In Hawaii, the art of riding the waves with your body is synonymous with being in the waves themselves. Literally, there is no way to not be affected by the waves if you are in them, so why not use the wave to your best advantage (especially if it is so much fun!)? These realities, created the foundation for what we now know as “Boogie Boarding” or “Body Boards”, and they are a logical extension of what has been practiced and perfected for centuries in the Pacific.
The modern Boogie Board (or Bodyboard) is an adaptation of the Polynesian “small board” or wood “plank” that was available on or near any beach. The floatation of the wood board assisted the rider to stay afloat in the wave, and thereby be more affected by the energy and speed of the wave – giving a better and higher ride. In the early 1970’s, Tom Morey fashioned a rectangular polyethylene board from his workshop, and began the process of refining what we now know as the “Boogie Board”. Modern Surfing was already coming to prominence, but the size of the board, and the vagaries of the balance required to effectively “ride” the wave, made it difficult for people trying it for the first time. Boogie Boarding with its smaller size, provided an immediate and cost effective way to start enjoying wave riding immediately, and it did not take long for this sport to take hold and start receiving worldwide attention.
As with Surfing, Hawaii is the cultural epicenter for Boogie Boarding, with so many great locations and attention on water sports in general. The fabulous water temperatures here (always near 80 degrees), and the gentle regularity of predictable waves stimulating growth in participation and interest. Even staunch stuck-in-the-mud types have to agree that Boogie Boarding is great fun in Hawaii!
And the sport of Boogie Boarding is still progressing and evolving too. It did not take long for the Boogie Boarding enthusiasts to discover that a pair of short fins, when attempting to capture waves in deeper water, assisted the process, and made virtually any wave a “riding” possibility. Before long, enormous waves were in the sight of Boogie Board riders, and they were successfully riding them too.
How to start “Boogie Boarding” in Hawaii:
If you want Boogie Board (and we hope you do), you will need a few things, and you will find them readily available a in Hawaii. The following is an Inventory of what is needed for a great Boogie Boarding trip to the beach:
The “Boogie Board”
First you need a Boogie Board. These are available at Scuba diving and Surf rental shops for as little as $10 a day or less, if you rent for a longer period. You can also buy a Boogie Board from many retailers/street vendors, and even pharmacies for as little as $40. Performance Boogie Boards can go much higher in price, and are available in Surf shops and sporting good stores. Make sure you find a Boogie Board with a “leash”, which is a device that connects the Boogie Board to your wrist or ankle via a Velcro strap, and a springy rope. This makes retrieving the Boogie Board so much easier if it slips away from you after a ride.
The right waves for Boogie Boarding
Accomplished Boogie Board riders can ride on all size waves, but even they agree that some waves are better than others. Try to find waves that are one to five feet high, and that break in a predictable pattern from right to left or left to right.
Good waves for Boogie Boarding should avoid sharp pinnacles, and be in areas where the bottom is not too jagged. Also, avoid waves that are subject to “Shore Break” which is phenomena that occurs in many locations. Although Shore break waves can look ideal initially, they leave no room for error, and a Boogie Board rider can find themselves planted on their head and neck with no water around them. These types of bottom collisions are very dangerous, and will certainly ruin your day and perhaps much more. Many Hawaii beaches now have “Shore Break” warning signs posted, but the responsible Boogie Board rider must safeguard their own health.
When a wave breaks, there should be sufficient water depth in the break zone that a Boogie Board rider can negotiate a recovery in case they guess the wave incorrectly. Like with any sport, you are going to have some good rides and some bad rides. Be careful as you choose your waves, and your Boogie Board locations.
Wear a Shirt
Fellas, after a day of Boogie Boarding you will be glad you wore a T-shirt or water shirt. Gals generally wear tops over sensitive areas, so this is not so much an issue.
Boogie Board Fins
These are short swim fins, and they help provide a little extra energy in your kick if you are attempting to catch bigger waves in deeper water. In fact, you may not be able to catch bigger waves without them (they just move by very quickly). Having said that, you may be Boogie Boarding in an area where you just stand up and fall forward into the waves, and the Boogie Boarding fins are not needed and may be in the way of your having fun.
Many people have so much fun Boogie Boarding, that they lose track of time, and stay out in the warm Hawaiian sun longer than they should. We always recommend a good waterproof sunblock on the face, lips, arms, hands, body, and feet. Keep in mind that “waterproof” sunblock can and will wash off and become diluted with time in the waves of Hawaii. Add sunblock early and often, and stay safe!
Similar to Sun Block; it is easy to lose track of your hydration (fresh water) needs when you are Body Boarding in Hawaii. You will burn a lot of calories Boogie Boarding, and your body will lose a significant amount of water from your body system. Be safe, and drink lots of fresh bottled water when you go Boogie Boarding
You have got to get out of the water sometime, and if you can find a fresh water shower at the beach, using that towel to dry your face and body after you Boogie Board is sure going to feel good!
Boogie Boarding Etiquette
Since Surfers and Boogie Boarders often share similar locations, please respect the commonly accepted Beach Etiquette practiced in Hawaii. First you must understand that Surfing came first to Hawaii, and then the sport of Boogie Boarding (however historically inaccurate this might be). Surfers often refer to Boogie Board riders as “Spongers” because they feel the Boogie Board riders “sponge” off the easier to access waves, and often can find themselves in the way of the start or the tail end of a successful Surf ride. Allow Surfers their space to practice their sport, honestly there are many more great locations to Boogie Board than to Surf – so there is a fairness somewhere in this logic.
As it relates to other Boogie Board riders waiting waves, try to be fair and give everyone a chance at some good waves. If everyone is too close, spread out and find your own space to Boogie Board. It makes for a more fun day if everyone practices this way!
Your First Boogie Board Ride:
Okay, you have the ground rules, and you have the Boogie Board and an appropriate first location with some smaller beginning waves…let’s go!
You should be standing in water about hip height as the wave breaks around you; simply push yourself onto the Boogie Board and thrust forward in the direction of the way the wave is breaking, and let the waves energy “catch” you and push you forward. If you successfully captured the wave, you can feel yourself being pulled forward, and you may feel an energy slightly pulling you down too. Try not to get too far forward on your Boogie Board, and ride it as far as you safely can… you just had your first Boogie Board ride in Hawaii! Congratulations!
Learning More About Boogie Boarding in Hawaii
You can learn an awful lot about Boogie Boarding in Hawaii by watching other riders from the Beach. Sooner or later someone will discover the best places to ride on any beach, and you will know the spot because they will keep on riding the waves over and over again. You can join them if you like.
Or you can find a qualified Boogie Board instructor. These professionals generally are based from Surf shops in Hawaii, and the instructor may be qualified to teach Surfing as well as Boogie Boarding. An hour Boogie Board lesson will reveal a great deal more about techniques and Hawaiian locations for Boogie Boarding than can possibly be covered here. Expect to pay between $40 to $95 per hour for professional instruction, and we recommend it if you can schedule the time.
SBHawaii.com Information on Boogie Boarding in Hawai'i:
• Hawai'i Boogie Boarding and Surf Physics Explained
• Hawai'i Body Surfing (without the Board)