When bodyboarding talk turns to our founding fathers, the name Ben Severson inevitably weaves it's way into the conversation. For those of you blissfully unaware, Ben grew up in Hawaii and was part of the crew at Sandy Beach during the early 1980s that included some of the absolute legends of our sport including JP Patterson, Pat Caldwell, Jack Lindholm, Keith Sasaki and photographer/videographer Tom Boyle (among others). These guys forged a path of bodyboarding ingenuity on a daily basis at Sandy's, coming up with stuff that have become status quo like dropknee riding, the El Rollo, and other moves that have become staples in our sport.
Ben, who stands all of about 5'6" tall, carved out a reputation as a technician of sorts, getting slapped with the moniker "The Troll" for the amount of time he spent in the tube. His skill on his wide-profiled boards was unrivaled through the 80s and early 90s. Ben's ability to sit back on the narrow tail and make micro-adjustments in the pocket of the wave were a sight to behold and numerous riders, my wife Vicki Reale among them, attempted to emulate Ben's unique riding style. His "wheelie stall" in the barrel when the camera was pointed at him became known in our pro bodyboarding circles as the "money stall" because it exposed all the sponsor logos on the bottom of your board, therefore snagging maximum photo incentive (money paid by sponsors when their logo appears in the magazine). When the wave flattened out, Ben effectively used the wide nose to glide through the flat spots, and when it was time to redirect back into the pocket, his double-handed cutback was iconic.
(Above: The legendary double-hand cutty)
Ben was one of the first major pro bodyboarders to experiment with his boards. Prior to Ben's influence, we all rode the same 42" Morey Mach 7. Ben opened everyone's eyes to the idea of riding a board that was appropriate for your size, and it ushered in a major change in the bodyboard sales market that saw manufacturers begin offering models in several sizes.
(Above: Ben, myself and Pat Caldwell discuss board design. Pic: Aaron Loyd)
In the early days of the Pipeline event, when Morey sponsored and ran the event, they instituted a rule that all riders had to ride a Morey brand board. Since the Mach 7 was the marquee board in their line for much of that time, it put many riders at a disadvantage who weren't sponsored by Morey or who didn't regularly ride the Mach 7. Since that board was too big for a lot of smaller riders, Ben took matters into his own hands and had a Mach 7 brought in from "another source". There are tons of rumors about where he got the board, most logically from a Brazilian licensee (therefore legally making it a Morey board). This board was the classic Ben shape and in a size that suited him. He ended up winning Pipe with a victory that was shrouded in controversy. It wasn't long after that Morey finally relented on the "Morey-only" board rule.
Ben's association with BZ Bodyboards fueled his experimentation with shapes and sizes, and the legendary Ben T-10 was born from that. The T-10 featured a high wide point, very wide nose, relatively straight rail line coming down from the wide point, and a narrow tail with deep, wide channels. The design complemented Ben's riding style perfectly, and even lent itself to his occasional forays into dropknee,
(Above: Ben throwing down a DK carve)
which he was quite proficient at, especially in hollow conditions with his Jack Lindholm-inspired DK style.
After Ben's BZ days, he fired up his own brand, BSD Bodyboards and carried a revised version of his old T-10 over and added rounded rails called "transitional rails". Those boards are still available today. Ben continues to be involved in the sport as a judge for the Hawaii Pro Tour and the annual APB Tour event at Pipe, and holds down a day job managing rental properties that he owns in Makaha and lives the good life with his wife of more than two decades, legendary Hawaiian bodyboarder Chris Ann Kim (sister of equally-incredible Danny Kim).
(Above: Ben competes at Pipe- February 2017)
His legacy in the sport will live forever, and through the Facebook group Vintage Bodyboard Collectors, Ben's original T-10 shape has enjoyed a renewed interest. Like Ben's shape? You can order a BSD board from our site, or get your own custom version from one of our two custom shapers!
(Above: William Croce shows off his T-10 with the Diamond Slick rails before sending it off to Australia)