Skin cancer screening programs may attract the "worried well," while those at greatest risk for skin cancer are less likely to attend. Our purpose was to compare the results of skin cancer screening examinations between persons participating in the 1992 American Academy of Dermatology-sponsored free skin cancer screening and surfers participating in a free beachfront skin cancer screening held in conjunction with a regional surfing competition. The hypothesis was that screening an at-risk population (ie, surfers) would be more productive in terms of incidence of clinically diagnosed malignant skin lesions. Surfers were significantly younger and predominantly male. The incidence of basal cell carcinoma was significantly greater in the surfing population than in the self-selected population with similar ages. This study indicates that directed skin cancer screening of an at-risk population was more productive in finding skin cancer than screening of a self-selected population. Future efforts to identify individuals with skin cancer should be broadened to include high-risk populations such as daytime outdoor athletes and high-risk occupational groups, since they may not be reached by current screening efforts.