Your Essential Guide to Bodyboarding
“Boogie boarding!?” I hear you say, “I can do that! Don’t you just grab an esky lid and catch some wash into shore?”
LOL kind of, yes… But there is so much more to the sport than that.
Lilly Pollard, five times Australasian Pro Tour champion and world number four bodyboarder tells us that 'What a lot of people don’t realise about boogie boarding or bodyboarding as the professionals call it, is that on an advanced level, you can ride amazing barrelling waves of all sizes, and learn how to do some pretty rad trick; 360’s, el rollos and even backflips and other aerial moves. I like to call bodyboarding the ‘gymnastics of the sea’. It’s so insane to watch the high-level athletes in action.'
Really though, the best thing about bodyboarding is that it is such an accessible sport for every one of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels. My current students at The Bodyboard Academy range from age 5 to 65. It’s such a family friendly sport, and you can chose how far you wish to go with it. Yes you can grab a boogie and kick around in the whitewash and still have tonnes of fun, or if you want, you can get yourself a quality board, fins (plus a good coach or experienced friend to help), and get yourself out the back, riding the face of the waves and learning how to utilise the board, the waves, get barrelled, and even learn some tricks!
For me, I love that bodyboarding has inspired me to spend twenty years travelling the world for competitions and searching for new waves. I also love my time sharing waves with friends at home, having a laugh in the line-up, catching party waves and being silly.
Most of all though is simply that I love going to my own special surf spot, paddling out at sunrise, sitting out the back and enjoying the simple calmness and that revitalising feeling from being in the ocean. I’ve been lucky enough in my time in the sea to have so many special encounters with amazing wildlife as I quietly sit there; dolphins, turtles, penguins, fish, and even a whale once that came so close I could have touched it.
I find that bodyboarding is such an amazing full body workout, but you’re having too much fun to even notice. The paddling builds your stamina and tones your triceps and back, kicking with your flippers builds your ankle and leg strength and tones your butt, and when you’re riding the wave it is such a strong core workout. It’s amazing!
I have surfer friends who have picked up bodyboarding, and they really marvel at how connected to the wave you feel when you're on a bodyboard. Being so close to the wave, hearing and feeling the water around you, there really is something quite spiritual about it, and the saltwater really does revitalise you.
Here are Lilly's tips on the essentials:
If you decide to do a search online, make sure you look up “Bodyboard” not “Boogieboard”. You’ll find much better quality boards and advise.
WHERE TO BUY:
Preferably go to your local bodyboard specialist for a board and fins rather than buying on impulse at a cheap department store. Expert advice is always helpful and can save you time and money in the long term. When you’re there you can discuss important things like your ability and goals, your budget, how much you plan to use it and what water temperature you’ll be riding in.
A nice guide is to stand the bodyboard on the ground, lean it up against you and ideally the nose of the board will be in line with your belly button. If you’re a bigger build, then you could go an inch or two taller or even a bit thicker board to aid in floatation.
- Look up ‘bodyboard size guide’ online for help.
- Be sure to go for a board that has channels on the bottom, these help you hold your edge in the wave.
- You’ll see that some boards are designed with deck contours and nose bulbs for comfort and grip.
- Definitely take the opportunity to try out different bodyboards whenever you can and get a feel for what you like.
CORE and STRINGER SYSTEM:
The core is what you most look at when choosing the right board for you. There are a lot of different core materials available for bodyboards and most boards will also have carbon fibre stringers and/or a layer of mesh inside for extra strength and stiffness.
The main four core materials used:
- EPS: It’s generally used in the cheaper beginners boards, as it’s quite floaty, lightweight, and waterproof.
- PE: A flexible high-performance core material, usually suited to cooler waters, a little bit heavier than the others.
- PP: A high-performance lightweight and waterproof core, feels a bit stiffer, but has great “pop” for moves, it is usually more suited to warmer waters.
- NRG: This high-performance core is basically a more flexible version of the PP core; it has excellent recoil and projection, and is my favourite.
If you’re just up for a bit of summer fun, don’t want to spend too much, and want a board that will help you have fun riding the whitewash, then go for a board with EPS core. These can start from as little as $30, but you get what you pay for. I believe it’s worth spending around $100 on an EPS board that is better built to last.
Beginners to Intermediate
The intermediate price range is a great place to start for a decent bodyboard that should also last. Go for a comfortable feeling board.
Intermediate to Advanced:
If you want a board that rides really well, these boards have the best quality materials and are designed to perform.
LEASH AND PLUG:
The super cheap boards tend to come with a leash installed, but that leash is usually pretty hopeless and stringy. You’re best buying a quality coiled leash and installing it with the plug.
FLIPPERS (aka FINS):
These are a must if you really want to be able to kick into the waves. You should try on some different brands to see what feels good for your feet. They should fit tight, as in the water they do loosen up a little, but not too painful. Just make sure you get bodyboarding fins (not diving fins)
Depending on where you live and how cold the water is. Reeflex Wetsuits are the only bodyboarding brand in Australia that has a wetsuit design specifically for ladies, check them out!
Go for an ultra sticky wax and focus on waxing the areas where you put your hands. Beginners might like to put some wax in the middle of the board also to stop slipping off, but advanced riders usually prefer no wax on the stomach as you do slide up and down the board a lot for different tricks.
By Lilly Pollard - www.thebodyboardacademy.com