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Bodyboarding - a fun sport for beginning surfers

by Ina Hinklemann, staff writer


It is a breezy, sunny day, and the surf is good. You are out in the ocean lying on your bodyboard. A wave is approaching, and you get ready to catch it. You paddle hard towards the shore; the wave is strong. It gets under you and lifts you up. It carries you away fast – faster than you can paddle, and with great speed you ride it in. As you get closer to the shore, the wave gets slower and millions of little bubbles rise to the surface. A salty mist hangs in the air, and adrenalin rushes through your body.

It is the thrill and the feeling of joy that makes people enjoy bodyboarding. Some people say one can’t spend time or live in Hawai‘i without having tried surfing at least once. While it takes time and effort to learn the art of surfing on a surfboard, bodyboarding allows beginners to enjoy the sport immediately without having to take lessons.

A bodyboard, in surfing slang also known as a sponge, is a small, rectangular piece of foam and usually between 39 and 42 inches long. Most bodyboarders ride the wave lying down, called prone, but it can also be ridden standing up.

The board’s core is made from polypropylene, dow, or arcel, which are all types of plastic. Each one of them gives the board a different amount of flexibility. The core is glued to a thick plastic bottom, also known as the slick. The top of the board is made from softer plastic to give the rider a firm grip.

One of the advantages of bodyboards is that they are smaller and lighter than surfboards, so the risk of injury by the board is greatly reduced. Furthermore, bodyboards fit easily into a car and are also allowed on the bus. A backpack-style cover for the board makes walking and bikeriding convenient. Bodyboards are also affordable. A medium-priced board for beginners costs between $20-80. They are available in surf shops and in some supermarkets and drugstores.

Stand-up surfing began in the early 20th century. Duke Kahanamoku, the father of surfing, is credited with the rebirth of surfing in Hawai‘i after it had been banned by the missionaries, who thought surfing to be “hedonistic acts and a waste of time,” writes Les Drent on But long before stand-up surfing began, the Polynesians already rode the waves in the prone position on boards they called “Paipos,” which were usually less than four feet in length, according to Jason Borte on

The modern bodyboard, as we know it today, was invented by Tom Morey from California in 1971 while he was on the island of Hawai‘i. Morey trademarked the name Morey Boogie in 1973. According to Borte, Morey was already producing 80,000 Boogie Boards per year in 1977.

Bodyboarding doesn’t require a lot of equipment. All one needs is a board and fins. The size of the board isn’t crucial. However, smaller boards fit smaller people best and vice versa. It is optimal if the board stands up to the belly button.

The fins should have an open heel, because closed heel fins tend to get pulled off in stronger waves. For people who easily get blisters on their feet, neoprene foot socks are available.

It is also good to have a wrist leash attached to the board so that it doesn’t get lost in the water. Some women also find it more convenient to wear a one-piece swimsuit or a surf top because a bikini top can slip away.

The basic technique of bodyboarding is easy. While paddling out, head and chest shouldn’t touch the board. The hips should touch the back edge of the board. It is most efficient to keep the fins underwater when kicking. When catching a wave, the elbows should be kept on the board and not drag in the water.

Beginners often find it exhausting to paddle out when the waves are big. They get carried back when the waves wash over them. An effective method of avoiding the thrust of the waves is called duckdiving, which means diving under the wave. It is best done when the whitewash of the wave is about six feet away. To execute this method, one has to grab the board between the nose and the midpoint and push all the upper-body weight onto the hands until the nose of the board sinks. Then one has to use one knee to push the tail of the board under the water. Body and board should be as much under the water as possible.

These are very basic techniques for beginners. Although some consider bodyboarding much easier than surfing, it takes about the same time to become proficient in this sport. According to, “body-boarding is far more trick oriented than surfing, and there are hundreds of variations of maneuvers possible.” For experts, it is therefore boring to ride a wave in a straight line.

Bodyboarding is not only fun, it is also a great exercise. It strengthens the arms and legs and also works the hips and stomach. However, one shouldn’t go between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., as the sun is most intense during that time, and it is easy to get sunburned. Also, for beginners, it is best to avoid practicing too close to surfers, as they might run you over. Be sure you are familiar with some basic surfing rules. Dropping in on a wave while another surfer is surfing, for example, can be dangerous, because you might collide with each other. Generally, the surfer who is nearest the breaking part or peak of a wave has the right of way.

Waikiki is a good spot for beginners, although it can be quite crowded on some days. Less crowded is the beach called Kaiser’s, for example, which is off the Waikiki lagoon and the Ala Wai Harbor.

Beginners should also pay attention to the tides. During low tide, bodyboarding can be dangerous because the reef is closer to the surface and its sharp rocks can cut careless bodyboarders to pieces. If one gets cut, no matter how small, the first thing to do is get out of the water before you attract sharks. Then disinfect the wound because the coral reef is a living animal andbacteria or coral cells can easily cause an infection. One bodyboarder surfing Makaha recently had just a minor cut in his foot. It looked harmless, so he didn’t disinfect it. A week later, his foot was so swollen, a doctor had to reopen the cut to clean it out and reduce the swelling.

If you are a cautious beginner, bodyboarding is a fun sport that can be enjoyed every day when the surf is good. It’s a great workout, clears the mind of stressful thoughts, and can be enjoyed by anyone who loves to be in the water.



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