skimboarding the rest of my life."
Personality Profile Example
Sheriff Keith Gall is known as the "singing sheriff" for his a cappella performances at weddings and funerals.
But thanks to a judge, the gun-toting tenor now spends more time with a grunting, testy audience of about 6,000 bison that outnumber people in his South Dakota county.
"I'm known as everything related to buffalo now," joked Gall, 42, who was elected sheriff two decades ago. "It's all part of the job, but this is a first."
His rural Corson County is home to most of a sprawling ranch owned by a Florida real estate tycoon whose herd was ordered into the sheriff's care after more than a dozen bison were found dead. Many more were malnourished and others were hit by vehicles when they escaped in search of food.
Gall has worn several hats in his life - radio station disc jockey, band singer, wedding crooner - and he grew up on a cattle ranch, but he never expected law enforcement would put him back in a pair of manure-covered boots.
Yet now he spends up to 12 hours a day at the 35,000-acre ranch, often cruising desolate roads to check on bison roaming the windswept, snow-covered grasslands.
The rolling terrain is interrupted only by a barbed-wire fence, trails in the snow left by buffalo and hay-hauling tractors, and shin-high piles of evidence that the iconic Wild West animals - many of which were underweight and lethargic when Gall took over - are eating well.
"They're getting some bellies on them now," Gall said as he eyed several hundred of the herd from his patrol car on a recent morning. "The animals are looking better and are more active, moving around more than they were before."
The county has spent more than $50,000 providing feed and plowing roads at the ranch, which straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border.
Authorities are billing its owner, Maurice Wilder - who has a history of legal and neighbor problems in both states - though no charges have been filed since a judge impounded the animals Feb. 1. Wilder didn't return several messages from the Associated Press. The Associated Press wasn't permitted on his ranch.
"It's not the best of deals for our tax dollars," said Jerry Peterson, who owns the Prairie Dog Cafe in McLaughlin, a town where the bulk of the herd has migrated about 10 miles south of the North Dakota border.
Peterson said locals worry that property taxes could increase if the county is stuck paying for the bison's care. They're also tired of dealing with Wilder, who has owned the ranch for about 17 years.
He has been investigated for animal abuse and neglect, and residents have complained about his bison running loose, trampling fences and feasting on neighbors' hay. Charges of animal neglect and livestock at large were dropped in North Dakota two years ago after Wilder's company paid eight nearby ranchers more than $60,000 for damage.
"This isn't new news here," Peterson said during a lull before the lunchtime crowd. "We don't need the bad publicity of a clown like that doing this."
South Dakota state veterinarian Dustin Odekoven said the animals are "all getting adequate care at this time" and are being closely monitored.