Bodyboarding is a popular alternative to surfing and an excellent way for people of all ages to catch some waves. It’s a fairly simple watersport to pick up and get good at because you can learn in small-to-moderate-sized waves.
Like any watersport, once you get more confident, you’ll probably want to try more advanced techniques. Here we’ll discuss some great bodyboard moves for beginners.
What Is Bodyboarding?
Simply put, bodyboarding is surfing on a basic level. It’s performed on a short, wide board made from a foam core and a slick plastic bottom.
Bodyboards evolved from the round-nosed and square-tailed Alaia and Paipo surfboards, which were first ridden hundreds of years ago by Polynesians. A major advantage of bodyboarding is the rider’s potential to surf in varying conditions, from whitewater and small waves to large swells. Riders can also choose to ride in prone or drop knee positions.
4 Easy Bodyboarding Maneuvers for Beginners
Once you’ve learned to paddle out and catch a wave, you can think about adding some cool tricks to your repertoire.
Practicing and mastering them will make you look like you’ve been surfing forever. It’ll also put you in a good position to progress toward more complex maneuvers. Better still, these bodyboard moves for beginners can be attempted on day one of your bodyboarding journey.
1. Bottom Turn
When it comes to bodyboarding for beginners, one of the first things to attempt and learn is a bottom turn. A bottom turn is making a turn from the bottom of a wave back into the wall (the steep, unbroken section). It grants access to a wave’s fastest section and helps you convert speed from one direction to another. A well-executed bottom turn is vital for performing other maneuvers such as 360s, aerials, and cut backs.
To perform a bottom turn, you should shift your weight to the inside rail (side edge) of your bodyboard (lefthand side if you are going left, and vice versa). Try to prevent your elbow and shoulder from dragging in the water, as this will slow you down. Then lift your board’s outside rail with your other hand and pull yourself back in toward the wave—the steeper the wave, the more you need to pull. Once you are back in the wave, shift your body to a central position and slide forward to gain more momentum.
2. Cut Back
The cut back is one of the simplest and most effective bodyboard moves for beginners. In fact, it’s a trick used by all bodyboarders regardless of experience and ability. Performing a cut back helps you to reposition yourself in a wave and control your speed—for example, when you are moving too fast and might be traveling out of a wave.
Execute a cut back by shifting your weight to the outer rail of your bodyboard and then apply pressure with your hand to the center of the outside rail. Next, lift the board’s nose with your other hand and turn it in the direction you wish to move. When you are pointing in the direction you want to go, you can continue to ride normally.
3. Drop Knee
As you might have noticed, when at the beach, the majority of bodyboarders ride on their stomachs in what’s called the prone position. It’s by far the easiest stance, but as you become more confident, you can also think about trying the drop knee position.
Drop knee is when you ride with your back leg in a kneeling position on the board and your front leg with your foot flat on the board. The technique is also known as the Jack stance, which is a reference to the legendary bodyboarder Jack Lindholm who was the first known person to ride like this.
Choose a flat, small wave when trying drop knee for the first time—this will make it easier for you to lift up from your board. Switch from a prone to a full kneeling position and then lift a leg to the nose of the board. You can use a hand (the left if lifting the left leg) for balance. Once you find stability you can attempt to lift both hands from the board, although the chances are that you’ll wipe out a few times before being able to do so.
4. 360 Spin and 360 Reverse
The 360 is another bodyboard move for beginners that stays with surfers right through to the advanced stage. As the name implies, the trick is the act of completing a full 360-degree rotation in the water. It can be performed in a wave’s flat section, in the whitewater, and in the air. It’s possible to complete one in both the prone and drop knee positions, too.
The best time to attempt a 360 spin is after making a bottom turn and returning to the curl (steep concave area) of a wave. Begin by sliding your body forward to center yourself on the board. Next, lift your legs up, arch your back, and turn your head in towards the wave—to the left if you are going left on the wave, and right if going right. The momentum should now take your body in your chosen direction. When you’ve gone full circle, you can drop your legs and continue.
The 360 reverse adopts the same technique as the 360 spin, but rather than turning your head into the wave, you need to turn in to face the bottom — i.e., to the right if going left on the wave and to the left if going right.
Basic Bodyboard Combinations for Beginners
Now that you’ve got the basic tricks down, you can think about combining them into more complex moves. These are two of the most commonly performed combinations that you’ll see—the list of variations is, however, almost endless.
Aerial (or Air)
An aerial (air) is when you take off on your bodyboard above the lip of a wave (the top edge of the wave before it breaks). If you’ve not seen it done in the water, then you can liken it to a skateboarder lifting off from a halfpipe. Choose a wave with a steep section and then, after performing a bottom turn, aim yourself toward the lip. When you reach the lip, use your weight to throw yourself up into the air and then let gravity bring you back into the wave. Make sure to approach the lip at an angle and not vertically. This will make landing much easier.
El Rollo (or Roll)
The El Rollo was invented by the iconic Californian bodyboarder Pat Caldwell in the late-1980s. It’s an aerial followed by a full twist (roll) of the body and board before landing back in the wave. This one will take plenty of practice to get right, but you’ll have fun in the process.
To perform a roll, you should begin as you would for an aerial, making sure to have a firm grip on your board. When you hit the lip, arch your back, throw your head over your shoulder, and look at the point where you want to land. Now let the power of the wave spin you and the board. Next, point yourself toward the beach, maintain your grip, and shift your body’s weight to the inside rail. You should now be ready to land—board first, of course—and ride out.
Have Fun Trying These Bodyboard Moves for Beginners
Now it’s your turn. Get out and practice, by yourself, with friends and family members. And if you haven’t got your board yet, check out the South Bay Board Co. range.
See you in the water!