8 steps to choosing the right bodyboard
So, you've visited our BOARDS page looking for that new bodyboard, and are even more confused than ever. We carry more than 15 brands of bodyboard, and within each brand are a multitude of choices that can boggle the mind of even the most seasoned bodyboarder. How do you narrow it down?
#1 - What Size Bodyboard Should I Get?
How tall are you? Simple question, right? Not a simple answer though. With some riders, much of your “height” is in your upper or lower body (ie: long legs/short torso, or vice versa), but the general rule of thumb is, if you are a SERIOUS bodyboarder, meaning you’re wearing fins and making your way out to where the waves are beginning to break, and you’re riding, or aspiring to ride along the unbroken part of the wave, then the length of your board should come up to roughly the height of your belly button off the ground.
Not a serious bodyboarder? Or maybe you are buying for a quickly-growing child who is not a serious rider? The length of the board is not as crucial, as long as the board isn’t too SHORT for the rider. Basically, if you’re not wearing swimfins and mainly riding whitewater straight into shore, you basically need something that will float your body that you can hold on to and having a board that’s a bit long for your height won’t really matter.
What happens if you are a serious rider and you buy a board that is much longer than your belly button height off the ground? Too much of your body will be up on the board, and not enough of your legs will be in the water. This causes two issues:
- You won’t be able to sink your swimfins to kick (see our YouTube video on how to kick with swimfins).
- You won’t have enough leg/swimfin in the water to help with steering and control while riding the wave.
#2 - How wide and thick should my bodyboard be? Should I get a "high volume" bodyboard?
After determining the length of your bodyboard, your weight plays a factor, particularly if you are on the larger side. You don't want to be riding a sinking ship. "Volume" is a word that is thrown around a lot in the world of wave riding. The volume of a board refers to, in simple terms, how buoyant that board is going to be for the rider. It goes to follow that a heavier rider will need a board with more volume. That means a thicker, wider, or longer board. See above for the issues that can arise with a longer board, so if you are on the heavier end of the scale, look for thicker/wider, not necessarily longer. We have certain models that are labeled “high volume” that fit those needs.
Bodyboard Size Chart
Shop Bodyboards by Length
Additionally, consider the following factors when deciding on a bodyboard size:
- If you're riding primarily in the whitewash, pick a board on the longer end of the size range.
- If you're riding is mostly bigger waves, consider a bodyboard on the shorter end of your optimal size range.
- If you are a more of an advanced rider consider a shorter board for maneuverability.
- If you are a beginner, aim for a longer board in your size range.
- If you are on the heavier end of the scale, look for thicker/wider high volume board, not necessarily longer.
#3 - Why does my ability and experience matter when choosing a bodyboard?
How long have you been at it? Have you ridden a variety of waves, spots and sizes?
#4 - Types of bodyboarding waves. What type of bodyboard should I get for my local beach?
TYPES OF WAVES - We realize a lot of newbies don’t know how to “classify” waves. To keep it simple, there are a few wave types to look for:
*Beachbreak: This would be a spot with a sand bottom and multiple places to paddle out and take off on a wave. The waves break a reasonable distance from shore, depending on how large the swell is on a given day.
*Shorebreak: This is basically a beachbreak that breaks right on, or very close to the shore. Many beachbreaks may have an outside take off area and a shorebreak take off area.
*Reef break: This would be any spot with a rock or reef bottom. Waves can vary dramatically depending on the depth of the reef and how a given swell hits that reef.
*Point break: A point break involves a part of the coastline where the land “juts” out into the ocean, and waves peel along that section of land. Good examples would be Rincon Point in California, or Kirra Point in Australia. These waves have good uniformity and paddling out at a point break is often much easier as the waves break along the point, and there is usually a channel just wide of the breaking waves where you can paddle without having to deal with the waves breaking in front of you. As a result, point breaks are often crowded.
Tides greatly affect all surf spots, some more than others and different locations around the world have different types/heights of tides. Learning how the tide affects your specific location is something you have to figure out.
If a rider tells us they are riding primarily a shorebreak, we might recommend something different than if they were cruising along at a point break as those two types of waves require different features in the board build and design to work best.
WATER TEMPERATURE - This one is simple.
*Cold: Water temperatures below 60F/15C. Many places never get above this temperature such as the Pacific NW, northern Europe, the Canadian Maritimes, etc., and many others get this cold in winter, including dealing with riding while there is snow on the beach in winter.
*Cool: Water temperatures between 60F/15C and 70F/20C.
*Warm: Water temperatures between 71F/21C and 77F/24C.
Tropical: Water temperatures above 77F/24C.
Water temp affects the stiffness of a bodyboard, particularly EPS and PE core boards. They will get softer/more flexible in warmer water and very stiff in cold water. You want some flex in your board, so knowing your local water temp is key to fine-tuning the board selection.
#6 - Choosing a bodyboard for your style of riding. What type of bodyboard should I get?
PRONE: Most riders begin learning in the prone (laying down) position and stick with this style of bodyboarding throughout their bodyboarding lives. Crescent tail bodyboards are the most popular for prone riding. Bat tail bodyboards are for more advanced prone riders.
DROPKNEE: Some riders choose to experiment with the dropknee stance. This involves your back leg down on the knee and the front foot/swimfin up on the deck of the board, for a sort of “half-standing” position. It’s more akin to surfing, but in my opinion, at a greater difficulty level due to the lack of stabilizing fins on the bottom of the board. You’re relying on your back knee/front foot position and body weight to maintain edge control, so it takes a great deal of practice to master. A “goofy foot” is a rider that puts their right foot forward. A “regular foot” rider has the left foot forward.
If you plan to try dropknee and you’re getting a leash with your board, make sure to install the leash on the OPPOSITE side of your front foot so you don’t step on the leash when you get up. That means a regular foot dropkneer, who puts their left foot forward would want the leash on the right side of the board.
A dropknee-specific bodyboard will have a lower wide point to allow for the weight distribution of the rider which is further back on the board. Many of the boards we carry would be considered “combo” boards, meaning they aren’t dropknee-specific, but are instead designed in a way that they can work well for both prone and dropknee riding.
Shop Dropknee Bodyboards
STANDUP: This type of bodyboarding takes a high level of skill. Most standup riders don’t wear swimfins and ride a longer bodyboard to give them a bit of an advantage paddling for waves, along with more volume to maintain speed. It’s basically standup surfing on a bodyboard. Foot placement is super-critical as your edge control depends on it.
Longer, higher-volume boards that aren’t too wide would work best for standup riding.
#7 - Different tail types on bodyboards. What tail should I choose?
Crescent tails: These are what I will call the “gold standard” of tail types. They have been around since the Morey Mach 7-7 came out in 1982. They feature a crescent-shaped tail that helps “lock” your hips into the back end of the board, and the design works well to hold an edge on the wave face. It also works perfectly for dropknee riding as your back foot/swimfin will hang off the back edge of the board in the center of the tail, assisting with edge control.
Bat tails: Bats have a protruding curve of foam in the center of the tail and offer more surface area at the back, which brings with it a bit more planing surface, which translates to speed. The tradeoff is edge control becomes more of a challenge as your legs/swimfins are doing all the work in that department, so if you are a prone rider with good edge control skills, a bat tail is worth a look.
Delta tails: Deltas are a sort of hybrid tail design that incorporates the protruding foam in the center of the tail, but instead of being rounded, it comes to a point, providing a bit more edge control on the wave face.
#8 - Durability and price range. Which bodyboard core should I choose? How much is a bodyboard?
Price is almost always a consideration when shopping. At eBodyboarding, we carry the best low-end bodyboards all the way to top-of-the-line boards. We strive to always offer quality products at the best prices, but there are a huge range of choices and prices. Details like the type of core used in the board, design features, intermediate layers, tail designs, quality of the deck and slick materials, and how all these elements are put together in a board affect its ride, price and durability. Quality materials and advanced design cost money. If you plan to ride your bodyboard for multiple seasons or ride many days in a year, spending a little more for quality and durability is always worth it.
The price of a board can be distilled down to a couple of factors:
Core type: (see our blogs “Cores and stringers and mesh, oh my”, and our Board Anatomy page on the site for details!)
EPS core (expanded polystyrene, AKA “Styrofoam” which is a brand name)- All entry-level boards have this type of foam.
PE core (polyethylene)- An outstanding core material for all but tropical waters. It has predictable flex and great performance. It does carry a bit more weight as compared to polypro, but is generally cheaper. It’s flex level varies with water temperature.
PP core (polypropylene)- Most high-end boards feature this core in varying densities. Lower density equals a lighter, more flexible board, and higher density of course means a stiffer board. The stiffness remains fairly consistent in all water temps and PP is lighter than PE.
Features: This one can cover a lot of ground, but I’ll touch on a few:
*Contours: The deck of a bodyboard is either flat or contoured. A contoured deck will feature hand grips, elbow pads, hip channels or any combination of those to enhance ergonomics. Most riders that dropknee prefer a flat deck board.
*Channels: Most bodyboards today have some form of channels on the bottom which enhance edge control on the wave. The bigger/faster the wave, the more effect they have. Boards can have anywhere from 2 (standard) to 5 channels, depending on the model.
*Stiffeners: Stringers are graphite rods inserted into the core of the board to maintain stiffness. For most riders, one stringer is more than adequate as you don’t want the board to be too stiff. For riders that tackle bigger, heavier conditions and/or warmer water, sometimes 2 or 3 stringers are suggested.
Mesh is basically a plastic mesh that looks like chicken wire that is laminated under the deck or slick skin to enhance stiffness of the board.
Skintec is a proprietary stiffener that is a layer of slick skin embedded under the deck of some boards to prevent the deck from denting and to hold the stiffness of the board.
*Bottom skins (slick): Surlyn is the gold standard. First introduced in 1982 on the Morey Mach 7-7, it is a resilient plastic that can withstand some flexing and impact, but is certainly not indestructible.
HDPE (high density polyethylene) looks and feels like Surlyn, but is a bit more rigid and therefore a bit more prone to creasing if put under stress while bodyboarding.
Our BOARD ANATOMY page fills you in on how and what bodyboards are made of.
So, when choosing a bodyboard that’s right for you, this should give you a point of reference so you know where to begin your search for wave riding bliss. As always, we’re available via email (any time), phone and live chat (during business hours) to assist. We have several tools on the site to help you, beginning with our Board Size Chart. The Board Size Chart is a chart that lets you plug in your height and weight to determine which length of board you should be looking for, and clickable links that will pull up all the boards we carry in that size.
If all of this is beyond you, feel free to contact us. Our staff consists of former pro bodyboarders Jay and Vicki Reale, along with our other wave riders. Tommy Dolkas, Josh Wright and Gianna Simonelli. Contact us during BUSINESS HOURS and we'll be happy to help.
Need more help? We offer a more personalized and specific recommendation through our BOOGER PICKER FORM. Fill out the form (make sure to enter your email address correctly!) and former pro bodyboarder Jay Reale will respond, usually within 24 hours with board recommendations for you personally.
This is eBodyboarding. We are a bodyboarding retailer with a warehouse store in San Clemente, California. Our goal is to provide you with all the information you need to make your purchase easy and your riding amazing.