Learn How to Bodyboard in Four Simple Steps
Ready to take your new Boogie Board, also known as a bodyboard, for a ride in the waves? Easy there kahuna, let’s take a few steps back to learn the basics. Bodyboarding is a fun and seemingly easy activity at the beach that can be learned and enjoyed by everyone.
By the end of this article, not only will you have learned or refreshed your bodyboarding skills, but you will also be able to explain the process to new bodyboarders!
This guide will be split into 4 parts:
So let's paddle right in!
BOOGIE BOARD ANATOMY
We will be referencing the different parts of a bodyboard throughout the guide. Familiarize yourself with the following photo or read more about the different parts of a bodyboard here.
GETTING THE RIGHT BODYBOARD
One of the most common questions asked by people looking to get into bodyboarding is, “What size and shape of bodyboard should I get?” There is actually quite a few body measurements that go into selecting the perfect board for you, which we discuss in this article. If you are too lazy to read through the article, we mention a quick way of measuring:
- Stand the bodyboard on its tail.
- Put the board up against your body.
- The right size board for you should just about reach your belly button.
We still do not recommend this method of measurement since it won’t be 100% accurate, but if you’re in a pinch, it will work just fine!
WAXING YOUR BOARD
This one isn’t completely necessary, but we thought you should know in case you want to improve your experience. Adding wax will improve the grip so that you can stick to your board and focus more on maneuvering. The areas you want to apply the wax are around the nose and top left and right rails. You can also go ahead and apply a bit to the nose grips of the board for some extra grip. These areas are outlined below.
For entire overview of waxing, check out our comprehensive guide to bodyboard wax. As with everything, wax locations come down to personal preference, so try some locations and see what works best for you to determine the best fit.
WEARING THE PROPER GEAR
If you want to take bodyboarding more seriously, we highly recommend getting a wetsuit or rash guard and swim fins.
Wetsuit: If you're serious about bodyboarding or go out for frequent sessions, a wetsuit is an absolute must. Not only will a wetsuit protect you from UV rays, but it will make it a lot more pleasant to head out in colder waters, or when it's not sunny out.
Rash Guard: This is a type of swim shirt that will help reduce chafing and rashes that you could experience when riding your bodyboard for too long. Since rash guards cover your entire upper body, they also help protect you from harmful UV rays from the sun!
The advantage of using swim fins is that you can paddle your way out water without putting in much effort into kicking against the tide. Not only are these easier to swim with, but they also give you more control when using your bodyboard!
APPLYING YOUR BODYBOARD LEASH
Although the easiest step listed, this is by far the most important! The bodyboard leash is designed so that your board doesn’t get separated from you, especially when you get crashed on by a wave.
Most bodyboarders prefer to strap the leash around their bicep, but the wrist works as well. Be sure to secure the leash on one or the other before heading into the water! Check out our guide on how to install a leash and leash plug here.
FINDING THE RIGHT WAVES
You are officially ready to take your bodyboard out for a ride, however, it isn’t as easy as just going into the water. If it’s your first time riding, make sure that you find a calm spot where the waves are not so aggressive.
Typically at the beach, there are flags with color indications on how rough the water conditions are. You can learn more about the flag codes here.
Another thing to watch out for are rocks, boats, fishers and any other hazards that could be dangerous to your bodyboarding experience. Make sure that you are in an area you feel comfortable in.
GOING INTO THE WATER
Take your bodyboard to a spot in the water where the it is just above knee level. Then, place your board out in front of you and lie down on your belly. You are in a good position if your hips are touching the bodyboard tail. Once your body is in position, place your hands on the top of the board, making a 10, 2 o-clock shape.
Now that you are in position, you can begin paddling out further. When kicking, make sure your feet (or fins if you are using them) stay under water. You can paddle with either one of both your hands, whichever you feel more comfortable doing.
To paddle properly, stretch out your arms as if you are reaching for an apple, then bring your arms and push down towards your knees. While you are paddling, watch out for the behavior of the waves in front of you.
When you start seeing a change of texture form at the top of the wave, also known as crest, it is about to collapse. Try your best to time the waves as you paddle out so that you don’t wipe out early!
Here's a quick video guide on how to paddle.
FINDING THE PERFECT WAVE
If it’s your first time bodyboarding, don’t try chasing the biggest wave you see. Having a hard wipeout on one of your first attempts at bodyboarding can discourage you from continuing. Try to go for smaller waves or waves you would be comfortable swimming in if you didn’t have your board.
How fast and how far you go is all dependent on the wave you chose to ride on. So after you get the hang of riding on some of the smaller waves, you can try finding bigger ones that can take you further and faster.
The tradeoff of bigger waves, however, is that they are more dangerous and could hit you hard if you don’t ride them properly. As you can probably tell, our main point is TO DO WHAT YOU ARE COMFORTABLE DOING! Just remember to small and work your way up.
CATCHING THE WAVE
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Even though you will be incredibly excited, remember to stay calm so that you can get the most out of the wave. Once you see a wave you want to catch, turn your bodyboard around so that you are facing the beach.
Keep an eye out for the wave coming in and as it's on the verge of breaking, arch your back, and keep your head up facing the beach.
You always want to be ahead of the wave. Since the wave will be pulling you towards it, you want to start paddling in the same direction it’s moving. Getting some momentum going will help you cruise the wave longer and faster.
Remember to keep your feet or fins underwater and paddling the same way as mentioned in the paddling out section. You will be in the perfect position when you are in the middle (otherwise known as the belly) the wave.
RIDING IT OUT
If you have followed the previous steps correctly, the wave should have crashed and you are now drifting.
If your goal is to be a more advanced rider and you're trying to do some tricks, you'll want to go parallel to the beach, and travel through the barrel.
If you're a newer bodyboarder, you'll want to aim towards the beach.
When riding the wave, you do not need to make any hand or feet movements. The driver is the wave and you are its passenger!
That said, if you want to gain some boost and you're a more advanced rider, you can use fins for that extra push.
Keep your elbows in and out of the water so that you don’t create any traction.
If you want to move right or left, bring the corresponding elbow down to tilt your board in the direction you want to go in. This can help prevent any collisions that could occur during your ride back to the coast.
Much more can be done on a bodyboard beside riding with the wave and doing a few turns. We will be getting into some advanced tricks, but before we do so, you need to familiarize yourself with some wave terminology.
You should memorize these facts and features of a wave. Soon enough, you will know what to look out for when you want to pull off some of the tricks we will be discussing. We have broken down the wave to 6 characteristics:
Flats: This is the beginning part you see in front of the wave. As the name suggests, it’s flat!
Face: This will be the main body of the wave; the tall wall that has yet to break.
Tube: The hole that is created from the lip and face of the wave, giving it the signature crest shape.
Shoulder: The part of the wave just before the breaking section. It's at the peak of the wave and just at the top of the face.
Lip: This is the part of the wave that is breaking and moving in a downward direction.
Whitewater: The splashing water you see that comes off a crashing wave.
As mentioned earlier in the article, you should also have familiarized yourself with the parts of a bodyboard by now. In case you have missed it, you can learn more about the parts of a bodyboard here.
Now that we've gotten the basics out of the way, let's move onto learning some tricks!
FORWARD SPIN 360
The first trick we will get into is the Forward Spin 360. This trick is known to be one of the easier ones to master after learning the basics. In short, you will be making a full 360 degree turn in the wave in one fluid motion. Let’s break down the trick!
- Determine which direction you want to pull off the turn.
- Position your back so that is facing the wave face in the direction of your turn.
- Once you start turning, slide your weight toward the nose of your bodyboard, and cross your legs. This will release your inside rail, and help your spin.
- After you have made the full turn, reposition yourself to the center of the board and continue riding the wave!
The next trick you should try is the Cut-Back. Like the Forward Spin 360, this trick is also on the easier level of difficulty! In this trick you will be closer to the lip of the wave and cutting across down the face. To perform the Cut-Back:
- Position yourself in the shoulder section of the wave, so that you have a enough time to figure out which direction you want to turn before the wave breaks.
- While shifting your weight to the inside rail of your bodyboard, start turning. This will cut a path down the face of the wave with the edge of your board.
- Make sure you have a sturdy grip by having both hands just below the nose of the board, on the rail.
- Have both of your legs extended, and lift your chest. This will maintain your balance and will also create a smoother turn.
- After you have made your way down to the flats, reposition yourself to the center of the board and continue riding the wave!
DROP KNEE RIDING
Drop knee is not much of a trick, but more a way of riding. In this stance, you have one knee on your board, with the other foot being up front with the knee. We recommend practicing this stance in flat water so that you can get the feel for it. This stance is typically what you see bodyboarders and surfers doing when they ride through the tube of the wave. To get into position:
- Press both hands on your board to stabilize yourself while lifting up your legs.
- Place both knees at the tail end of the board.
- Bring your left or right leg forward and firmly place your foot towards the center while counter balancing the action with the opposite arm.
The final, and our most favorite trick, is the El Rollo. The best part about this trick is that you can perform it with any size wave! Nailing sown the El Rollo is a little bit more difficult. You want the wave to carry you up the face and do a full flip with your board. You will get some serious lift if you let the wave carry you! Let’s go through the motion:
- Approach the flats of the wave, while paying attention to the lip.
- Move your board toward the face of the wave so that you start moving towards the lip. Don’t paddle up the face of the wave, let the water carry you upwards!
- Once you are thrown up into the air, barrel roll and point the board downward. This will be the toughest part since you have very little time to find a good spot to land your board.
- As you come down, reposition yourself and weight to the center of the board, this will soften your fall back into the wave.
- What you want to do after the trick depends on where you land. If you would like to continue riding the wave, try to position yourself towards the flats of the wave. If you would like to continue doing tricks, land in the whitewater horizontally!
These aren’t the only tricks out there, but we definitely think these will keep you learning and busy for a while!
ADDITIONAL RIDER KNOWLEDGE
GOING UNDER THE WAVE
The duck dive is a skill everyone should know when bodyboarding. Not every wave is right for you, and if you are out in the water, it can be hard to avoid them sometimes. Going under helps you get by without being crashed on by whitewater. Once you have this skill down, you will never have to worry about having your experience ruined by a big wave! Check out our guide to duck diving here.
Another important skill to learn is how to stall on your bodyboard. Whether you are tired, or you need to slow down, it’s essential to know how to stall since it can apply to many situations. The different ways to stall are as follows:
- Place both of your legs into the water while moving your hips toward the inside rails of your board. This will help slow you down.
- Pull up on the nose of your board, pushing down with your hips on the tail. Doing this should create an angle of 30-45 degrees with your board. This method will help you reduce to a comfortable speed.
When you have stopped stalling, reposition yourself and weight to the center of the board and continue riding along the flats of the wave.
Do you think you have what it takes to ride the waves? Of course you do. Bodyboarding has not only been a serious watersport, but also a family fun activity for decades. Go at your tempo, follow the instructions and we guarantee you will have an amazing time at the beach.
For more information on getting started bodyboarding, check out a few of the links below.
ⓘ Looking for a new board? Check out these links:
ⓘ New to bodyboarding? These boards are great for beginners: