Bodyboarding is a popular water sport that can be easily learned by people of all ages. It’s a type of sport in which the surfer rides on a body board on the face, crest and curl of a wave, which carries the surfer towards the shore. It’s also known as “boogie boarding,” due to the invention of the boogie board by Tom Morey in 1971.
You can learn how to bodyboard no matter how young or old you are. Kids and adults, as well as the elderly, can have fun together as a family through bodyboarding at the beach. This sport has a fast learning curve, but it will take more time to learn tricks and master them. Here are some tips for bodyboarding at the beach:
1. Learn how to swim
If you want to start bodyboarding, you must know how to swim. Make sure you can travel by swimming in suitable distances and can hold your breath for at least 20-30 seconds underwater. There will be instances when waves can be rough and unpredictable, so beginners must also be in good physical shape to withstand the surf elements during training.
If you are not confident enough with your swimming skills, start first by playing around in the white water (the shallow area where broken waves form foaming water). This will help you get used to the concept of catching a wave. Also, most white water areas are reachable by feet so you can stand on the sea floor. This will help you lift your bodyboard easier above the waves until you learn how to swim on deeper waters unaided.
2. Get the proper equipment
All your gear for body boarding – such as bodyboard, fins and wetsuit – must be comfortable and appropriate for your body size. That means, a bodyboard suitable for adults does not necessarily mean it can be friendly for kids. Here are some tips for choosing your equipment:
- Body board
The most important thing to consider when choosing a body board is its size. Make sure that you’re getting a bodyboard that is of proportionate size to your body. Getting a board that is too small for you can cause you to hit the tail of your board as you paddle, which can slow you down. Getting a board that is too long, on the other hand, can make it difficult for you to maneuver. Kids can go for paddleboards of around 33-39 inches, while adults can opt for those with length of 37-45 inches.
Another factor to consider when choosing a body board is the type of tail. Bodyboards have different styles for tails, as each one is more suitable for doing a specific bodyboarding job. The two styles of tails prevalent in bodyboards are crescent tails and bat tails. Crescent tails are the most common type of tail in the market, as it allows better control on breaking wave as it forms a wide “U” shape on the rear end of the bodyboard. This is ideal for bodyboarders who like to ride lying down the board or on their knees. Meanwhile, bat tails are meant to be used on smaller waves, and are also ideal for heavier riders to keep them afloat. It is ideal for bodyboarders who like to travel the waters at fast speeds.
Fins enhance your bodyboarding experience, helping you glide through the waves with less effort like the seals and dolphins. These are used to help you paddle and give your board more bite through the wave. Fins will be used on more complex bodyboarding, so when you’re starting out, you only need to paddle using your arms and feet only.
Invest in a good bodyboarding leash if your board doesn’t come with one. The ocean is unpredictable, and sometimes harsh things happen, and you can’t control your own board. With a wrist leash, you will always have your board close to you and you’ll never lose sight of it even if the waves drag you out.
- Bodyboard wax
Wax your bodyboard to get a good grip between your chest and the bodyboard. It is also applied so that your arms and body won’t slip off the board while it’s wet.
3. Check the waters
Bodyboarding requires you to have physical strength, stamina, balancing skills and background knowledge about sea safety, waves, rips, tides and currents. Before trying out for bodyboarding at the sea, check out the conditions of the surf if it’s safe. Don’t get in if you are not sure whether you can handle the conditions. It’s best to sign up for a short training, as spending some hours in the water with an instructor can give you a good idea of the basics and safety regarding the waters.
Observe the waters first. Is there a high tide or low tide, or is there any exposed reef or rock? How far out are the breakers (breaking waves), and what are the waves doing when they are closing out (are they going right or left, etc.)? Are there any bodyboarders or surfers around? To really get the hang of the movement of the waves, observe the water for 10 minutes while doing your warm-up stretches.
4. Start paddling
Once the water is a bit calm and safe to travel, learn how to paddle. Lie down with your tummy on the body board while staying in the area where the water reaches your waist. Your nose must be a few inches away from the top of the board and your back must be slightly arched to keep the board flat in the water. Bring your legs out to the water, and stretch your arm out. Cup your hands to catch the water to paddle using your arms.
To paddle using your legs, place your hips over the tail of the board, with your hands holding the nose of the board to keep it flat in the water. Arch your back slightly so your upper chest is not resting on the board. Kick under the water with your whole legs.
You can use both your arms and legs to paddle, but it’s best to alternate using your arms and legs to preserve your energy. Paddling all your limbs at the same time can help you achieve short bursts of speed, but it’s best to do it when you’re catching a wave.
- Duck diving
One paddling technique that you should master is duck diving. This will help you and your board get underneath the turbulence of a breaker to avoid being dunked or caught by the approaching waves. To duck dive, hold on tightly to each end of the front side of your board with your hands as the white water approaches. About a meter from the white water or wave, push the nose of the board under the water. To get deeper, use one knee to push the board underneath the turbulence. Once you’re underneath the water, push forward in a scoop. After the wave has passed, pull the nose of the board towards the surface again.
5. Catch a wave
The real fun starts when you catch your first wave. This will take some time to master, but the trick is to pick the right wave and make yourself ready in the proper position for take-off. Paddle toward the wave, then turn the board around to face the shore and start paddling as hard as you can. As you start to feel the wave propelling you towards the shore, stop paddling and apply your weight to the front of the board. Steer the board using your arms and weight.
As a beginner, it’s best to start with riding the wave toward the shore. The thrill of riding in your first full waves will get you used to the feel of the waves.