Bodyboarding originated from ancient Polynesians surfing on Alaia boards before the 20th century began. Over the years, it evolved into the water sport you know today, in which you surf on a short, finless board.
Below we will cover how to bodyboard to start surfing on a boogie board with ease.
Before You Begin
When learning how to bodyboard, you need to have a solid background in the water to ensure your safety. This will also help you to quickly develop your skills and improve in them.
1. Practice Swimming
One cannot safely ride a bodyboard without becoming a solid swimmer first.
Many swimming techniques correlate to how you propel your board, and you will need to be able to swim without support if you wipe out or lose your board in the water.
Swimming in the ocean proves more challenging than a pool due to currents, so try to practice in various sea conditions to build strength, endurance, and coordination in the water.
Keep in mind that not all sea conditions are safe, so make sure to check the water forecast. Furthermore, we advise swimming only with a lifeguard present in case something goes wrong.
You can make the process fun by bringing a friend along. While you do not need a swim instructor to become a decent enough swimmer, it helps to practice with someone.
2. Choose the Right Equipment
The perfect bodyboard size depends on your height and weight. As a rule of thumb, you can choose a bodyboard that hits your belly button in height when upright on flat ground. Also, it should reach from your chin to your knees when held out in front of you.
If you cannot purchase one in person, you can follow a size chart to get the best one for your body type.
It also helps to invest in a leash. The leash attaches to your upper arm and enables you to keep track of your board when you wipe out. The strap should feel snug enough not to fall off, but not too tight that it becomes uncomfortable.
If you live in a colder climate or want to bodyboard year-round, consider getting a wetsuit or rash guard. This outfit will keep you warm and protect you from getting pneumonia.
We also recommend getting fins if you plan on advancing your technique and catching more waves. Make sure to choose the correct size for your feet. Fins with tethers will stay on your ankles firmly, and getting a pair of fin socks can add extra warmth and comfort to your bodyboarding outfit.
Once you have prepared, you can take your bodyboard to the water and practice the water sport.
3. Rehearse Your Positioning on Land
Before entering the water, it helps to practice the correct positioning on dry land. You begin by placing your board on the sand and lying on top of it. Your front hand goes on the front corner (nose) of the board, while your back hand grabs the rail in line with your hips. This pose prevents nosediving and helps you control your speed and direction.
The tail, or back end, should rest under your lower stomach. You can control the weight distribution by resting your elbow on the board, arching your back, and looking forward. This pose makes the bodyboard plane at full speed.
To slow down, you slide your body back while keeping your hands in their original position. Your legs will create drag in the water, decelerating the bodyboard. You can accelerate by pulling yourself forward.
Once you feel comfortable in this position, you can practice paddling. Your hands should scoop water towards you, like when you swim the freestyle stroke. Kicking your feet underwater helps with propulsion and speed while traveling. You typically swim with your hands out to the wave and then place it back on your board to surf to shore.
4. Paddling Out
Begin by walking into the water while carrying your board. You can stop when the water is about knee-deep and stay on the lookout for white water waves.
Just past knee-deep water, you can put down your board and get on it in the positioning you practiced on land. Then, you head toward the waves by paddling with your hands and kicking your feet. Try to keep the board’s nose 1-2 inches above the surface.
5. Find the Perfect Wave
Beginners should aim for smaller, slower waves until they become more comfortable with the sport. Try to choose waves heading straight to the beach rather than at an angle.
Once you have found the perfect wave, you turn to face the beach and start kicking your feet in the shore’s direction. This point is where the fins become handy. Eventually, the wave’s current will move you forward before it breaks.
If you find yourself struggling to catch a wave, look for the spot where most break. Paddle about five to ten feet back from that area to wait.
You may want to brush up on the anatomy of a wave to earn a better understanding of how to traverse them.
- Crest – the highest point of a wave.
- Trough – the lowest point of a wave.
- Face – the front of a wave as it breaks.
- Height – the distance between the crest and trough.
- Wavelength – the distance between two crests or two troughs.
- Period – time length between two crests.
- Lip – the part of the wave that breaks and moves from top to bottom.
- Whitewater – the part of the wave that breaks.
- Shoulder – the fragment of the wave outside the broken segment.
- Flats – the water in front of the breaking wave.
- Tube – the hole between the lip and wall of the wave.
6. Ride the Wave
When the wave is about five feet behind you, you should start kicking as fast as possible while paddling with one hand. While you can swim with both hands, one hand lets you control your board. You catch the wave once it starts moving you forward.
If your wave is a little further left than you, you can steer your board by holding the nose with your left hand and paddling with your right. Switch your hands’ orientations to change the direction.
As the wave gets closer, you can push down your board’s nose or lean forward a little to move faster and get a firmer hold of the wave. If you find the wave pushing you too quickly, you can decelerate by lifting the nose a couple of inches.
Make sure to kick your feet as you travel down the wave’s face.
Leaning your hips to the right and placing your right elbow on the upper right corner of the board while holding the upper left corner with your left hand can also steer you right. This method works better once traveling down the wave.
As the wave propels you, try to ride it until you reach the shallow ocean. Then, you can start over again to catch another wave. The goal of riding the tide is to hit the point where your board travels flat and fast on the surface. This “trim” takes practice and coordination to achieve.
Refine Your Skills
Once you have mastered the basics of bodyboarding, you can learn some additional skills to improve your experience.
7. Learn Stalling
If you need to stop at any point during bodyboarding, you will want to learn how to stall. The easiest way to stall is by dragging your legs in the water to slow down.
Another way to stall starts with moving your hips inside the board’s rail. Then, you can pull up the nose while pushing down the tail with your hips until the board has a downward angle of 30 to 45 degrees. Continue holding this position until you have sufficiently slowed down.
Once you have finished stalling, you can slide up on the board to speed a little, set your rail, and move forward.
8. Learn the Duck Dive
Another trick you can learn is the duck dive, which helps you travel under a breaking wave that you do not want to ride.
You begin by paddling toward the wave to increase your speed. When it is about three to six feet away, slide forward and grab the rails about ten inches from the nose.
Start pushing the nose underwater by arching your back and pressing with your hands. Try to go as deep as possible, pulling your body close to the board.
Once the wave has passed, move your weight to your knees, lift the nose, and head up until you breach the surface.
If you plan to learn how to bodyboard, the above tips can significantly improve your skills before entering the water. By getting the right equipment, mastering your positioning, and catching the wave, you can get on your way to becoming a talented surfer.
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