All you need to get yourself bodyboarding on the water is a board, a pair of swim fins and a good wetsuit. And the good news is, bodyboards are less expensive than surfboards. Here is our guide to getting the right gear for bodyboarding.
The right type of board will help your control and should make catching waves easier. A major difference between bodyboards and surfboards is that bodyboards are much shorter, about 1.6m (42in) long with a squared-off nose and angular rails (the sides of the board). However, smaller boards will suit smaller riders. The board’s nose should ideally be the same height as your belly button, give or take a couple of inches.
When carrying, it should fit comfortably under your arm. As there are so many boards to choose from, it’s important to seek advice before buying. First off, you need to have a good idea of what sort of conditions you will be bodyboarding in — big or small waves, for instance. Beginners will often go for a cheaper option, which will allow them to get started on the basics at a low cost.
There are basically four types of boards:
Polystyrene boards are by far the cheapest and lightest types of bodyboards. They are a good buy for children and first-time bodyboarders. Some more advanced polystyrene boards have a material or vinyl covering, which improve durability and performance. However, polystyrene boards have a limited lifespan and will crack under too much pressure.
EVA foam bodyboards
EVA foam boards are very durable and are ideal for beginners. These boards tend to be more flexible in larger waves. Some models have a smooth underside, which improves wave rides speed and performance.
Polyethylene foam bodyboards
Lightweight and durable, polyethylene bodyboards can be solid foam or have a smooth laminated underside. Also, polyethylene boards can be adjusted in stiffness to suit more advanced riders.
Combined foam bodyboards
At the top end of boards, combined foam boards are made of variety of materials, such as EVA and Polyethylene. Combined foam boards can be custom-made to suit a rider’s ability, but price reflects the quality here.
A wrist leash or leg rope is an essential purchase to prevent the rider from losing their board. Bodyboarders tend to prefer wrist leashes to leg ropes to ease finning ability. The most popular choice is a wrist leash with a coiled line and neoprene padding on the strap for comfort. It’s also a good idea to buy a cover for the board. Backpack-style board bags are particularly popular among bodyboarders.
These short-bladed fins are quite stiff to allow for rapid kicking in short bursts. Make sure you are comfortable with your choice and that the fins have an open heel to allow water to pass through easily. Neoprene booties or Lycra socks can greatly improve comfort and will prevent chaffing. Some swim fins will come with grips to prevent a boarder from losing them. These attach at the back to the leg with a Velcro strap.
If you plan to bodyboard in colder climates, a wetsuit is a good investment. Neoprene will also make you more buoyant in the water - a good safety aspect. Wetsuits come in all lengths, thickness and prices. A 3mm suit is a good all-year suit for cold waters. Make sure that you don’t have too much restriction in movement.
Trunks or bodyboard shorts
There are plenty of board shorts out on the market for the warm water boarder. These are usually made of fast-drying nylon with Velcro fastening. Go for a well-fitting pair so that they stay secure no matter what strength of wave.
Rash vests ('rashies')
Either made from Lycra or thin neoprene, these will, as the name suggests, protect riders from board or wetsuit rash. These vests also offer good protection from the sun.