Bodyboarding: rocky breaks are peaky headaches | Photo: Unknown Author/Creative Commons

The entry and exit of rocky bodyboarding breaks can be a dangerous, life-threatening experience. Learn how to stay safe when entering and leaving the water.

Some reef breaks are tricky. Walking over slimy rocks with your fins on is not a comfortable moment, especially if waves are pounding, and the swell period is particularly short.

That is why using your board to protect you and get fast out the back is usually a good advice. Before entering the water - and even if you know the spot like the back of your hand - make sure you've studied all entry and exit options, and how you'll time your body between sets.

Ready to entering the water from the rocks? Here's what you should do:

1. Locate a ledge of rock with a drop-off into the deepest possible area of water. Watch the spot for a couple of sets and when the water recedes (just after a wave has washed in and it washes out again) check the area for dangerous looking exposed rocks.

2. When you find a safe entry point, wait for a wave to come towards you - the last wave of a set is best. Time your leap so that you land on the back of the wave as it's coming towards you. It is essential to keep the board pointing out towards the horizon so that it creates the least resistance to the oncoming wave as possible.

3. If you hesitate, then wait for the next wave and try again. Do not jump into the water as the wave begins to drain back out to sea again; the water will be at its most shallow at this point, and you'll literally hit rock bottom.

4. Your leap needs to be well-timed, committed, and your board needs to be under your body. That way, if the worst happens, at least you will land on your board on top of a rock instead of impaling yourself.

5. As you hit the water, start paddling for the horizon. It's important not to take deep strokes though. Just take shallow kicks with your feet or stroke out with your arm. Enter the water knowing where you're heading - there's no time to dither when you're close to a rock shelf with waves breaking on it. That's why it's best to wait for the last wave of a set - then there should be an easy paddle.

Leaving the water can be quite difficult. If you really want to avoid injuries, here's what you should do:

1. Determine your exit point and stick to your plan unless the conditions change. It's best to have a backup plan just in case your original exit becomes too dangerous.

2. Catch a wave in (don't try to paddle in between sets as you may get caught out). Try to choose one of the last waves of a set.

3. As you approach the rocks, stall your board by lifting the nose and sinking the tail. This will slow you down and let the foam surround you. Make sure that by the time you get to the rock platform you aren't out the front of the whitewater, but you have stalled enough for you to be in the middle to top third of the foam.

4. Allow yourself to run aground on to the rock and then - using your board as a platform - push up from the ground and stand up. Don't worry about your board - it's a resilient piece of kit - just be conscious that you need to be moving fairly quickly and get on your feet fast. Get up Drop-Knee style so that your fin doesn't get caught and trip you up. Move quickly and decisively.

5. As soon as you are on your feet, check behind you for the next wave: if you know where it is you can either hurry forwards out of its way or brace yourself for the impact!

6. When the coast is clear, walk to safety.

Discover this and more tips and techniques in "The Bodyboard Manual: The Essential Guide to Bodyboarding," by Rob Barber.

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