Despite the cute name, boogie boarding is an extreme sport and takes quite a bit of skill. It’s all about learning how to manage your board and reading the motion of the sea. Even though it seems like a relatively straightforward sport, it takes some time to learn how to use a boogie board with ease.
I was a bit taken aback to find out boogie boarding was an extreme sport. Not in a bad way; I had just never thought about it before. Although, now that I know, it’s hard to see it any other way.
When I was little, I would boogie board on the beaches near my home whenever I got the chance. That experience gave me the impression that it was merely a cute activity for small children playing in the waves of the ocean.
I had never seen a professional bodyboarder at work, so it was hard to see how it could be that extreme. That impression came from the fact that I have only ever used the cheap boogie boards that are sold along the boardwalk. They broke quickly and weren’t suitable for much more than riding into the shore on small, but forceful, waves.
Due to my own insufficient experience, it was hard to picture someone expertly surfing the waves, body against their small board, racing through the water as a waves curl over them. Once I learned it existed, I wanted to learn everything I could about it. That includes all the things needed, how to pick a proper boogie board, and ultimately, learning how to boogie board. I bet you do, too!
Learning how to boogie board isn't hard, but learning about helpful tips, tricks, and equipment will help you take this fun activity to the next level.
What Is Boogie Boarding?
Boogie boarding is similar to surfing, at least in the way that you use a board to ride the waves into the shore. Both are sports based on taking advantage of the natural power of the ocean. Boogie boarding is a water sport in which the riders typically lays against a small, hydrodynamic board.
A boogie board is made from foam with a smooth plastic bottom. The top and sides, otherwise known as the deck and rails, are usually made with softer foam. Depending on the construction of the boogie board, they will have various levels of flexibility.
Modern-day boogie boards commonly include anywhere from one to three carbon or graphite rods. These rods will add to the durability and stiffness.
I must say, this would have been useful knowledge when I was younger since I always broke my boards sooner or later. They were cheap and flimsy and didn’t include internal rods of any kind to improve their durability. Although I suppose you can’t expect much when you find a boogie board for around $5.
The flexibility will help determine what kind of waters they are best for. Polyethylene boards are most suitable for cool waters because they are generally more flexible. However, they can have too much flex for warm waters. Alternatively, an Arcel or polypropylene boogie board is stiffer and better for warm waters.
You will have to determine what kind of boogie boarding you plan to do and choose a board based on that knowledge.
Professional boogie boarding
If you’re a beginner, you should focus on learning control. There won’t be any use in showmanship if you’re always losing your board in the rush of the waves.
Even though you won’t be ready for anything fancy for a while, it’s still awfully inspiring to watch professionals at work. They seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to the ocean, understanding the motion of the waves and following them with ease.
It’s especially impressive to watch when you’ve tried it yourself and understand the skill it requires. It takes some time to learn, and you will only get better with practice. So if you don’t live near an ocean with the right kind of surf, going professional probably isn’t an option.
The modern-day boogie board was invented in 1971 and quickly grew into a massive industry, as well as an extreme sport. It grew in popularity in North America before spreading across the world, becoming especially popular in Australia, but also South America, Africa, and even Japan.
By 1982 the first International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships was held, with Daniel Kaimi as the champion. From there, boogie boarding kept growing, and now there are competitions held all over the world.
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Getting Ready to Boogie Board
Learning how to boogie board is quite simple, requiring practice more than anything. There are a few things you need to learn before you get to work. That includes finding the perfect boogie board and other equipment, locating an ideal place to practice, and maintaining your board correctly.
Once you nail down the basics, you will be able to experiment a little more. Then you can expand your search to find bigger waves. You might even try your hand at acrobatics in time, but probably not in the beginning. The water will be ready to catch you when you finish flying through the air. It won’t always be kind to you, but it will become an old friend in time, challenging your endurance.
Regardless of the possibilities, you need to start somewhere, and we’re here to help!
Choosing your board
We have already talked a bit about the construction of a boogie board, the materials used, and how the stiffness or flexibility can be better for warm or cool waters. However, there are other things you need to know when picking a boogie board.
Three main things will determine which board you should choose. That includes your height, weight, and the style of boogie boarding you’d like to do.
When it comes to your height and weight, there are usually size charts that can be incredibly helpful. You should look for them while shopping. A boogie board is often anywhere from 39 to 43 inches long.
There are also different levels of quality that include increasing price tags. The most basic and affordable options are usually made of styrofoam. These styrofoam boards aren’t exceptionally durable, but they’re ideal if you’re on a budget. They are perfect for beginners or recreational use.
Mid-level boards are usually made with polyethylene and will include stringer of some sort. They will have a higher but reasonable price. They are also much more durable, perfect for frequent use, but still great for beginners.
Last of all, high-end boards generally use polypropylene. They are light, durable, and not as sensitive to varying temperatures. Also, they usually include at least one stringer, if not three. These are professional boards that can deal with powerful waves, which also make them the most expensive of all.
To tell the truth, you can pretty much pick any board, as long as it’s the right size. In the beginning, you will be learning how to deal with the rolling ocean. No matter how expensive your board is, it isn’t going to improve your skills. Only practice will help you there.
Gathering the necessary equipment
As lovely as it would be to grab your board and run into the waves, there are a few more pieces of valuable equipment. The things we will list here aren’t required, but they are a huge help.
First of all, everyone needs a leash for their boogie board. Some people ask whether they have to use one. While it isn’t a requirement, it’s incredibly convenient. It will keep your boogie board from getting lost in the waves.
As a beginner, there’s no doubt you’re going to lose the hold on your board as you tumble through the waves and lose your grip. So instead of chasing after it, you can reel it in instead.
A rash guard will also be incredibly useful. Depending on the beach, there’s a good chance that the ride to shore won’t always be an easy one. Many beaches have sharp rocks and shells where the water meets the sand. It will scrape you up like rough sandpaper with each trip to shore. The best rash guards should cover your arms to the elbows and your legs to the knees.
Fins are optional, but they can be a great help when moving through strong currents. On the other hand, many experienced bodyboarders recommend that you shouldn’t use fins while you’re learning.
It can be difficult to enough learning how to use your boogie board. The fins will only make it harder to start.
However, I used fins in still water, snorkeling off the coast of the Grand Turk island. They aren’t easy to use at first. So if you intend to use them eventually, it might be best to practice with them as well.
Preparing and maintaining your boogie board
Caring for a boogie board isn’t too hard. There’s really only one rule — keep the boogie board out of sun and heat whenever you can. They are ordinarily heat-laminated, but that doesn’t mean they will hold up long in the sun.
If you’re in the water, you won’t have to worry about your board warping under the hot sun. Yet you should never leave it laying in the sun or a hot car. When you’re on the beach, you should bring an umbrella with you. If not for your own sake, it will at least protect your boogie board from the sun.
Otherwise, the lamination that bonds the boogie board together will begin to separate. That will cause it to bubble up and warp over time. Once that happens, it won’t be much use to you.
Additionally, when you have a brand new boogie board, it can be hard to keep a grip on it. The fresh, smooth surface will become slippery when it’s wet. So it will be challenging to hold onto it once you’re in the water.
That’s where the boogie board or surfboard wax will come in handy. You can gently rub it on the places where you need a good grip. You typically only need it on the front of the board where your hands will be. But you can also apply it where your forearms touch the board along the rails, and possibly where your stomach touches as well.
Just remember that you don’t need to apply a thick layer. You only need enough to get a good grip. You can always use more in another waxing session, but removing it can be a pain -- so it’s better to start small.
Picking the best place to learn
Learning how to boogie board is relatively simple. It’s merely a matter of getting to know your boogie board and learning how to move through the waves. You can lean left or right to ease your board in the right direction, but it will take some time to learn enough to control it properly.
When you’re learning how to boogie board, you should pick a beach with small waves. That way, you can get a feel for your board and the motion of the ocean.
As you get more comfortable, you can graduate to beaches with bigger waves, but starting small is always best.
You’ll have to find the best beaches near your home. We, unfortunately, can’t point you in the right direction, as much as we’d like to. But they shouldn’t be hard to find, and you’ll be well on your way before you know it.
Things to Keep in Mind When Boogie Boarding
We've told you enough to get you on your way. Once you have the right tools and pick a starting location, you will be ready to go.
Before you do, there are a few extra tips that could be a huge help.
First of all, don’t skimp on equipment. It’s tempting to pick the most affordable items and hit the beach right away. However, if this is going to be a regular hobby, you might want to spend a little extra. A durable boogie board, strong leash, and sturdy rashguard will hold up well over time. That way you won’t need to spend more money replacing these items because they won’t wear out quickly.
You should always check the weather and conditions of the ocean before you dive in. If you choose not to wear fins, you may get worn out faster, especially in strong tides and currents. That brings me to my next point.
You should always pay attention to your body. If you’re worn out, you aren’t going to be any good at this sport anyway, and you’ll just be sloppy. It won’t help you improve, and it can be dangerous.
Lastly, keep it simple. As cool as it is to watch professionals pop out of the water and catch some air, it can also be risky. You may end up knocking the wind out of your lungs. If you're caught under the power of the wave, you may suck in water.
Therefore, if you aren’t extremely comfortable with your boogie board, you should avoid doing tricks. There’s no point to them if you can’t stay on your board in the first place.
Now That You Have Everything You Need, It’s Time to Boogie
Learning how to boogie board isn’t hard. It’s a straightforward sport. There aren’t many rules, and there are only a few ways to accomplish it. Once you have everything you need, the only thing left is practice.
If you’re going to be any good at boogie boarding, you’ll have to hit the waves often. Get used to the swells of the ocean and how they can carry you forcefully to shore. Learn how to move your board in a particular direction and avoid being tackled by the waves.
In the end, it’s incredibly fun and fantastic exercise. It takes a lot of core strength, even though you’re floating on a boogie board. I’d say it’s just as good as swimming laps, if not even better. After all, with each trip out, you’ll be fighting the waves coming in.
If you’ve been plotting your first boogie boarding trip, we hope it goes well. Even if it’s hard at first, don’t lose heart! Nobody is any good at something when they're just starting out.
If you love the sport already and have tips, a favorite beach, or a favorite board, let us know in the comment section below!