In these times of increasing technological sophistication of everything – including games – It is good to know that there are still some incredibly fun and free things to do that require no special equipment whatever. Among one of the choicest options at the beach on a nice day is Body Surfing.
Even children can learn to surf the smallest waves and swells with only their own bodies. No boards of any kind (Boogie, Surf, etc.) are needed – only a human body, a wave to catch and a soft, sandy beach to get deposited on at the ride’s end. Going somewhere nice and warm and beachy for a vacation? Take this with you!
How Body Surfing Works:
It is pretty simple. You stand in the ocean facing the shore, but looking over your shoulder at the sea behind you. You want to be standing in the area that the waves or smaller swells begin to curl at their height and are just about to ‘break.’ Most commonly, this will have you standing somewhere between knee and waist deep in the ocean.
As the rising wave peaks and is about to break, the Body Surfer faces into the shore and dives toward it, hoping to become a moving part of the breaking wave. If you catch one that is a little bit too strong for you, you may get tossed around a bit by turbulence greater than what the surface of the wave you saw coming gave you reason to expect.
Don’t panic! Keep your face in the water until 1) the water calms, or 2) you feel the sandy beach on your belly as you ‘land.’
When you ‘catch’ the wave just right, you will know it immediately and will feel the exhilaration that comes with being both the surfer and surf board – all in one.
Each of the important requirements is detailed below:
Water Safety Skills:
Beginners of any age do best to start in ocean water somewhere between knee and waist deep. Like all water activities, Body Surfing can be enjoyed alone, but those just starting out are advised to have someone with them ‘just in case.’ Basic water safety skills include 1) the ability to swim independently for at least several yards and 2) the ability to hold your head under water.
The underwater element is important because the quality of the ride you get from the wave is influenced (but never fully controlled) by your own body. The more straight you can hold it – from feet to your head – the better and longer ride you are likely to enjoy.
Body Surfing is best avoided if the waves are taller than you are by more than a foot or so. This is because, especially for the novice, the ocean always hides more than it shows. The larger the wave you can see, the more likely that there will be great turbulence below the surface that you cannot see. Experienced Body Surfers know how to compensate when they find themselves in such a predicament – But here, we are just trying to get you safely started enjoying this wonderful recreational sport.
The same conditions that might cause you to think twice about going in the water for a swim, apply to Body Surfing as well. A strong undertow (under-surface water pulling you away from the shore you are trying to reach) or dangerous animals (sharks, certain kinds of stinging jelly fish, etc.) indicate that your Body Surfing should be put off to another day.
The beach should be smooth and free of coral or other hard, sharp objects and formations. If you do it right, this is the landing pad you’ll come in on – on your belly. The softer and smoother – the better.
As with most things, when it comes to Body Surfing, there is no substitute for good judgment. If the waves look too big or threatening to you – they are! If you become frightened after diving in and change your mind, wait for any turbulence to subside and fast forward motion to cease before dropping your feet and trying to stop by standing.
Perhaps most importantly, Body Surfing is a great activity for having fun in the water – but not such a good idea to be used for ‘showing off’ or trying to impress someone with your prowess, courage and fearlessness in the ocean. That would be the opposite of good judgment – foolishness.
The ocean is huge and powerful and to be respected at all times. In a battle with it, the human will always lose, so never fight a wave. Go with it instead. This strategy parallels that of doing the counter-intuitive thing by steering into the direction of a car skidding on a wet or icy road to regain control.
The timing of your dive into the breaking is the biggest single variable you have control over. If you jump off too soon, the wave will break after rolling over you and will leave you close to where you were when you thought you were catching it. If you jump in too long after a wave breaks, you’ll get a ride – but only a very small one. Diving in just as the wave is beginning to break is the goal.
That’s all there is to it. Find the right spot, catch the right wave as it breaks and you will have a good ride.
Get yourself a wave and a sandy shore to ride yourself on and onto!
These instructions are intended for beginners who are water safe. Where you take Body Surfing from here is entirely up to you.