The entry to a wave is the fundamental driver to wave riding experience. A smooth and precise ingress is a clear indicator of a good wave to come and a skilled rider. There are a number of ways to duff your take off. You could set your lead hand in the wrong direction taking your momentum straight down the face or off of the wave face entirely. Some bodysurfers don’t kick hard enough or don’t hold a straight enough torso. All errors which could shut down a long ride before it began, but the most prevalent miscalculation I see in bodysurfing entry is the “one extra stroke” fallacy.
The bodysurfer is in the spot ready to take the drop and thinks I need more speed. The bodysurfer may decide to take one or two more swim strokes, but I would posit this to be the worst course of action. The main reason this works against the bodysurfer is timing. In those precise moments as your body is collected skyward by the wave’s energy all of your momentum should be moving in the direction you want your body to go. Taking another swim stroke acts against that momentum. When swimming on a horizontal plane, your swimming arms exit the water while moving forward and enter the water to pull against the water’s resistance to move your body forward. You are also twisting your torso to maintain momentum. This action is not compatible with swimming down a wave face.
The twist of your torso on a flat surface doesn’t create resistance, but when on a tilted plane of water your torso will block the flow of water under your body and therefore slow down your progression. This is also the reason why you don’t see bodysurfers swimming with their arms while riding waves. The two are incompatible.
Instead of going for the extra swim stroke, I would suggest bodysurfers focus on maintaining or gaining momentum by “getting long” and kicking like hell. Getting long is a reference to extending the forward planing hand in the direction they wish to go. As covered in previous articles, getting the forward planing hand out on the water and extending the body into a straight and flat surface we are able to maximize our movement over/in water. The second focus requires little explanation. Kicking like hell could mean big powerful strokes or short quick burst strokes, but either way you are adding speed to your person. It is important to note that a kick is more efficient in this position because both the up and down strokes add velocity to the bodysurfer. Doing both simultaneously is key because if you’re just kicking like hell, but your body is not acting as an efficient rudder you’ll make little progress.
Ultimately, if you’re having fun, then you’re doing it right. But for those looking to be a more efficient wave-riding hominid I suggest trying these tips out. If you’re still finding the entry difficult you may need to practice swimming to the spot. Either way, it’s never a bad time in the Ocean.