Bodysurfing: More Than Just the Whomp

bodysurfing wipeout
By: Todd Partridge • 

Yeah, I get it. Bodysurfing has a reputation for being about a ½ second free-fall into painfully shallow water ten feet from dry sand. Yes there are feats of bravado, finesse and gamesmanship taking place –think figure eight racing or squirlsuit flying, and it makes for great video. That’s all well and good if you’re a flexible and carefree 13 year old (well maybe not figure eight racing or squirlsuiting). For most of us we’ll end up breaking our necks or dislocating various body parts. The best we can hope for on non-waves like these is a two-second run on a mushy shoulder with an awkward roll-out to avoid the inevitable double-up and drilling. And in the all too likely occurrence that you can’t roll out, you’ve only got one thing on your mind: f#%* I’m too old for this, it’s going to REALLY hurt, and my wife would be so pissed if she really knew that I have no business being right here right now. If you’re lucky you just end up with all orifices full of sand.

I was talking with a friend about this the other day. He is one of those fortunate enough to be able to bodysurf Point Panics in Hawaii on a regular basis. Panics and a handful of other spots around the world feature waves that really lend themselves to what he calls "progressive bodysurfing." He refers to these as refracted waves:  all pocket; no shoulder. They are all naturally spinning, steep, hollow waves. You are basically slotted the entire ride. "Bodysurfers on these waves focus on long rides, spinners, pull-out barrels and section-making." He also speaks of the vibe in the water. Saying that chaos and the 'I’m goina get mine' attitude are replaced with talking story, ceding waves and fellowship.

Most of us don’t have the opportunity to score insanely long barreling waves or will put life and limb on the line in beefy shore pound -we swim out at our average beach break and that’s just fine. Your typical beach will offer some choice bodysurfing waves year round. If you’re diligent you can figure out what tides and swells are best for your local spot. Most beachies have their barrels at the right tides, and when they don’t there are usually shoulders to be had. Even small mushy waves can be ridden, especially if you have a handplane. For those of us lucky enough to live near a river mouth you can score makeable barrels on a daily basis. These wave machines can get really drainy and shallow (see list of possible injuries above) and maybe not the best place to be after a good rain, but when the tide is right you can get your shack on without losing your trunks.

Now I’m not saying that Body Whomping is a bad thing. I am in awe of those who throw themselves over monster ledges, knowing damn well what the consequences are. I also get a charge out of watching my friends desperately griping to a wave face, hanging high and tight inside six feet of shore pound. I’m just saying that there is more to it than the hype we see on the news during big south swells at the Wedge. I’m saying that Bodysurfing Is For Everyone.


Todd Partridge
Todd Partridge


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