4 Ways Bodysurfing Makes You a Better Surfer

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Bodysurfing undoubtedly makes you a better surfer and waterwoman. Learning to catch waves with little more than your body connects you in a very special way to the ocean, certainly. But there are other ways as well! We believe that, no matter what level you are at with board surfing (and especially if you are a beginner surfer!) you should also learn how to bodysurf as well. It will improve your surfing and ocean experience, knowledge, and confidence!

Bodysurfing in Costa Rica

Get in sync with the ocean

Bodysurfers, unlike surfers, spend the majority of their ocean time floating neck-deep in the lineup waiting for rideable waves to come. Because they sit lower in the water compared to surfers—who sit upright on their board—bodysurfers have less ability to see the oncoming waves. However, this is not necessarily a disadvantage, as it forces the bodysurfer to rely heavily on his or her instincts.

The reduced vision that comes from floating sans surfboard forces the bodysurfer’s movement and positioning to become more instinctual. Bodysurfers are naturally more aware of ocean temperament (currents, set waves) because they have to be. You can actually feel the water moving around you when bodysurfing, as opposed to simply observing it, which helps you find a better rhythm with the ocean.

Female bodysurfer in Costa Rica

Dial in a wave

If you are wanting to figure out a new wave that you have never surfed before, or you are simply trying to get more in tune with your home break, then bodysurfing is an awesome way to do just that. The power of observation that is spurred on by bodysurfing makes it easier to see how a wave is breaking. As a bodysurfer, you really have to figure out where the steepest part of the wave (the peak) is located because you don’t have a board underneath you to help you catch the wave. You are essentially using your own body as the surfboard.

Because you have to be more precise about the timing and position of your takeoff, it is helpful to sit on the inside (where waves have already broken) and observe where other surfers are taking off on green (unbroken) waves. Bodysurfing allows you to do this, as it is much easier to maneuver your body and get out of the oncoming surfer’s way when you are not encumbered by a surfboard. Then, once the surfer is past you, you can swim directly to the spot where he or she just took off in order to catch the next wave.

Catch more waves (and get barreled)

As a bodysurfer, your primary focus is not on length of ride, but on catching as many waves as possible, and maybe even taking off on waves that you wouldn’t bother with on a surfboard. You can even sit on the inside and catch a couple smaller waves in between sets before swimming back out to the lineup.

Your rides may be shorter, but you’re going to have more of them, and because you are sliding down the face of the wave on your stomach, rather than standing upright on a surfboard, it is much easier to get barreled. The beauty of bodysurfing is that even when the waves are waist high (2-3 feet), you can still get barreled and have a great session.

“I’ve occasionally had a bad time surfing, but I’ve never had a bad time bodysurfing.”

Learning to bodysurf larger waves

Have confidence in bigger waves

Swimming out to the lineup on a day that you normally wouldn’t surf is a great way to push your limits and gain confidence in bigger waves. It is far easier to dive under big waves when bodysurfing because you don’t have to worry about duck-diving a surfboard. Plus, you have the added benefit of wearing fins on your feet, which help you dive deep beneath the crashing wave’s energy. Therefore, bodysurfing is a good way to test yourself when the surf is really big.

Also, it is less dangerous to take off on steep peaks when bodysurfing because you’re not worried about wiping out and getting hit by your board. Less equipment means more maneuverability, which is a good way to acclimate yourself to bigger waves.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out this video of big wave bodysurfer Kalani Lattanzi at Nazaré in Portugual.

If you would like to learn more about bodysurfing, we have compiled a great blog post entitled “Everything You Need to Know about Bodysurfing.” You can also learn a bit more in this video.

Bodhi Surf + Yoga is proud to be the first surf and yoga camp in the world to offer a two week ocean awareness, bodysurfing, surfing, and yoga retreat. As surfers and bodysurfers ourselves, we have recognized the value of linking these activities. We believe that the marriage of bodysurfing, surfing, and yoga creates for an optimal mind-body learning experience, and we are so excited to be able to share it with all of our guests!

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About the author

Spencer Dunlap