Wootton field hockey standout Alex Yokley doubles as skimboarding champion

October 30, 2013

When she’s not scoring goals for Wootton’s field hockey team, Alex Yokley can be found chasing waves on her skimboard. (Photo by John Yokley)

Senior midfielder Alex Yokley is a “visionary” on the field, in the words of Coach Kearney Blandamer. She’s got an understanding of how plays are going to develop two or three passes before. Her ability to see these kinds of things and communicate them to her teammates has helped the Wootton field hockey — which faces Bethesda-Chevy Chase in Wednesday’s Maryland 4A South region final — outscore opponents 82-3 in an undefeated regular season.

In the water, however, Yokley is best described as a national champion.

Yokley, 16, is a nationally-ranked skimboarder and has been riding waves since she was 10.

Skimboarding is similar to surfing, but instead of paddling, you run out and drop the board and get on to ride the waves out and then back in, Yokley explains.

Before she returned to Rockville to contribute 10 goals and 14 assists en route to the Maryland 4A South region final, the University of California-Berkeley recruit spent the summer in Dewey, Del., perfecting her “frontside big spin.”

Yokley begins the trick facing the ocean and jumps up to rotate the board 360 degrees at the same time her body turns 180 degrees. You’ve got to jump and spin your board while staying with it, she said.

This trick and her personal favorite — the backside rap — earned Yokley third place in the women’s division in the 32nd Annual Zap Amateur World Championships this August. It was the highest she’s placed in a competition of that level.

She had an opportunity to earn her spot among the top skimboarders in the world nearly two years prior, but Yokley chose to skip the East Coast championship to vie for a spot on Wootton’s varsity squad as a sophomore.

“Her dad later came to me and told me that Alex almost missed the first day of tryouts because she had the opportunity to compete in this national skimboarding championship,” Blandamer recalls. “But she skipped it because she knew there was a new coach and this really matters to her. She’s really dedicated.”

Yokley’s a self-described beach girl who spends her summers as a counselor at Alley Oop skimboarding camp and learning tricks from coworkers and her older brother, who also competes nationally. In a contest, Yokley is placed in a heat of three or four competitors and each wave she rides is ranked from one to 10. The top five waves for each participant are counted and the first and second place skimboarders advance to the next level. She’s usually on the younger end of competitors for her age group.

“They score a lot on style,” Yokley said. “If you fall you obviously get a lower score, and a cool technical trick will give you a higher score.”

Yokley also had to choose a field hockey National Futures Championship in June over a skimboarding competition in New Jersey.

“I usually prioritize field hockey over skimboarding, but because it’s a different season it works out pretty well,” she said.  “But with field hockey, it’s a team sport so I don’t really get that skimboarding and I like how I can work with my whole team and when we win, we all win together. With skimboarding, I like being on the beach and the competitions are fun.”

Her other college choices came down to landlocked Georgetown, Vermont and American, and while she didn’t choose to attend school in Northern California based on the location alone, the proximity to the ocean didn’t hurt Berkeley’s case.

“I wouldn’t be crushed if I couldn’t skimboard out there,” Yokley said. “But it’s definitely something I would be happy to do.”

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Brandon Parker · October 30, 2013