Nazaré, Portugal: a good spot to test bodyboards

Choosing the best bodyboard for your height, weight and experience is very important. There's a huge difference between riding light or heavy and big or small boards. Have you tried two bodyboards in the same day and in the same wave conditions?

You'll certainly notice several things. The best bodyboard for you might not be the best bodyboard for your mate. With the help of our friends at The Bodyboard-Depot, let's see what really suits you. First of all, how do I know which board is a good size for me?

The bodyboard should either reach up to about your belly button when stood on the floor, or fit between your chin and the top of your knees when held in front of you.

The shorter the board the more your legs will be trailing in the water behind you, causing drag and slowing you down. If you surf in a variety of conditions and your wallet allows, your quiver should aim to have a bigger board for small waves, a normal-sized board for average waves, and a smaller board for big (or slabby) waves.

What are the different core materials and what do they do? The two main types of core material used today are dow polyethylene foam (PE) and polypropylene foam (PP). Dow has been used in bodyboard cores for decades, and although slightly heavier, offers superb flex, excellent projection and solid all-round performance when the water is colder.

Polypro boards are naturally lighter and stiffer than their dow cousins, but when stringered can be too stiff for many riders when the water is cold. Newer 3D cores incorporate both PE and PP foams in sandwiched layers.

What is a stringer? A stringer is a composite material tube that runs down through the middle of the board, effectively giving it a spine. This adds strength to the core, providing near instant recoil and increasing projection.

What is the difference with tails? Tails are the last exit point for water leaving the bottom of the board and different shapes have different effects. The four main tails are based on those of the ‘crescent’ and ‘bat’ shape. A general rule is the wider a tail the more stable and faster it is, the narrower the tail the more maneuverable.

The clipped crescent tail is a popular and proven all-rounder, holding the rider into the wave face with predictable bite and reassurance. The full crescent tail has narrower tail pegs which increase control and help dropknee riders lock in their trailing fin to help with turns. The bat tail was designed by Mike Stewart, in the 1990s, and is much looser.

What is a rail? Rails are the edges of the bodyboard which plane through the face of the wave. The steeper the rail angle the more bite you will get, increasing your control, but reducing your drive. The shallower the angle, the faster the board will be due to less rail resistance, but harder it is to turn due to the decreased vacuum. Rails generally come in either 60/40 or 50/50 guise, both of which provide a good balance and rail angle of between 30 to 35 degrees.

What is the chine? The chine is the area of the deck that bends round to meet the rails on either side. After the water has been displaced from under the board it wraps up over the rails and creates a primary vacuum sucking the board into the wave face. It then attempts to wrap around again further onto the chine, as it did the rail initially.

What is the wide point? The wide point is the widest part of the board’s template taken from rail to rail. The width and position of the wide point affects the flotation and maneuverability of the board. The wider a board is, the greater buoyancy it has, but the more difficult it is to turn. Boards have become narrower over the last ten years to allow harder and sharper turns in the pocket.

What is the nose-to-wide point? The nose-to-wide point is the distance from the nose to the board’s widest point and dictates the overall shape and template of the board. A higher wide point offers a greater surface area towards the front of the board which is more suited for prone riders who drive, rotate and balance from the elbow.

What board thickness? Bodyboards have become slimmer over the years, roughly down from about 55mm to around 51mm currently. Thinner boards have less buoyancy and speed, but increased maneuverability. Thicker boards boast bigger volume, increasing speed but hindering rail-to-rail riding. Where thinner boards are more agile and maneuverable in the pocket, thicker boards suit fast sections and big carves.

What is rocker? Rocker is the gentle upward curve of your board. Rocker should only be slight, and be focused more towards the front. The greater rocker you have the looser it will ride, but too much and you will have a dog. Likewise, the less rocker you have the faster it will ride, but the less maneuverable it will be. Broadly speaking you should look for a predominantly flat board. Rocker will naturally occur as the materials age - and exposure to heat expedites this. Deck foam naturally expands at a much quicker rate than the slick, so over time boards tend to develop the dreaded reverse rocker.

Check the bodyboard size chart.