The sun is shining, and the waves are crashing as if they are calling out to you. You want to ride those tempting waves, but you do not have the skills to surf. It’s time to learn how to boogie board!
What Is a Boogie Board?
A boogie board—also called a body board—resembles a small surfboard. They are much lighter than a surfboard, however, being made of thick plastic or foam, and they are less hydrodynamic. They are intended to be ridden lying on your stomach rather than standing.
Although you can’t do all the flashy tricks that you can do on a surfboard, boogie boards are great to learn the same fundamentals that apply to surfing. Learning how to boogie board means learning how to paddle out past the breaks, how to catch and ride a wave, and how to maneuver. Since they are smaller and easier to control, many surfers start their training on boogie boards first.
Before you begin, it helps to know what the parts of the board are called. The front third of the boogie board is called the nose, while the back third is called the tail. The sides of the board are called the rails.
Although boogie boarding is relatively easy compared to surfing, there is some preparation involved before you try to go out and catch your first wave.
Choosing a Boogie Board
First things first: you need a boogie board! It is important to choose one that is the correct size for you. In general, the board should come up to within an inch of your belly button when standing upright on its tail. When carrying it horizontally under your arm, it should fit comfortably against your side without too much slack between your armpit and the side of the board.
Here are some general sizing guidelines to help you pick the right sized board for you:
- Shorter than 40 inches: For people under 5’6″ tall and weighing less than 130 pounds
- 40 to 43 inches: For people between 5’6″ and 6’3″ tall and weighing between 130 and 210 pounds
- 44 inches and longer: For people taller than 6’3″ and weighing over 210 pounds
So you have your board, and your swimsuit is on, but you’re not ready to jump into the waves just yet! There are a few additional things you will need.
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If your board did not come with one, you will need to get a leash. They attach to either your wrist or bicep and will keep your board close when you inevitably fall off it. You don’t want to get battered in the churning waves while trying to retrieve it, and your board also acts a handy floatation device.
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You will also need some surf wax. This will help prevent you from sliding around too much while you’re on the board. Apply a small amount of your preferred brand to the nose, tail, and rails before your first ride.
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A rashguard is optional but highly recommended. As you slide around on the board, chafing may occur, and any sunblock you applied may quickly rub off. A rashguard helps protect your skin against both chafing and sunburn. The best ones are usually made of a nylon/spandex blend, but any old T-shirt will do the trick, although wet cotton is less comfortable.
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Also optional but also recommended are a set of fins. These help you maneuver easier in the water and kick your way out of surf with less fatigue. The small ones designed for snorkeling that attach at the ankles are the best ones for this purpose.
Your First Boogie Board Ride
Now that you’ve got your board and equipment ready, it’s time to learn how to boogie board!
Choosing a Location
Find a relatively calm beach with waves that are no higher than two feet. You don’t need the big impressive waves you see the surfers riding, but completely calm water gives you nothing to ride on. Make sure the area is clear of obstacles such as large rocks, boats, or fishing equipment.
Swimming to the Breaks
Now you are really ready to learn how to boogie board! Wade out into the water until you are at least knee-deep and then lie face down on your board. Your hips should be against the tail of the board, and you’ll be able to grip the board at the top corners of the nose.
Swim out to where the waves are breaking. Kick with your fins, keeping your feet below the surface of the water. You can use one or both hands to paddle to reduce fatigue in your legs, although this may make it more challenging to stay on the board. It may be faster and easier to swim in a semicircular pattern to get out there than trying to swim directly into the waves.
Once you are out there, stop and observe for a few minutes before trying to catch your first wave. Watch what the other surfers and boogie boarders are doing. Are they passing on waves that look perfectly good to you? There’s probably a reason for that, and that reason is probably large rocks below the surface that you can’t see.
Catching the Wave
Now it’s time to choose your wave! Look for a bulge to form at the highest part of the wave; that is your signal that it is about to break. Although you can ride further with larger waves, it is better to start with smaller ones until you grow more comfortable.
Point the nose of the board towards the beach and paddle in the direction the wave is going to get ahead of it.
Once a wave breaks behind you, you have two options: to dive underneath it or to ride it. Learning to go under a wave is a critical skill to learn, as you don’t want to keep getting swept away by waves you don’t want to ride.
To dive under a wave on a boogie board, point the nose of your board towards the wave, press the tip down, and kick for your life.
If you are riding the wave, look for the line of white foam to catch it just as it breaks. Keep the nose of your board pointed towards the shore and arch your back as it carries you, keeping your head up. At this point you won’t need to kick or paddle anymore, the wave will do all the work. Just try not to crash into anyone on your way in!
How to Boogie Board Like a Professional
Although boogie boarding is a great recreational activity, there are many who practice the sport on a professional level. Once you are comfortable with the basics of how to boogie board, you can start learning more advanced techniques.
You are not stuck going only in the direction of the wave. To turn right, lean to the right, pressing down on the board with your right elbow while gripping the left rail with your other hand. Reverse this to turn left. This is a good technique to use if you don’t want to ride the way all the way to the shore.
This is a foundational move for other techniques. It is much like the basic maneuvering, except that there is more of the lean to the board, pressing one rail down into the water while raising the other one out of it. Lift and extend your legs out of the water to keep them from dragging. Once you are turning, center your body weight evenly on the board, and if you want to gain speed, lean forward slightly.
A cut back turns you back to the curl of the wave so that you can change your speed or position. Shift your weight to your right, pressing down in the center of the right rail while lifting the front tip of the left rail. When you’ve reached the position where you want to stop your turn, first get back into the curl of the wave by leaning to your left, and then shift back into the normal position, with the nose of the board facing the shore.
A full rotation is one of the more impressive techniques and can be done on any part of the wave, or even in the air! Start with a bottom turn to the left and keep going, keeping your head looking in the direction you are turning. Come up on your board so that your face is about even with the nose, arch your back, and raise your legs out of the water. Once you have finished the full 360, do a bottom turn in the other direction to prepare you for your next maneuver and get your feet back in the water.
Whether you are just boogie boarding for recreation or training to get to a professional level, boogie boarding is the perfect sport to be outside, enjoying the sun and water. Once you have learned how to boogie board, you may find you have a hard time staying away from the beach!