Bodyboarding took off at a rate of knots up until 2020, growing at a rate of 7.5% per year. That’s because it’s one of the most easily accessible water sports for people of all ages, genders, and dispositions.
Are you one of these people who’s tried it once and found yourself hooked on this exciting, easy, and enjoyable activity? Are you considering getting a bodyboard of your own, so you can take part more often?
Keep reading to find out how to choose the best bodyboard for you.
What Is a Bodyboard?
The Polynesians take credit for inventing both bodyboarding and surfing. They rode small boards of varying sizes, called Alaia, made from the wood of the acacia koa.
Tom Morey took things a little further by inventing the modern bodyboard design back in 1971, and it’s changed very little since then.
Today’s bodyboards look a little like surfboards, except they’re shorter and a little wider. They have no skegs and can traverse shallower water than surfboards can.
They consist of a foam core with a plastic bottom and softer foam on the top and sides.
The core comprises dow/polyethylene, Polypro/polypropylene, or polystyrene. The underside comprises Bixby, Surlyn, or HDPE and the upper deck consists of CrossLink or 8LB.
Each bodyboard offers different flexibility depending on the materials used to craft it.
While shopping for a new bodyboard, you might come across a similar-looking board called a ‘boogie board’. This article outlines the differences between these two boards.
Types of Bodyboards
There are many more types of bodyboards available than you think. You can distinguish between them based on both form and function, as follows:
Prone bodyboards are widest near the front to support a rider lying down on their surfaces.
A drop-knee board has a wide point halfway down the board and a narrow tapered nose. Drop-knee riders place one foot on the front of the board and rest their knee toward the back of the board.
Combo boards are a versatile design that suits both riders riding prone and with one knee dropped. Stand-up boards are for people who stand upright on the board like a regular surfer.
The core of the bodyboard affects its flexibility as well as how well it performs in different water temperatures. It also impacts the price of the board.
These are the main types of cores:
The original bodyboards had this material at their core. It’s a good choice for most bodyboarders.
PE cores are flexible, quick to respond and work well in cold water. When you’re riding one of these boards you can easily maneuver the board to propel yourself forward through the water.
These are more expensive than e polyethylene cores, but it’s also stronger, lighter, and more responsive. There are two types of PP boards, namely:
- Beaded PP – more buoyant with an unpredictable flex
- Extruded PP – fast and rigid
Kinetic Core™ (PP)
These cores comprise top-quality 1.9 lb density Arpro Polypropylene resins. They offer excellent response times and projects and work best in warm water oceans.
This is the product of expansion cell technology, to create a board specifically suited to cold conditions. It’s a favorite among the world’s elite bodyboarders.
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)
EPS is very affordable, but it’s not very durable. It’s a great entry-level board, ideal for those who enjoy the occasional bodyboarding session.
The cheapest core of all, polystyrene features in cheap fabric-covered bodyboards. Again, it’s perfect for the odd trip to the beach.
M Core is a blend of Polypro Core and Arcel. It’s super stiff and lightweight.
When you purchase a bodyboard, you’ll also come across a huge range of flexion-related jargon. If you’re only in it for fun, these different flexibilities don’t matter much.
Deck (Top Layer) Construction
There are two main types of decks available, namely NXPLE Wavecushion and IXLPE Wavedeck. The former suits high-performance bodyboarding, while the latter suits lower-level pursuits.
Bottom Layer (Slick) Construction
This is the part that slides through the water, affecting how the board handles the waves. Again, there are two main choices:
This unique, rubber-like material comprises copolymers and ethylene resins. It has incredible flexural stiffness, so the board can contort and conform more easily to the shape of the wave.
It has dynamic memory, which provides instant recoil and dramatic forward projection. It’s the same substance used on some golf balls to resist abrasions and cuts from the clubface.
HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)
This is the cheaper alternative, more usually found on beginners boards. Unless you’re planning on becoming a competition rider, you’ll still have a whale of a time with one of these bodyboards.
Apart from these basics, there are also very many varieties of contours, stiffeners, and other performance-enhancing extras that only apply to those competing at the top levels.
As a beginner, there are far more important bodyboard tips to consider when selecting a bodyboard.
Choosing the Best Bodyboard For Your Physique
It’s important to buy a bodyboard that suits your height and weight, or you won’t glide through the waves as you envision yourself doing.
Choosing a board that’s too long means you can’t kick powerfully enough to catch the next wave in time, while a board that’s too short is just plain uncomfortable.
As a rule of thumb, you should pick a board that comes up to your belly button when you place the tail end on the ground next to you.
Your weight plays a role in the buoyancy of your board, particularly if you’re a little heavier. You need your board to float on top of the water, not sink under your weight.
The term ‘volume’ refers to how buoyant a board is when compared to the weight of the rider. A heavier rider needs a board with more volume i.e a thicker, wider, or longer board.
You will find boards labeled ‘high volume’ for those who weigh a little more. When it comes to the length you’ll find bodyboards from 18″ up to 54”.
You should also consider what type of waves you want to ride when choosing a board size. The following applies:
- Choose a larger board for riding mainly in the whitewash
- Pick a shorter board if you want to ride big waves or if you want more maneuverability
Beginners do best on a board at the longer end of their size range.
Match Your Ability to Your Board
While bodyboarding is something almost everyone can enjoy, it’s also a professional sport with high stakes up for grabs. That means you’ll find many boards designed with minute details to suit these sportsmen.
When you go hunting for the best bodyboard, you’ll come across three categories:
This is a board designed for newbies who ride without fins and usually ride straight toward the beach on already-broken waves. If this is you, you can look at the entry-level boards on offer.
These boards have a PS/Styrofoam core and are inexpensive. They aren’t high-performance, durable boards, and they typically come with a leash.
If you’ve progressed to bodyboarding with swim fins and can venture out to where the waves break, these are the boards for you. They’re designed for the rider who knows how to angle across an unbroken wave and is starting to master some tricks.
Mid-level boards suit these types of bodyboarders. They have PE (Polyethylene) cores and rods for stability. They’re more durable and perform better than beginner boards, last longer, and cost twice as much.
Boards for Advanced Riders
Advanced riders can paddle out, duck dive, catch waves and ride anything the ocean throws at them. They can perform basic moves easily and are working on advanced ones like backflips.
These skilled boarders need high-end boards with PP (polypropylene) cores and every possible advancement. They’re expensive, durable, and customizable to a high degree.
Most stores will categorize their boards according to these levels, so be realistic in judging your abilities if you want to find your ideal board among those on offer.
A board that matches your ability helps you progress faster and enjoy every minute while you’re learning. When in doubt, ask the store attendant to help you select the right board for you.
Making the Most of Bodyboarding
Now that you know how to pick the best bodyboard for hours of ocean-bound fun, it’s time to suit up and enjoy the ride.
Remember, the ocean is a wonderful playground, but it’s not without its dangers. Always obey any safety rules listed and stick to beaches with bodyguards in attendance.
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