Outdoor enthusiasts and sun-soaking beach goers across the nation are taking advantage or the gnarly waves from coast to coast—without learning how to surf.
Water lovers everywhere are catching on to the latest bodysurfing
variation called handboarding or handsurfing
. For all of you beginners out there, the concept combines the action of bodysurfing with the use of a surfboard—just a much smaller one. This board, called a handboard
, attaches to your hand and is usually 2 or 3 times the size of your hand.
This board pulls you into the wave and increases your speed, allowing you to get faster and go further than traditional bodysurfing. The handboard
also serves to give to a higher lift. That means there’s going to be less drag from the water. This super fun aqua activity can be done anywhere surfing is done, although you may want to watch out for those extra big waves. The great part is, handboarding
can be done on smaller swells, too.
Not sure where to start? Check out this list of the best spots across the U.S. to go handboarding!
Flagler Beach, Florida
Flagler beach, located in Flagler County, Florida
, is an excellent spot for some great bodysurfing without the hassle of a crowd. A popular surf spot
, you may find that the waters can be pretty populated with surfers
. Travel down some blocks to get away from crowded waves. Beginners especially may want to
consider this—it’s usually easier to learn with more space. If you’re looking to catch some beautiful, crystal clear waves without worrying about running into large crowds, check out this beach.
Masonboro, North Carolina
While North Carolina
has a few different beaches that are popular for surfing, Masonboro Island
is best suited for handboarding and bodysurfing
. A hidden gem amongst NC beaches, Masonboro Island is almost entirely unpopulated due to its seclusion. The beach usually features little to no people and has some of the best waves to catch.
The downside to this diamond in the rough is that there are no bridges to get to it, meaning you’ll need a boat to get there. Some surfers like to paddle across, but that’s not recommended for a bodysurfer
If you’re able to rent, borrow, or you own a boat, it’s definitely worth the trip to catch some awesome waves minus the surfing
The Wedge, Newport Beach, California
This beach is known for its bodysurfers—those who don’t participate even like to come by just to watch. Its certainly recommended for handboarders with experience, and dependent upon black ball season and the lifeguards. The waves can be strong and easily knock unexperienced surfers down under water. In addition to its perfect waves, this beach has been compared to locations like Hawaii and Balboa in regard to its beautiful sand and water.
Montauk, New York
Montauk has been referred to as the best surf spot on Long Island
. Some have even dared to go as far as to pronounce it the best surf spot on the East Coast
. For all of you New Yorkers out there, if you don’t already know about this spot, you should probably check it out. Known for its choppy waves and consistent breaks, this beach, more specifically Ditch Plains
, is not for beginners.
The waves can get a little tough to manage, but they’re well worth the effort if you know how to handle a handboard. Keep in mind that this is a very popular surf spot, especially in the summer, so the same courtesies that they pay one another will most certainly be expected of a bodysurfer as well. As long as you’ve established experience and talent with a handboard, and you promise to follow the rules of surfing etiquette, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to handle Ditch Plains. Just watch out for rocks at the bottom!
Ocean City, New Jersey
This well-known Jersey Shore
beach is super popular amongst families and vacationers, as well as surfers. Since Ocean City
is known to be a very touristy spot, some people are unsure about visiting for surfing or handboarding
. Don’t be deterred though—this shore is known for some decent waves and
excellent breaks; it may very well be worth dodging vacationers.
A lot of surfers
try getting out there just as the sun is coming up. This is a great way to avoid large crowds, as folks tend to sleep in a little more on vacation. The mornings can also be a tad too chilly for sun bathers. Ocean City
is also a great place to visit in the fall if you’re looking for some uninterrupted handboarding. You may want to invest in a wetsuit
—it’ll be cold coming out of the water—but this is the time of year that the water is warmest. Enjoy riding the waves without crashing into people!
South Padre Island, Texas
While this stretch of beaches is a popular one (hello, spring breakers)
, it doesn’t get too super crowded. Aside from the temporary rush of college students during their breaks, the area is fairly relaxed. The beaches run so far down that everything is pretty spread out, making it a nice place to settle in for some handboarding
On these beaches, like the ones near the South Padre Island Jetties, you can find some great waves that are big enough to handsurf while also staying pretty steady and gentle. These beautiful waves have also been known to give you some barrels every now and then; not every bodysurfer can say they’re pulled
their way through a barrel. If you have the time, South Padre Island is a nice, relaxing place with tons of beach land to explore. Pick a spot and catch some awesome waves!
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach is another well-known touristy area, but the great part about this location is that it is nice to visit all year round. While it may not be nearly as warm as its peak season in the summer, you can still visit this area in the winter months without it being too freezing.
The waves in the Virginia
waters offer some great waves for handsurfing.
Even though they may not be as big as some other locations, the beauty of handboarding is that they don’t need to be! This beautiful beach can give you some really great and good-sized waves to catch for a beginner or well-seasoned bodysurfer
Small Point, Maine
Surprisingly enough, Maine
has a handful of very popular surf spots
that are used all year round. The surprise factor comes in when you realize that even in the summer, the water never really gets that warm. This could be a good thing though, since swimmers aren’t particularly fond of cool water.
The only competition a bodysurfer will get will be from other surfers
, and most surfers know to follow surfing etiquette. Small Point
is particularly attractive for handboarders because you’ll have to take a little bit of a hike to get to it. This is good for handsurfers
because you won’t be lugging a huge surfboard
—just a small handboard
. Because of this, some surfers prefer more accessible beaches, making this one often secluded and uncrowded. This beach is a great place to catch some awesome waves—some of the more heavier waves found in Maine.
Folly Beach, South Carolina
Folly Beach has been hailed as one of the best places to surf in South Carolina
. With groundswells and awesome waves, an experience handboarder can have some serious fun. Since this area is so popular for surfing, there are actually cameras in place, so surfers can check out the waves before they head out. This is seriously useful for a handboarder
who might prefer more mild waves than an extreme surfer
This location is beautiful, popular, and filled with glassy water that often features 3-foot waves. It’s perfect for a talented handboarder. Be warned, though—things can get a little rough during hurricane season. It might be best to leave those waves to the shortboarders.
This popular vacation destination happens to be extremely popular in the areas of bodysurfing and bodyboarding as well. A beach built with a can’t-miss view, it serves handboarders well by providing excellent waves. The beach has been marked as great for beginners as well as experienced bodysurfers, so with the help of handboards any bodysurfer can navigate these waters. Take caution during high surf though—beginners may have trouble staying above the water.
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Guest Author Bio: Luke runs a beach travel blog, where he helps his readers prepare for the upcoming getaways through in-depth reviews and beach guides.
Main Image : Desmond Port
Rider : Zachariah Zeiger
Location: The Wedge