Bodyboarding is one of the most accessible and easy sports to get into. When I first started bodyboarding, it was a lot easier than surfing for a number of reasons. One huge benefit is that it takes a lot less time to come out of the water as opposed to when I’m surfing – this means less chance of getting cold or tired.
As well as being quicker, bodyboarding is also cheaper in terms of equipment and generally much safer as well. In this article I’m going discuss if bodyboarding is easier than surfing , and the ones which are easier.
I would say that bodyboarding is easier than surfing with respect tot the following:
The task of paddling out, (although some locations you will need to swim harder for bodyboards due to a lack of waves being generated by boats etc.) – At most breaks there is no need to worry about currents or rips – the waves will come to you. There is no need to worry about sharks as there are fewer around in comparison to surfing and most of these are not aggressive (shallow water), and/or smaller.
Learning the basics wont take long and with repetition, some people find it easier than surfing; I certainly did!! Once you learn your approach and the correct way to catch waves, that’s it. There is no need to learn manoeuvres or anything like that. Essentially you can spend a fair amount of time just practising catching waves which wastes very little energy (as opposed to surfing where there are plenty of other things to concentrate on).
Bodyboarding is easier as there is less that can go wrong. For example, if you fall off and hit your head on rocks, you will probably be ok (depending on your helmet). – Bodyboarding relies more on technique than surfing does. The other side of this argument perhaps could be that bodyboarding is easier as there’s not much to worry about with respect to technique.
Generally speaking, if you know how to surf, then you can pick up bodyboarding in no time at all.
Another good point is that most of the popular breaks have easy access and are not prone to heavy crowds (unlike many surfing beaches these days).
So why do I think Surfing is harder? – There are a number of reasons for this:
Firstly, if you don’t know how to surf then it’s going to be hard to get into any waves – especially on your own. If you don’t have someone helping you out and showing you the ropes, then it can take ages before you even get to catch one. For example, when I was starting out surfing in Uluwatu, Bali, it took about 2 hours before I realised what to do and another two to three hours of practice before I actually caught a wave!! – Once you get into some waves, there are plenty of other things you need to concentrate on (otherwise you’re going to end up in serious trouble). For example, unless you’re a very experienced bodyboarder , when catching waves and/or trying to paddle out, there is a good chance you will hit your head on the rocks. Another thing is that getting back into the lineup can take ages at some breaks – especially if it’s crowded (Monkey Mia for example). If you’re a novice it can be very disheartening.
Once you do get into some waves, the conditions may not be ideal – especially if you are on holiday and the time of year is off season. It’s more likely that the waves will be poor (slow/small) or inconsistent at best, rather than perfect.
Although there are less rips and no currents, you may still have to paddle hard for a long time on some bodyboarding breaks. This is especially true if the wave doesn’t break very often or in certain spots only. For example, at some locations it can take a few minutes of paddling before you realise that the waves are breaking further around the point.
What is bodyboarding ?
Bodyboarding is a non-competitive, wave riding sport that has grown to become more popular than surfing in some parts of the world. The flat face of the board makes it easy to catch waves anywhere and means bodyboarders can manoeuvre easily through barrels or sections. Bodyboarding has been around for over 40 years but only really became popular in the early 80’s.
Why bodyboarding might it be easier than surfing?
Bodyboarding is an accessible way of getting involved in the action. It takes a short period to learn and can provide enough thrills for most people. Bodyboarders are close to the water, which means you get drenched quite easily (like surfing). However, bodyboards have little or no foam so won’t keep you warm in cold water. Unfortunately, bodyboarding doesn’t teach you to surf except in the very limited sense that it will give you some practice catching waves and turning around.
What are the risks of bodyboarding?
As a beginner, the first thing you will do is flip over onto your back. This is an essential part of mastering bodyboarding and nothing to be ashamed of. However, this also means that during your time as a bodyboarder you will probably get hit on the head with your board (often), knocked out, cracked ribs, injured elbows, etc. All the above is considered standard and part of learning how to bodyboard properly. The rest of this article will talk about ways you can prevent these accidents from happening.
Because a board is always on your feet and waves hit your board at speed, it is very easy to accidentally lose a fin (the fin is often ripped off the board, while your foot is still in it). What you should do when this happens depends on where the fin is lost. If it’s at the front of your board, just go to shore and get someone to help you out; if you’re anything like me then you’ll find yourself walking backwards along a shoreline with a three metre fin staring you in the face.
If it’s at the back of your board then go to shore, put some wax on the inside of the rails and climb over the fin onto your board. If you have nothing to put on your board then make sure that when you get up (if you do) that you put your heels together to stop the board from spinning.
If you’re in a strong enough part of the surf then when this happens, try to bury your face into the water so that you have as much control over your body as possible and use what’s left of your fin(s) to push yourself back up. A secure footing is essential here.
If you lose your fin in the middle of a wave then it’s possible that your only option is to go down and hope for the best. Try to kick-out as hard as you can, which won’t be easy with no fins at your back. Once again, try and bury yourself into the water if possible but this will be more difficult if there are waves behind you. If your board is still holding you, then catch the next wave (if possible) and climb back on as quickly as possible.
Your feet will be in a ton of pain after losing a fin (mine always are). If at all possible then make sure that when this happens, you get someone to help you remove your board (i.e. have the person take hold of your ankle and foot). This is a pretty standard procedure for bodyboarders before getting back into waves.
If this doesn’t happen then try to swim to shore, taking care not to lose any more fins. If this happens while in open water then it’s time to start heading towards the shore by doing dolphin strokes. Despite what you may think, it’s actually quite easy to bodyboard in this position as long as you keep your stomach muscles relaxed and focussed on moving forward. Also make sure that when you are swimming back to the shore that your board is facing away from you (for some reason people always forget to do this).
Once you get in the shoreline then find a rock or something sharp (preferably sand) and dig out your feet because they will have swollen up quite a bit. Once again, after having lost my fins I usually have at least one other boarder there who can help me remove my foot from my board. Once my feet are free then I remove all the wax from inside my fins, put new wax in and generally re-tighten my straps.
How to get started with bodyboarding?
My first ever attempts at bodyboarding were successful and I was able to get around the surf without much difficulty. However, for some reason my first instinct was to try and go straight back to shore (in hindsight this wasn’t very smart).
What really surprised me on that day was how easy it was to get onto my board. I thought that it would be a lot harder, but as soon as I sat on the sand and pushed up while taking hold of an ankle strap, it was so much easier than surfing. The feeling of being launched into the air by the first wave is one of immense excitement and pleasure; this has to be one of bodyboarding’s big positives. Also it takes a lot less time to get back out of the water than surfing, which means less chance of getting cold or tired.
There is one essential rule for any aspiring bodyboarder and that is to realise that when you’re in the surf, your priority should be safety before anything else; this goes for bodyboarding beginners as well as experienced boarders.
Before you go out and attempt your first bodyboarding session, there are a few things to consider:
There is no rush with bodyboarding – this is something that I had to learn the hard way. There are plenty of opportunities in any given day to catch waves and if you try too hard then you will only end up in more trouble.
The best way to think about it is this: if you miss a good wave then so be it, there will be another one coming along soon; but if you try and get too greedy and go for a wave that’s too big, or go out of your depth, then it can have catastrophic consequences.
When bodyboarding on your own, try to stick to relatively shallow water (under 2 metres deep) and make sure that you have someone with you who knows how to bodyboard. When I first started out I didn’t know much about the sport, but every now and then would see other boarders do something impressive or funny (some were even in trouble), this made me want to get into the sport so much more.