So you want to get into bodyboarding, but you’ve seen so many boards in different shapes and sizes that you don’t even know where to start.
Bodyboards come with many distinct features that change the riding experience, and on top of this to use a board correctly you need one that is suitable for your height and weight.
Many other factors will influence the type of board you’ll want to buy, like the temperature of the water you’ll be in, or whether you’re wanting to catch small waves or larger ones.
Don’t worry if this all sounds confusing, read on to find out how to get your board to fit perfectly, and what type of board you should buy to have the best bodyboarding experience possible.
How To Measure Fit
A bodyboard’s length is measured in inches, and finding the right size for you will depend mainly on your height and weight. For example, if you are 4’6” and weigh around 100lbs then a 39-inch board should work for you.
The taller you are and the more you weigh the longer the bodyboard should be.
There are many charts online that give a breakdown of what your height and weight mean in terms of bodyboard size, and if you go into any surf shop the staff will be able to recommend you a board based on these factors.
It can be quite annoying having to measure yourself though, and sometimes the board you end up with may not even be the right one for you, especially if you’re very tall and lightweight.
An easier and quicker way to measure a board is to stand it upright on the floor and if it comes up to your belly button then the size should work for you.
Another method is holding the board under your chin and if the tail ends at knee level then it’s most likely the right size for you.
If you get a board and it feels uncomfortable to ride it’s best to swap it out for a different size, even if the charts say it’s the right one for you. With so many different body types out there the charts can never be 100% accurate and so you may have to test out a few different sizes before you find the right one for you.
It’s not only the size of the board that will have an impact on how you ride though, the features of the board itself can also influence how you surf.
Key Board Features
There are three main materials that a bodyboard core is made from, with each one impacting how the board moves in the water.
Dow polyethylene foam (PE) based bodyboards are very flexible and work best in colder waters as warm water can make the board flex out of shape. Adding a stringer to this core can help avoid this issue as it gives the board the ability to return to its original shape once it dries off.
Polypropylene foam (PP) boards are lighter than PE boards and so are best suited to lighter people. However, they don’t perform well in cold water and riders may find that they become too stiff to use properly.
Extruded polystyrene (EPS) are the cheapest and lightest cores used in bodyboarding. They’re also possibly the worst cores used as even though they make the board very light and water-resistant, it also means the board lacks foam memory, full recoil, and it makes them very stiff.
These types of cores are unsuitable for heavier riders or harsher surfing conditions as these factors mean that they can crease and break easily.
In the cores section we mentioned stringers. These are becoming more and more popular in modern bodyboards. Running down the middle of the board, stringers increase the strength of the core and provide better recoil and increasing projection to the board.
Adding stingers to your board can make them last much longer, saving you money in the long run, especially if you’re doing high-performance bodyboarding. Many riders add multiple stringers to areas on their board that need added strength to keep together in harsher waves and heavy landings.
Stringers are also useful in boards that don’t function as well in warm water as it makes them more resistant to flexing and bending.
The best thing about stringers is that they’re able to be added or removed to your board depending on what kind of waves you’ll be riding that day, allowing you to have one board for every type of wave or water condition.
There are two types of tails used on bodyboards, the crescent tail, and the bat tail.
The crescent tail sticks the board to the wave allowing you to ride it as far as you can. The bat tail is looser, which lets you fly over the wave and perform tricks in the air above it.
Width And Thickness
A wider bodyboard may be more suitable for beginners as these are more buoyant and have more space for better balance, though they’re harder to turn.
Narrower boards are the ones used by more skilled riders as they’re much faster, and allow for high performance and high speed turns and tricks.
The thickness of the board also impacts the performance level as the thinner the board the better it responds to your movements.
So now you know what a board looks like, let’s look at the four main types of board you can buy.
Types Of Board
As mentioned in the core section, polystyrene bodyboards (or EPS) are the cheapest and lightest types of board money can buy, which makes them great for first-time riders and children.
While their cheap cost is alluring, they’re all around very flimsy boards and will often crack under too much pressure from the rider or the waves. Some come with material or vinyl coating which can slightly improve durability and performance, but if you want a bodyboard to last then this isn’t the one for you.
There are also growing calls to get this type of bodyboard banned. Due to their flimsy and cheap nature, they’re often left on beaches by tourists, and when they break and crumble the small polystyrene balls can pose a threat to the natural wildlife and sea life in the area.
Some beaches have already banned their use so if you’re planning on taking one out then do your research beforehand to make sure they’re allowed.
EVA Foam Boards
A more environmentally friendly alternative to polystyrene boards, EVA boards are very durable and are ideal for beginners.
These boards can tackle larger waves and often feature a smooth underside which improves speed and performance. Because they’re very tough and have high-stress resistance, EVA boards work well in colder water.
Polyethylene Foam Bodyboards
Also mentioned in the core section, Polyethylene foam bodyboards (or PP) are very lightweight and durable, making them some of the fastest boards you can get.
They’re able to be controlled and maneuvered very easily, making them a good option for beginners. They’re also popular with more advanced riders as adding stringers to the board makes them suitable for riding larger waves and performing tricks in the air.
While these boards can hold their shape well and have a long lifespan, they’re only suitable for warm water use.
When used in colder water these boards become too stiff leading to a lack of control of the board and a very uncomfortable ride.
Combined Foam Boards
In the bodyboarding community these are the best boards money can buy. Made from combining a variety of materials, though usually using EVA and polyethylene, these are the boards favored by the professional or highly skilled rider.
What makes these boards special is that they can be custom-made to the rider’s specifications and skill level, making each board unique. Riders are also able to decide if they want the board to work better in warm or cold temperatures depending on where they like to surf.
Combined boards are often very lightweight and durable, leading to a longer lifespan compared to other types of boards. They’re also very stress-resistant, have UV protection, and have good waterproofing, so they’re protected from both the sea and sun.
The only real downside to these boards is the cost. As they’re usually custom made the price can run up to hundreds of dollars, but if you’re willing to splash out on your bodyboard then these ones are definitely worth it.
The board isn’t the only thing you have to think about before trying out this hobby, there are many accessories you also have to buy before stepping foot in the water.
Wrist Leash/Leg Rope
These are an essential purchase and should be bought before ever taking your board out as they’re used to prevent you from losing your bodyboard in the water.
Many riders prefer to use wrist leashes rather than leg straps as this doesn’t limit motion but you could try them both to see what works best for you. The most popular choice is a wrist leash with a coiled line and neoprene padding as these provide the most comfort.
These are a must if you’re planning on bodyboarding in cold water. Like with the wrist leash, the most popular wetsuits are ones made out of neoprene as these make you more buoyant in the water.
As wetsuits come in many different lengths and thicknesses you’ll have to do some research to find one that will fit you best. But for cold water, a safe bet is getting one that’s at least 3mm thick.