Bodysurfing is the art and sport of riding a wave without the assistance of any buoyant device such as a surfboard or bodyboard. Bodysurfers often equip themselves with a pair of swimfins that aid propulsion and help the bodysurfer catch, ride and kick out of waves. Some bodysurfers also use a ‘handplane’, which helps get your chest out of the water to reduce drag.
Some of the best waves for bodysurfing are steep, fast, tubing beachbreak waves that are often unsuitable for boardsurfing; two of the best known are Sandy Beach and Makapuu on the east shore of Oahu in Hawaii. The Wedge, in Newport Beach, California, a ferocious sand-pounding peak wave aptly described by Sports Illustrated in 1971 as "a great big screaming shorebreak," has for decades been bodysurfing's most fearsome and famous break. Other regions with world-class bodysurfing waves include Hossegor (France), Puerto Escondido (Mexico), and Nazaré (Portugal).
Distinguished bodysurfers include Buffalo Keaulana and Barry Holt of Hawaii; Californians Bud Browne, Candy Calhoun, Larry Lunbeck, and Mickey Muñoz; Wedge riders Fred Simpson, Terry Wade, and Mark McDonald; and Australians Don McCredie, Tony Hubbard, Max Watt, and Michael Fay. Hawaiian lifeguard Mark Cunningham, a sublimely smooth master at the board-dominated Pipeline, was unanimously regarded as the world's premier bodysurfer from the mid-1970s to the early '90s; nine-time bodyboarding world champion Mike Stewart then become the sport's dominant presence, and was the first to do a barrel roll at Pipeline.
Nothing factual is known about the origins of bodysurfing, but it's possible that humans were inspired to emulate wave-riding sea animals such as dolphins and seals. Bodysurfing certainly predates board-surfing, which itself, University of Hawaii anthropologist Ben Finney suggests, may date as far back as 2000 B.C. Recorded bodysurfing history, however, begins after that of board-surfing. In 1899, Australian Fred Williams was taught to bodysurf by Tommy Tanna, a Polynesian islander brought to Sydney to work as a gardener; Williams in turn taught local "surf-bathers" how to ride waves.
Bodysurfing was first popularized in the United States during the mid-'20s by Olympic swimmer Wally O'Conner of Los Angeles, who would visit local beaches and draw an audience by diving underwater while facing an incoming wave, do a push-turn off the sand, then burst out of the shore-bound white water. (USC football player Marion Morrison, an early California bodysurfer, tore ligaments in his shoulder while riding the surf near Balboa Pier in 1926; finished with organized sports, Morrison made his way to Hollywood and was renamed John Wayne.)
In 1931, Los Angeles bodysurfer Ron Drummond published The Art of Wave-Riding, a 26-page primer on bodysurfing basics, and the first book of any kind on surfing. California surfer Owen Churchill visited Hawaii the following year and noticed that locals were able to increase the power of their kick stroke—and therefore catch waves easier—after fixing palm fronds to their feet with tar. Churchill kept the idea in the back of his mind, and in 1940 introduced what would become a bodysurfing equipment standard: the Churchill "Duck Feet" swim fin. In another breakthrough, around the same time, Santa Monica lifeguard Cal Porter taught himself how to ride at an angle across the wave face rather than straight to the beach.
Tens of thousands of coast-dwelling Americans had by that time taken to waves. A bodysurfing article published in 1940 by Life magazine, "Surf-Riding is a Favorite Summertime Sport," noted that "almost every boy and girl [in California] is an expert surf-rider." Board-surfing, mat-riding, and bodyboarding would all become popular in the years and decades to come—and gain far more attention—but bodysurfing, practiced mostly by tourists and day visitors during the warmer months, has always, quietly, remained the most popular form of wave-riding.
Bodysurfing has no organized contest circuits or leagues, or a definitive world championship. A limited number of individual contests, however, have long been attended by a small international cadre of full-time bodysurfers. Two of the biggest events, both founded in 1977, are the Oceanside World Bodysurfing Championship, held in midsummer, and the Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic, usually held in January. The Pipeline Classic, long regarded as the sport's most prestigious contest, became the first professional bodysurfing contest in 1980, but soon returned to amateur status after organizers were unable to find sponsors.
The Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic competition runs at the world-famous Banzai Pipeline. The Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic first ran in February 1971, and continues to carry on to present day, currently hosted by The North Shore Lifeguard Association, Dafin, and RVCA. Among the bodysurfing population at large, the Pipeline bodysurfing contest is considered the premier event internationally. It is one of the only times a professional bodysurfing competition has exclusive access to the Pipeline's favorable winter waves. The Da Hui Invitational Pipeline Bodysurfing Expression Session was held in March 2014. It consisted of a different format than the Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic and awards were given to riders for Best Wave, Best Tube, Best Wipeout, Best Trick, Top Individual Performance and Top Team Performance.
Other high profile contests include the Santa Cruz Bodysurfing Championships (U.S.), the Bodysurfing Contest Puerto Escondido (Mexico), Masters of the Temple at Nazaré (Portugal), and la Coupe de France de bodysurf.
In popular culture
Included among the small number of bodysurfing video titles are Primal Surf (2000), Pure Blue (2001), and Come Hell or High Water (2011). Bodysurfing has also been featured in more than a dozen surf movies and videos, including Barefoot Adventure (1960), Gun Ho! (1963), The Endless Summer (1966), Going Surfin' (1973), and We Got Surf (1981). The Art of Bodysurfing, a paperback book offering both history and instruction, was published in 1972.
In October 2014, the Honolulu City Council proposed renaming popular bodysurfing destination Sandy Beach Park to President Barack Obama Sandy Beach Park. Located near Hanauma Bay on the east end of the island of Oahu in Hawaii, the beach is known for a large shore break and is popular among bodysurfing enthusiasts, including President Obama. President Obama is known to have bodysurfed at Sandy Beach while living in Honolulu as a child, and has done so as recently as a vacation taken to Hawaii while in office. Due to a lack of public support, the city council's proposal to rename the park was withdrawn around October 7, 2014. However, the council had approved a plaque to be placed at the park commemorating the President's fondness for bodysurfing there.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bodysurfing.|
- Crowd surfing (Body surfing)
- "bodysurfing". Encyclopedia of Surfing by Matt Warshaw. Retrieved 2019-04-10.
- "bodysurfing". Encyclopedia of Surfing by Matt Warshaw. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- Handboards, Slyde. "Pipeline Bodysurfing Video Compilation: Deemed The World's Deadliest Wave & Still One Of The Most Highly Desired". Slyde Handboards. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-10. Retrieved 2014-07-31.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Santa Cruz Body Surfing Association". Santa Cruz Body Surfing Association. Retrieved 2019-04-10.
- "bodysurfing". Encyclopedia of Surfing by Matt Warshaw. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- "Secrets of a Kahuna Bodysurfer:A Spiritual Adventure Guide" by Lani E Lowel (1999/2006)
- The Art of Bodysurfing by Robert Gardner (1972)
- Bodysurf by Hugo Verlomme and Laurent Masurel (2002)
- The Art of Wave Riding by Ron Drummond (1931)
- The Encyclopedia of Surfing", 2005, Matt Warshaw, Harcourt Books, ISBN 0-15-100579-6
- Swell Lines Magazine, 2014
- " Plan to name popular Hawaiian beach after Obama is a wash-out" Reuters Online. Reporting by Steve Gorman. October 7, 2014 http://reuters.com/article/idUSKCN0HW27W20141007?irpc=932