For most newcomers paddling a bodyboard is a lot harder than it looks.  A correct paddling action saves you energy and also allows you to reach the take-off zone quicker.

There are three basic methods of paddling a bodyboard.

Kick Power

Firstly your body should be slightly back on your board with your waist on the tail of the board allowing your legs to move freely.  Your elbows should be in a relaxed position with both hands gripping the nose.  With your fins submerged kick your feet with an even alternating flow using your whole leg.  Keeping your fins submerged stops slapping on the surface of the water, which only slows down your forward movement.

Arm Power

Using just your arms provides a way of conserving energy and saving your legs.  To use your arms you have to slide forward slightly on your board and recentre your weight, this also allows freer arm movement.   Waxing  of your board is necesary here to stop you from sliding all over your board.  Arch your back a little and with your hands cupped move your hands in an 'S' shape under the water, similar to a freestyle swimming action.  Keep your feet together on the surface of the water to prevent drag.

Combined Arm and Kick Power

Combined arm and kick power provides a method to get quickly out to the line-up and also save your legs a little.  Your body should be in the kick position and your chest can be used to keep the nose of the board down.

My prefered method of paddling is similar to the combined method except that I keep one arm holding the board of the nose and use the other to paddle, and I alternate between arms to stop one arm from doing all the work.  This method is good as it allows an efficient way to paddle, and also keeps you more stable in the water rather than using the combined method above.

Other tips for paddling out

Paddling out also involves  wave knowledge as well as a correct paddling method.  The goal when paddling out is always to reach the line-up as quick as possible and problems such as a strong side-drift, a rip, or a heavy shorebreak can hinder this.  However you can neutralise the effects of these problems if you know how.  For instance timing sets and getting an understanding of the wave size patterns at the break allows you to know when to paddle out and avoid the heaviest waves.  A side drift can be avoided by walking up the beach and entering the water up-current from where you wish to take-off.  You can then use the side-drift to carry you along the beach while you paddle out, so that hopefully you end up where you want to catch your waves.  A rip can be a great advantage as long as you know how to use it correctly.  A rip can provide a quick trip out the back as long as you know when to start paddling diagonally along the rip to reach the take-off zone.


Catching a Wave

Once you have made it out into the line-up the first thing you must do before catching a wave is to choose the right wave.  This decision includes many factors such as the worth of the right or left section of the peaking wave, the potential of the particular wave in the set, and the breaking characteristic of the wave.  Also you must take into account whether you'll be able to get enough speed to catch the wave and whether you'll be able to keep ahead of the sectioning wave.  Experience is the best thing to teach you to choose the correct waves. 

Once you have selected your wave paddle towards it, and when in position to catch the on-coming swell turn and face the shoreline and begin to kick hard with your flippers.  You may want to paddle with both arms, or just one, to get more speed.  If you are in the right spot on the wave you will feel it begin to push you along.  To stay with the wave you may need to paddle a little further. This can be done with one arm, while the other holds the nose of the board for stability, and also to push the nose down a little.  Choosing which arm paddles depends on what way you intend to go along the wave. If you intend to go right then the left arm paddles and vice versa. 

Once the wave is pushing you along slide back on your board.  By now you should have decided which way you are going to go on the wave.  If you are going right, your right arm should be on the inside rail near the nose with your hand gripping the nose.  Your left hand should be gripping the outside rail about midway down the board, with your elbow up, and you should be angling the board along the wave.  If you intend to go left then reverse this. 



The duckdive is a technique to get you and your board underneath the turbulence of a breaking wave.  Duckdiving is the quickest, most effiecient way of getting through the whitewash surf and out to the line-up.  It's a skill that requires practice to get right but once you have it worked out you will realise how much easier it makes getting to the line-up.

Firstly, paddle strongly towards the wave as this will give you more forward projection and depth in your dive.  When the wave is approximately one or two metres from you, slide forward and grab your rails approximately 30cm down from the nose.  Begin to push the nose of your board under the surface by arching your back and pushing down on the nose.  Try to get as deep as possible to avoid the turbulence.  As you continue to push down, use your knee on the deck, near the tail, to help push the tail down and forward similar to a scooping motion.  As you continue forward, diving underneath the wave, pull your body closer to

your board.  As the wave moves over you, transfer your weight back towards your knees to lift the nose of your board and angle out the back of the wave, using your bouyancy to project you to the surface.

With continued practice you'll gradually be able to get greater depth in your dive and the deeper you can get with your initial plunge, the less chance you have of being hit by the waves turbulence.

Another Tip for the Duckdive

If you watch a wave closely you'll notice that as the wave breaks, the lip pitches into the trough then explodes upwards again as it bounces off the bottom, and continues to bounce up and down again a couple of times as it loses energy.  You can use this to help you achieve a better duckdive.  As you're paddling out, time the duckdive so that it coincides with the upward explosion of the whitewash.  With the right timing the whitewash will pass over you in your duckdive, rather than plunging you into the bottom.


Bottom Turn

The bottom turn is the key to good bodyboarding.  It is where you set up for the next section or manoeuvre, and how well you do this has an effect on how well you'll execute your next manoeuvre.

To begin your bottom turn dig your rail into the waves surface by applying downward pressure on your hips and leaning on the inside rail.  Gradually guide your board with your arms in the direction you want to go and keep your eyes on where you want the turn to take you.  Use your inside arm to steer the board and don't travel too far out in front of the wave or you'll lose vital speed.  At the trough of the wave use your bodyweight to bury your inside rail enough to not slide out, and then project across and up into the next section, setting up for your next manoeuvre.

The degree of your bottom turn is determined by what you plan to do next.  A tight bottom turn gives the you the thrust needed to complete a desired manoeuvre while a more gradual turn helps to maintain down-the-line speed and allows you to get to the next section efficiently.



This move enables you to get back towards the power source on a wave, much similar to what the reverse spin does.  By cutting back you are essentially applying the brakes to allow the wave to catch up, but doing it with a bit of style.  A carving cutback can look quite impressive when a clean sheet of spray is thrown out through the turn.

The first requirement of a good cutback is speed and a good hard bottom turn.  You should make sure that your stomach and hips are on the deck and that both legs are out of the water to gain maximum speed.  To begin the cutback, turn by aiming your board towards the shoreline and shift all your weight to the rail, on the side you wish to turn, in a smooth, flowing motion.  As you begin to carve into the wave face, apply pressure with your hips and pull gradually on the nose to assist the turn.  Lift your outside rail out of the water until you are turning almost completely on the back corner of your board.  To add some carve to your cutback, throw your weight into it, but remember to start your turn gradually, and then throw your hips up and out towards where the lip should be.  Your want your centre of gravity to be above the back corner of your board on which you are turning.  When doing the cutback you are going to feel a decrease in speed, as your speed decreases, increase the depth and severity of your turn until you feel yourself being propelled by the wave back in the original direction you were travelling before you began the cutback.  Then recentre your weight and slide up on to the middle of your board to gain speed, and continue.


Surf Etiquette

Before you venture out into the waves there are a few rules you should be aware of.  These are the basic unwritten laws of surfing which assist in allowing everyone to get their fare shair waves, especially at a crowded break.  If everyone followed these rules then the surf would be the happy place that it should be.

If someone is already on a wave going the same way you intend to go then don't attempt to take off, it is their wave.

If there are riders on a wave, don't paddle in front of their path.  Wait for them to pass, they have right of way. Their is nothing worse than catching a wave and having to dodge people on your way in !!

When two riders paddle for the same wave, the one on the inside closest to the breaking section of the wave has the right of way.

The local riders tend to get the best set waves.  Give them respect and you will usually get it back.

Most of all, learn to share the waves, we all want the waves as much as each other.  If someone has the inside position and has been waiting for a wave longer than you, don't paddle around them and try to steal their wave.  Also, if you are in the inside position and go for a wave and miss then unfortunately you lose your position in the line up and have to wait again, it is only fair.


Plenty of speed and a good bottom turn are essential for any aerials.  Choosing the right section of the wave depends on several factors such as the pitch of the lip, height of the wave, travelling speed, landing area and your own ability.

Obtaining speed on your approach, the wave should be steep and hollow, and powerful.  How hollow the wave is will determine how steep your approach must be.  A hollow wave requires a steeper approach to compensate for the actual impact of the pitching lip.  Generally you need to head towards the pitching lip at an angle of approximately 45 degrees.  For maximum projection you should hit the pitching lip as the wave reaches just past vertical.  Angle off so that the bottom of your board is flush with the pitching lip on contact as this will give you a greater projection in your flight.  When you hit the lip keep your nose clear of the pitching lip, arch your back and apply pressure to stomach and hips to bounce up and above the lip, you don't want to be going over the falls !!  Once flying, aim your body towards the beach so that you don't fly off the back or get pressed by the lip.  Use your hips, elbows and hands to absorb the shock of landing and always try to land on the whitewater as this will cushion your landing greatly.


The Wave

This page summarises the basic surf and wave knowledge that any bodyboarder should have before they enter the surf.

One of the first things you should know are the weather/surf conditions that you are going to be surfing in.  This will affect the waves, how you approach your surfing session, and even if you do infact surf.

One of the main factors to consider is the winds.  Offshore winds (coming off the land) are the best as they provide smooth faced waves where as onshore winds (coming off the ocean) cause sloppy waves.  Knowing the wind direction before you surf will help you in choosing which particular break will have the cleaner waves.
Tides are another key factor in choosing your spot to surf.  Some breaks are too shallow at low tide while others provide clean hollow tubes in this period.
Another factor to consider before entering the surf is the type of bottom that the waves are breaking on.  This is important for two reasons, first it may determine whether you surf that break or not, if you think it will be too dangerous for your skill level then don't go in.  Also it will assist you in taking any necessary precautions if the bottom is dangerous (reef, rocks etc.), like avoiding any hidden obstacles under the surface of the water, or taking the necessary safety techniques if you happen to wipe out.

Another factor to consider before entering the water are rips.  Rips are created by water gushing back out to sea, usually next to a sandbank.  They can be spotted as usually they are the dark regions of water going from the beach, through the wave area, back out to sea.  Also the waves are normally smaller in the region of a rip.  Once you know how to treat rips they can provide a quick and easy way of getting out the back.  To the unexperienced however rips can be a nightmare, there's nothing worse than the feeling of being out of control and being carried by the rip into those large on coming waves, however they're not that bad.  If you do get caught in a rip, don't paddle against it.  Go with the direction of the current and work your way back to safety by paddling across the rip.  Fighting the rip will get you NO where, and only cause you exhaustion.

Wave Terminology

1. THE LIP - the breaking part of the wave that throws from top to bottom.  The steepness of the wave decides the lip's shape.  A steep wave will throw out causing a tube, a flat, rolling wave will cause the lip to crumble rather than throw out.

2. WHITEWATER - the already broken part of the wave that churns and foams.

3. THE FACE - the walling, unbroken part of the wave.

4. SHOULDER - the part just outside the breaking section of the wave's face.

5. FLATS - the flat water in front of the breaking wave.

6. TROUGH - the bottom of the wave, where the lip meets the wave face.

7. TUBE - the hollow hole between the throwing lip and the wave's wall.

Some Other Wave Terminology

SPIT - when a powerful tubing wave shoots blocked air throught the tube opening a light spray will shoot out, this is the spit.
SHOCKWAVE - where the lip of a tube hits the face of the wave in the trough, a whitewater explosion occurs at the point of contact.  The whitewater inside the tube is the shockwave.
FOAMBALL - whitewater continually sucked up and over inside a tube creates a revolving mass of foam that can be ridden.  This is the foamball.


The wipeout is definately the easiest manoeuvre in bodyboarding, and everyone does it.  However, correctly wiping out is critical to your safety, especially on those huge, drilling waves we have to face sometime or another.  Never however ride waves that you feel would be too demanding for your skill level.  Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the inevitable wipe out.


Always stay calm and don't fight the wave too hard.  Panicking and thrashing about to reach the surface only wastes precious oxygen.

If surfing on a reef break, roll into a ball, with your hands and arms over your head, to protect your head from any damage.

If you can help it, don't fall on the shore side of your board, you don't want to be falling where the lip is going to hit !  If possible fall into the wave and dive through it.

Always be aware of how deep or shallow the waves are breaking.  If they're deep, dive deep and through the wave.  If they're shallow and you're out of control, spread your body, to allow a shallower landing, there is nothing worse than falling straight onto the bottom !

If you are head first into the wave then it is best to put your hands out in front of your head and dive shallow at the base of the wave and exit out the back.

Leashes can be both your best friend, and your worst enemy.  If the waves are very shallow, wearing a leash can cause you to be dragged across the bottom, not very fun if it happens to be reef ! Also it is best to have a leash with swivels on it to avoid the annoying twists that can wrap around your arms, legs or neck, which is not very helpful when you are trying to swim !

Most of all, don't worry about those wipe outs you have, it is half the fun getting pounded by the waves and laughing about it later.  Here are some pics of some serious wipe outs, to make you feel that little bit better about your own wipe outs.  Yes, even the pros suffer from the odd wipeout or two.




Angling along a wave in a straight line is known as 'trimming'.  Trimming is one of the most simplest yet important manoeuvres in bodyboarding. 

Once you have caught a wave you should begin trimming to set-up for the bottom turn.  The main aim when trimming is to pick up speed so that you can keep up with the wave and make it to the next section.  Your fins can help with direction changes by applying them to the waveface, but don't dig them in too deep or you will cause your board to stall and lose speed.  The more speed you generate the easier it is to turn and the easier tricks become.  Pulling your legs just up out of the water increases your speed greatly.  Once you can make it to the bottom, or trough, of a wave you are ready for the bottom turn

One problem many newcomers have is slide-slipping.  This occurs when you don't set your edge properly, allowing your board to become flush with the wave face.  Although this may be less water-restricting and generates more speed it hinders the direction of travel across the wave face.  To stop this from happening you must ensure to set your edge properly by using your inside arm and elbow on the rail. 


Forward Spin

The forward spin, or three-sixty, is a standard trick in bodyboarding, yet when mastered on the open wave face, can be applied to more critical wave sections and become the opener for a variety of more complex and innovative moves.  The direction of this spin is towards the wave face, back in the direction you just came from along the wave.

To begin this move you need to have enough speed to complete the rotation, the speed you require will become evident after experience.  Coming down from a fast section should give you enough forward thrust.  As you begin to turn up the wave begin your 360 motion by releasing your edge and sliding forward on your board, keeping your board flat to the wave face.  Once spinning, raise your legs well in the air to prevent any drag, arch your back and keep the majority of your weight forward to help maintain your momentum.  Flicking your legs in the direction you want to spin will help your rotation, turning your head in the direction you wish to spin will help also.  Once the spin is complete slide back on your board, lower your legs and obtain an edge and continue trimming for your next move.

Reverse Spin

This is one of the first bodyboarding tricks you should try to master.  It is a functional method of allowing you to reposition back towards the power source of the wave, and when performed in a critical section like the tube or on the lip, it becomes an exciting move.  The ideal position to perform this trick when beginning is on the shoulder of the wave.

After bottom turning and building up as much speed as possible head towards the top of the wave and begin by turning your board in a tight carve towards the shore.  Dig your inside hip into the wave and as you begin to spin flick your legs in the same direction you are spinning.  Your momentum should be enough to allow you to spin smoothly and once you've reached midway through your cutback slide forward so your weight will assist in the turn.  Once spinning, remain flat on your board with your back arched and your flippers tucked up behind your backside.  It is critical to keep your weight centred over your board so that you don't catch a rail while in your spin.  Once you have completed a full circle you should now be closer to the breaking wave.  You can then recentre your body and regather speed for the next manoeuvre.


Stalling is used for braking in a variety of bodyboarding situations such as slowing down in a tubing section of a wave, to bringing you to a halt from your bottom turn in a heavy shorebreak.

There are two basic methods of stalling:

1.  Dragging your legs in the water will slow you down or moving your hip more to the inside rail will have the same effect.

2.  The second involves pulling up on the nose of your board and applying downward pressure on the tail with your hips.  Sometimes to slow down to the required speed it may even be necessary to bury your knees in the water.  Hold the board at angle of about 30 to 45 degrees until you reach the required speed.  Knowing what speed to release this type of stall will come from experience, but keep in mind that you don't want to stall too heavily and lose too much speed.  When you come out of the stall slide forward on the board to initially pick up speed, then set your rail and go for it !!


Copyright 1998 "The Spunge"

Converted By Jacques Van Der Merwe