International Bodysurfing Day: on May, bodysurfers celebrate their unique sport | Photo: Creative Commons

On May 1, it's time to celebrate International Bodysurfing Day (IBSD).

After all, the art of riding waves without a buoyant watercraft dates as far back as 2,000 B.C. and predates board riding.

The initiative was soft-launched in 2020 by John P. Murphy, an American writer and teacher who lives in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

Murphy had already started Los Cabrones, an open bodysurf club that promotes the sport via weekly get-togethers and free water safety clinics.

One day, he decided to create a local competition with a sustainable model of beach community growth that could expand the tourist season and fill in the calendar year.

The event was the seed for International Bodysurfing Day.

But why May 1?

"After Easter, there's a tourism lull, and May 1 felt auspicious," John Murphy told SurferToday.

"In European agrarian cultures, there's even the Maypole dance, a Spring fertility ritual."

"But before the Spanish even arrived in the Americas, Mayans and Aztecs were chucking themselves from poles as a fertility ritual to honor the Sun God and make it rain."

"In Mexico, the Danza de los Voladores - Flying Dancers - are a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) since 2009."

"It's one of those things nobody forgets."

Frank Scott Krueger: bodysurfing is an art that dates as far back as 2,000 B.C. and predates board riding | Photo: Ventana Surfboards/Don Moulds/Creative Commons

Spreading the Seed

So, the American living in Playa Zicatela thought of blending the best of two worlds - sports and culture - into a special event.

"It is also shared with International Workers' Day. And I like workers," adds Murphy.

"It seems a pandering method of the Communist party, but I have no problem sharing. Bodysurfing will be around long after communism."

The idea spread and stuck.

Mike Stewart, one of the most prolific and successful competitive bodysurfers on the planet, also thought it made sense.

"I had a chat with Mike. I asked him if he'd support International Bodysurfing Day. He said, 'Is this self-proclaimed?' I answered: 'There was a need.' And he said: 'Agreed.'"

It is logical.

If there's an International Surfing Day (ISD) and an International Bodyboarding Day (IBD), why shouldn't bodysurfers celebrate International Bodysurfing Day (IBSD)?

John P. Murphy doesn't want to be associated with the creation or birth of the special day - he just wants to see the sport expanding and reaching new latitudes.

Bodysurfing: a full body wave riding experience | Photo: Cpl. Nathan Knapke/Creative Commons

Getting the Word Out

To help boost International Bodysurfing Day, the promotor contacted and immediately got support and endorsement from Gillis Beach Bodysurfing Association, the oldest club in the United States, and John Shearer, one of its members and the 1981 world champion.

Kalani Lattanzi, Mark Drewelow, and Briguitte Linn soon joined the movement, and The Wedge's Kevin "Mel" Thoman got involved, too.

Corey Sainsbury, Joel Badina, and surf photographer Agustin Muñoz were also excited about the idea, and the first IBSD ended up getting its soft launch via social media in 2020.

For 2021, the first widely recognized International Bodysurfing Day has already gotten the seal of approval and official support from Mike Stewart, Bob Burnside's wife Annette, Patrice Grieumard, Ahmed Erraji (Hijo del Mar), Thomas Van Melum, and Sachi Cunningham.

Has the International Bodysurfing Association (IBSA) given a thumbs-up to the initiative?

"Patrice Grieumard and I have had long chats, and IBSA supports the event," explains John P. Murphy.

"They may launch their Trophée Willy Cote on the same day. We also talked about a global 'Wave of the Day.' We are on the same page."

Everybody is working to make IBSD a global movement.

The goal is to get more women into it, include more clubs, and increase endorsements from everyone who is passionate about bodysurfing.

"I am in daily communication with people and clubs from over a dozen countries. I have loads of dialogue and messages back and forth," notes Murphy.

Bodysurfers: they become part of the wave | Photo: Creative Commons

Inspired by Lifeguards

The IBSD promotor believes that to make it a bigger and better event, it would be interesting to also welcome fin, sunscreen and lifestyle companies, handboard/handplane brands, and craft beer into promoting the sport on May 1.

And if more riders give thumbs up to the initiative, IBSD could really become a global celebration day.

"The beauty of bodysurfing is that we become part of the wave. There's nothing between us and the energy - it's a full-body feeling," concludes Murphy.

So, why aren't there more people trying bodysurfing?

"There will be. I think evolution takes time," replies John Murphy.

"Should it be an Olympic sport? Sure, we could ride the coattails of surfing. By Olympic definition, surfing is riding a wave using a board, boogie, or body."

The inspiration for establishing International Bodysurfing Day came from lifeguards and their immeasurable work.

"Where there are lifeguards, there are bodysurfers," concludes John P. Murphy.

IBSD 2021 is dedicated to Bob Burnside (1932-2019), the first president of the Surf Life Saving Association of America.

International Bodysurfing Day: the initiative was inspired the lifeguards' work | Photo: Creative Commons

10 Things To Do on International Bodysurfing Day

There are many things you could do to celebrate International Bodysurfing Day, in and out of the water. Here are a few tips and suggestions:

1. Have a Quiet Reflection

Take your time and reflect. What does bodysurfing mean to you? How has it enhanced your experience as a human being?

Bodysurfing is a vehicle. Where has it taken you? Write it. You'll learn something about something.

2. Go Bodysurfing

In small or bigger waves - just get out there, with or without a wetsuit and with or without fins.

3. Play It Where It Lies

Hal Handley and Ryan Masters inspired this one.

Can't get in the water? You're still a bodysurfer - hold your breath until you can't anymore. Take one breath and do it again. Repeat.

4. Break Out the Archives

This one was inspired by John Shearer and Kevin "Mel" Thoman.

Wear that club or comp shirt, and snap a pic of (or scan) an old photo or memorabilia.

5. Plan a Get-Together

Is it too cold? There are no waves? Who cares? Go and check the ocean with friends. It's a shared experience.

6. Push a Surfer Off Their Board

The Mormons inspired this one. Make a convert - there's great nobility in this.

7. Find New Blood

This one was inspired by Yuko Koyama from Japan. Introduce bodysurfing to the uninitiated.

8. Share the Stoke

Mike Stewart inspired this one.

Verbalize "Happy Bodysurfing Day" on whatever platform has your attention.

Share IBSD posters, and make your own. The day is yours to invent.

9. Get More Women Into Bodysurfing

The world needs more female bodysurfers, and you already know them.

They surf, SUP, play polo, swim, bodyboard, and work as lifeguards.

10. Shoot a Friend's Waves

Do you know someone who's into bodysurfing? Get him or her in the water and capture the best.

In the end, your friend will have something to be proud of, and you'll have improved your photo and video skills.

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