What is bodyboarding?

Bodyboarding: the oldest form of surf craft riding | Photo: Nunes/Red Bull

Bodyboarding is the art of riding waves in a prone position.

According to surf historians, the sport has its roots in the islands of the Pacific. The Polynesian people were the first to slid across ocean waves lying on paipo boards.

The ancient practice of catching waves in a prone position later evolved to stand-up wave riding, which could very well mean that the origins of bodyboarding are older than those of surfing.

Bodyboarding is performed using a soft, square-nosed, flexible board ranging in size between 33'' and 46''. Riders wear swim fins that help propel them into the waves.

The bodyboard, also known as boogie board or belly board, was invented by Tom Morey on July 1971, in Southern California. The Detroit-born inventor wanted to surf, but he only had a foam blank.

The engineer-musician-surfer-shaper cut a nine-foot piece of polyethylene foam in half, put a sheet of newspaper down on the foam, and ironed out the first shape.

Bodyboarding: bodyboarders have access to waves that surfers that don't suit surfer | Photo: Shutterstock

Morey rode the first ever bodyboard wave at Honls. His wife, Marchia, was the second person to experiment what would become a global success story.

"I could actually feel the wave through the board. On a surfboard, you're not feeling every nuance of the wave, but with my creation, I could feel everything," Morey said of his revolutionary invention.

"I was thinking 'it turns, it's durable, it can be made cheaply, it's lightweight, it's safe. God, this could be a really big thing!'"

Morey Boogie became an iconic brand and a synonym of bodyboard. The world's first bodyboarding company survived the ups and downs of the surf industry, and is still alive and marketing new models.

Bodyboards have evolved significantly since 1971. Today, a boogie board is a complex amalgam of high-performance materials and contemporary and functional designs.

The most common bodyboard cores are polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), and extruded polystyrene (EPS). Nevertheless, high-end bodyboard models only feature PP and PE core structures.

Bodyboarding: riding the barrel at Pipeline | Photo: APB

One of the advantages of bodyboarding over its older brother surfing is that bodyboarders have access to waves that cannot be ridden by surfers, especially shore break and super hollow, fast-breaking waves.

But there's more. Bodyboards are quite affordable and less expensive than surfboards. It is also relatively easy and quick to enjoy the sport.

The first professional bodyboarding competition was the 1979 Morey/Gap Pro. The event was held in Huntington Beach, California, and, since then, the wave sport never stopped conquering the hearts of kids and grown-ups.

Although it is widely recognized as prone wave riding sport, bodyboarding has two other popular disciplines - drop-knee and stand-up.

The hottest tricks and maneuvers are the 360, the el rollo, the invert, the ARS (air roll spin), the backflip, and tube riding.

Despite being despised by surfers for decades, bodyboarding is today one of the most popular and accessible boardsports in the world, with a dozen of brands controlling the majority of the market.

Bodyboarding's professional circuit is run by the Association of Professional Bodyboarders (APB).

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