Bodyboarding is a water sport where a surfer rides a wave on a bodyboard. Unlike a surfboard, bodyboards are compact in length, approximately 3 feet long, and have an extended width. Bodyboarders ride this rectangular shape board by surfing a wave towards the shoreline, in a prone position.
Bodyboarding is also referred to as Boogie Boarding due to the invention of the “Boogie Board” by Tim Morey. Morey called his invention a Boogie Board based on his love for music.For many, bodyboarding is arguably the ultimate sport, providing unmatched exhilaration, challenges and sensations. So, are you asking yourself, “Does a ‘chin rider’ on a ‘boogie board’ get ‘kegged’ a lot?” Yes, bodyboarders have their own language, so let’s translate: How hard is Bodyboarding?
The great part about this sport is that no matter your skill level or abilities, you are pretty much guaranteed to catch a wave and have a blast doing so. The bodyboard is ridden lying down, although some advanced boarders will ride it in a half-standing position.
For beginners, bodyboarding is the easiest way to get out and enjoy the thrill of riding a wave. At the advanced levels, boarders’ have an exceptional degree of skills and are able to function at an elevated fitness level.
Whether you’re a novice or skilled boarder the sensation created by being so close to the water and being able to feel the power of a wave is amazing. Be prepared, you will get “kegged” or dumped, especially in the beginning, probably more times than you catch a wave. However, when you do catch that first wave you will be hooked!
Bodyboarding vs. Surfing
Bodyboarding can initially be an easier alternative to surfing. Beginners can bodyboard in shallower water, in relatively safer conditions, using the white water that follows a breaking wave. However, at more advanced levels bodyboarding involves a higher degree of tricks/stunts and is arguably more difficult to master.
For those considering bodyboarding for the first time the following are some reasons you may want to go the direction of bodyboarding:
- Easier at the beginner level and not as physically demanding.
- Your first time out you will catch a wave.
- All ages, skill levels and body types can bodyboard.
- Bodyboarding is relatively safer than surfing.
- The board is lighter, requiring less energy while you’re in the water riding and when you’re out carrying your equipment.
- Even beginners are able to quickly excel at the sport.
- Less financial invest to get started.
- Easier to transport and travel with a bodyboard.
- Experiencing the speed and excitement of riding a wave and then launching into the air when you perform tricks can be addicting.
Understanding the Challenges
Whether you are surfing or riding a bodyboard, knowing your environment and being smart about the conditions is essential. Riding the big waves can be a blast for experienced and properly equipped boarders, however the larger the waves the more inherent the danger.
A boarder should only ride waves within the individual’s abilities and skill level. Being aware of your environment, such as, shallow areas, rocks or other hazards is paramount. Additionally, you should check with local surf shops, lifeguards or weather experts regarding the forecasted conditions, especially the presence of riptides.
There are no age, skill or experience restrictions to be able to bodyboard. With this said, anyone venturing out should be in good physical condition and be a competent swimmer. Most individuals can manage paddling on their board. However, if and probably more accurately when you lose your board, you will need to be skilled and confident enough to swim unaided.
To assist both in swimming, as well as to gain speed and control on your board, bodyboarders often wear swimfins. When you become separated from your board, the fins make swimming to your board or a shallow area easier.
For beginners, the best option is to start out in shallow areas where the broken waves cause a foaming on the water. This white water area will provide enough power for you to experience catching a wave and get used to riding your board. Most of these areas are shallow enough for you to be able to stand up and will save energy as you practice learning to bodyboard.
The more advanced the bodyboarding tricks the more practice you will need to dedicate to mastering the skills. As with any water sport involving the power of the ocean’s waves, knowledge of your environment, surf conditions and the requisite skills are essential.
Tips & Tricks
The simplest way to get started is to find someone who already knows how to bodyboard and enlist their help. The following considerations are offered to increase the ease and level of success you have bodyboarding:
Before Entering the Water
- Do not bodyboard alone.
- Consult local experts, such as a lifeguard on surf conditions.
- Be aware and respectful, keeping an eye out for others in the water and on the beach.
- If you have problems or run into difficulty, do not panic. Beginners should bodyboard where lifeguards are on duty.
- If you need help, wave an arm overhead and yell for assistance.
- Avoid bodyboarding near rocky areas.
- Bodyboard on waves that are appropriate for your skill level.
- Obey posted signs and warnings.
- Consult and follow directives associated with the beach warning flags.
Beginners will typically start with an entry-level board. These boards will allow you to float and give you an enjoyable ride, however they shouldn’t be used for more extreme wave riding. You should consult with a surf shop or knowledgeable individual to determine the appropriate board for your skill level and body type (height & weight).
If your board does not come with one, you will want to purchase a leash to secure to either your wrist or bicep. The leash secures your board to your body, ensuring it stays in close proximity and makes it easier to retrieve, avoiding a long swim back to the beach.
If you will be bodyboarding in cooler waters, you will want to consider a wetsuit. You may also want to wear a rashguard shirt/vest to protect your skin from irritations, add buoyancy and provide sun protection.
The last piece of equipment to consider, although not required, are swim fins, which increases your swimming and paddling speed and fin socks, to avoid skin irritation or discomfort.
As a wave approaches while you are walking out, you should stand sideways making yourself small, lean into the wave, and jump over it. Take a wide stance and lean into the wave to lessen the force when the wave impacts you. Getting through the breaking waves with the least amount of effort will conserve your energy for riding the waves.
Once you are past the breaking waves you can begin paddling. When paddling out, you can use both your legs and arms but as you will want to conserve your energy for when you catch that wave, alternating from legs and arms may be advised.
When paddling with your arms you will need to maintain your balance. You should lie on your board with your nose just shy of the top of your board. Keep your legs out of the water to minimize drag. Arching your back will help keep your board flat in the water. Cup your hands, extend your arm out in front of the board and alternate your strokes similar to a front crawl.
When you are using your legs, extend your hips over the tail end of the board with your hands holding the front of the board, keeping it flat in the water. You should kick with your whole leg, from the hip.
Choose the Right Wave & Location
As a beginner, safety should be your top priority. Trying to out-perform others or attempting to impress observers on the beach, is likely to result in your failure and embarrassment. Resist any urge to go to big, to fast, choosing instead to learn the waves and surf conditions that best suit your skill level.
Finding a location and the conditions that best suit your abilities and skills will provide you with the most intense and enjoyable experience. Ideally, beginners want to bodyboard where lifeguards are present. Minimizing or avoiding completely areas with rocks and/or reef bottoms is advised. Sand-bottom beaches are ideal. Checking with the weather services for the latest conditions, any warnings and the waves/surf height reports should be done each time you go bodyboarding.
There are many ways you can enjoy the ocean’s waves. If bodyboarding interests you, it will provide you with the easiest and quickest way to get out and ride a wave. At the same time, it can be the ultimate wave riding sport.
Bodyboarding is a lifetime sport, so taking your time and making the effort to do it the right way only enhance the enjoyment you’ll experience out there riding waves. Give bodyboarding a try and let us know in the comments section how it goes.
Megan Jones leads the editorial staff of Seaside Planet. They are a multidisciplinary team of outdoor adventurers, water sports lovers, and passionate beach goers. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.