This is a comprehensive guide on how to Body surf using a Handboard. Body surfing is one thing but using a handboard is a little different. Handboarding it is not difficult. Here are a few tips and tricks to getting your technique just right.
looking to find the right board? Take a look through our guide to choosing the right board for your ability.
This article is intended for beginners handboarders, and should give you the start you need to take your bodysurfing with a handboard to new heights. We will not discuss the specifics of water safety. If you would like to get a detailed description on bodysurfing techniques and ocean safety, read our bodysurf 101 article or our article on avoiding rip currents .
Using a handboard gets you higher out the water meaning you go faster and further along the wave. Its also allows you to steer and guide yourself on the wave as illustrated by long time Australian bodysurfer Grant Schofield
"I was amazed by the speed I could get on the board, I found myself having to either stall or do turns to stop from 'out running' the wave which is unheard of while bodysurfing normally!"
Increased speed: allows you to ride further and faster
Higher lift out the water means less drag
Increased pull into the wave, leading to less missed waves
Riding a handboard puts a smile on your face!
handboard, handplane, handgun, handlid, handslide, the list goes on. they are all the same thing and vary dramatically, like surfboards, in size and shape. Check out our article "choosing the right handboard for you," which will take you through choosing the best handboard for you.
you need a Handboard to go handboarding. Take a look at the choose you handboard section to choose the best board for your ability .
Fins are optional and make getting into a wave much easier. However, if you are handboarding in the shore break, it is sometimes easier to leave the fins on the beach. When you are learning how to bodysurf, keep close to shore, you will be able to launch into the wave by pushing off the ocean floor. Having fins on when you’re close in can tire you out really quickly. read our guide on choosing the best fins
Being completely submerged in water will get cold, so check your local conditions and temperatures before you go. We have a great introduction on choosing the right wetsuit
Once you have made sure your handboarding equipment is in perfect working order, It's time to choose where you want to handboard. Choose the best conditions by visiting any one of the surf report sites like Surfline or Magic Seaweed.
Wade out to waist deep water, facing the horizon. Lower yourself into the water and put your hand with the handboard outstretched in front of you. Take the other hand and place over the hand in the strap. With your body outstretched, kick and you will move forward quickly out past the breaking waves or if you are a good swimmer do freestyle stroke with the board in hand, like Chris in the image above.
The handboard keeps you buoyant and the kicking moves you forward. As the wave comes toward you, simply kick under the water and the wave with flow over you. It sounds scary at first but in time you will love the feeling of a wave going over you.
Once you are in position where the waves are breaking, turn around and face the shore, while keeping your attention on the approaching waves. The technique to catching the wave while you are handboarding is actually very easy. Position the arm with the handboard outstretched in front of you. As the wave rolls towards you, kick hard and use your free arm in a freestyle swim stoke for that extra push. The secret to this part is timing. Too fast and you are out in front of the wave. Too slow and the wave rolls over you.
At first you will go straight but as you progress you will learn to either go left or right depending on what way the wave is breaking. The forward momentum of the wave will pick you up and carry you with it. Our tip at this point is to "NOT" hesitate. Go for it!. Streamline your body by going as prone as possible, become a human surfboard. Your swim fins are now your rudder and the board is the bow of your ship. Use your handboard to steer the ship and have fun.
If you are a complete novice, follow our choosing the right place to bodysurf article to make the best decision when choosing the spot for your session. We also recommend you have a few sessions of learning how to bodysurf without a handboard before you venture in with a Handboard, to get you used to the ocean.
Follow these simple tips and in no time, you will be handboarding like a superhero. So get out there and see how much fun it is. Remember, we are not trying to solve world peace. Just have fun and don't take yourself too seriously.
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