Paddling for a wave: bodyboarders use arms, legs and fins | Photo: Creative Commons/Blas Brains

Bodyboarders use their arms, legs and fins to catch waves. Learn how to improve your bodyboard paddling and don't let those fast rollers slip away.

Unlike surfers, bodyboarders are able to combine the power of arms, legs and feet to paddle in salted water. But you have to do it rhythmically and in cooperative mode.

"When you're paddling through flat water, use your arms; when you're paddling through turbulent water use your legs, and when you need to get somewhere quickly, use both your arms and legs," explains Rob Barber, author of "The Bodyboard Manual."

If you're simply arm paddling, move your body forward and keep your legs straight and together behind you. Your face should almost be in line with the nose of your board.

Arch your back and keep your head up, watching where you're going. Use the front crawl style stroke - alternate arms - reaching as far forward as you can and diving your arm as deep as possible, drawing each stroke as far back as you can each time.

Remember that the last half of each stroke has the most forward thrust.

If you're just leg paddling, make sure your hips are off the back of the board with the whole leg submerged under the water. Your hands should be holding the front corners of the board; your back should be arched, and your chest upright.

When kicking with the whole leg completely immersed, remember that it's the downward stroke that gives you the thrust.

Finally, when paddling with combined legs and arms, and for maximum propulsion, position yourself just back from where you lie to arm paddle. Now lower your head and chest to keep the nose of the board flat on the water, and then paddle with legs and arms. You'll quickly feel the power of the thrust.

When you've got into the wave, keep your legs and fins out of the water, unless you want to slow down or increase speed. Reducing drag and leaving the bodyboard bottom do the acceleration work are keys to high-speed performances.