An essay on the future of bodyboarding

October 7, 2019 | Bodyboarding
Bodyboarding: in the beginning it was all about having fun | Photo: Estupiñán

I am part of the mistake. I recognize it. One day, ego took over us, and we wanted to be cooler than everyone else.

It was the biggest mistake we made - it was the beginning of the end.

Here's the story of how it happened.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, bodyboarding exploded in Europe. My dear friend Michel Hoff brought it to the Old Continent.

He was the propelling force of the first contests held in France, England, Portugal, and Spain. In the Canary Islands, the first event was run in 1986.

Michel saw huge potential in a sport that had just exploded in the United States.

Tom Morey came up with a new, safer way to surf, avoiding the fiberglass boards with dangerous fins. It was an authentic revolution.

As with everything in life, this outdoor play became a sport.

First Morey, and then Kransco, began mass-producing boogie boards, and a few years later developed the first board with "ion speed" slick bottom - Mach 7-7.

But why am I telling this story?

Because we all fell in love with the sport and got dazzled in the lineup.

And with everything that goes on in the water, a new sport is never welcome. We were an invasive parasite.

Surely, this pushed us even further, and we had to prove that this was a sport in itself, not a temporary trend.

We were bodyboarders - a men's sport, not a kid's recreation.

Back to the Essence

I now recognize that, in some way, this has been part of the mistake that we have not yet understood. As a result, we are fewer in number.

In the golden era, there were no surf schools or infrastructures at the beach.

At La Cícer, in the Canary Islands, there was no avenue or flats for rent for rich people - only abandoned neighborhoods.

But there were thousands of boogie boarders. The beach was colorful, and you could feel a vibrant energy. When there were contests, the beach was packed.

Now, here comes the problem.

Surf schools make sure kids start with a surfboard. Nobody asks questions - they just have to stand up.

And with a lost foundation, the future is uncertain.

This phenomenon is taking place everywhere in the world and, in the United States, bodyboarding has become a residual sports scene. In Australia, things are not much better.

So, in my opinion, the strategy of holding super World Tours, and big wave contests is all wrong.

For me, it's quite clear - nothing has changed in the last years, and the sport is increasingly weak.

Bodyboarding was invented to make surfing easy and fun, and we should have never abandoned that concept.

It is a sport that introduces people to surfing.

A bodyboard is for those who spend a few days per year at the beach and for the kid who sometimes plays with the waves.

Kids must engage with bodyboarding, and that is the only way of bringing the sport back to the surface.

Today, nobody - including the APB, national federations, or even famous local riders - is creating solid foundations for our sport.

We need more competitions for young children, institutes, free clinics, and bodyboarding schools.

We need things like what we see in the picture above - excited kids running down the beach with a colorful Mach 7-7, and less ego-fuelled airs, ARS, and backflips in two-meter waves at El Frontón.

I am not saying we don't need them; we only need less of that. We have forgotten what we are, what we were, and the essence of it all.

The national associations, the parents of young bodyboarders, the APB, and event promoters should focus on the future. And the future, ladies and gentlemen, is at the base, in the boys and girls.

I just felt it. I saw the picture above and came up with this.

I don't want to offend anyone. This is not a personal thing - it is a cry for help, an idea. Everything can be improved in this world.


Words by Ricardo Estupiñán | Bodyboarder

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