Everyone enjoys watching waves. Its mesmerizing. Oceanfront property is so expensive because everyone likes to watch the Ocean. People go on beach vacations and spend the entire time sitting on the beach staring at waves. Bodysurfing provides the best possible vantage point for spectating wave action.img_4423

The next best thing to being in the barrel is watching your buddy slide into a big round one. Spectating a great wave from the water is almost as good as riding one. Bodysurfers have a unique point of view. We’re not worried about duck-diving a board under incoming waves. We wait until the final instant to swim under, maximizing our view as the wave throws over our head. Sometimes, we even watch our buddy too long and take a heavy lip right to the skull…but worth it for the view.


To bodysurf a world-class surf spot on an all-time day is extra-special. Of course its great to sneak a couple fun ones for yourself, but to watch excellent surfing from the water is always enjoyable. Spectate all the weird, wedging double-up drainers. Mind surf. Some part of it is an analysis.  “Where would I need to be on that wave to get the best barrel ride?” Some part of it is pure spectating…”Goodness, that is beautiful!” 

I love the perspective of watching a big set wrap all the way up the coast. Long lines use the entire coast as a pointbreak, wrapping up the beach and throwing barrel after barrel. If only you could bottle those views. Soon, the swell will fill into your peak. You can see it coming from miles away. Make a quick judgement on where you need to be to best maximize your tube experience and sprint swim to the spot. Slide into the first one, slotted in the bending bowl with the ultimate spectator vantage point.

Kick out and swim hard. Your buddy is in position for the next one. You forget to dive because you’re hooting him into a massive green room. Wear the lip on the head without oxygen and get pummeled. But there’s another wave, bigger, starting to stand up. Sprint swim, arrive to the peak late, swim up the face, turn around, big kick and…airborne into the barrel. That view. That Vision. I wouldn’t trade it for every mountain or city landscape in the world. 

Best vantage.



Competitive Swimming and Bodysurfing

Olympic_Rings.svgWith the Summer Olympics upon us, we are reminded of the highest levels of human athleticism. Swimming is an event closely related to all bodysurfers. At an Olympic level, swimming is an incredible display of technical aptitude, endurance and will. Many talented bodysurfers have experience as competitive swimmers.  

Maybe it is because they are comfortable swimming in chilly water at 5 in the morning. Maybe it’s their comfort level in a speedo. It is definitely their ability to move through the water in the most efficient way possible. If much of bodysurfing is first swimming to the best spot on a wave, competitive swimmers have an immediate advantage. Bodysurfers without technical swim training sometimes appear to fight the water instead of gliding through it. It is no guarantee that a swimmer has the Ocean sense to find the right takeoff spot. But once they acquire that knowledge, swimmers are all solid to excellent bodysurfers.

There are prominent examples of world-class swimmers translating their water skills to bodysurfing. The father of modern waveriding, Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku, won 5 Olympic medals including 3 gold.  After his Olympic career, Duke traveled the world performing swim exhibitions and is credited with introducing board surfing to the United States and Australia.

Aaron Peirsol of Irvine, California is a seven time Olympic medalist including 5 gold medals. Peirsol is considered the greatest backstroke swimmer of all-time. He retired from competition in 2011 and began bodysurfing the Wedge in Newport Beach. Peirsol quickly made an underground name for himself with unmatched skill in the water. He is now an ambassador for the Surfrider Foundation and bodysurfs frequently.

The most comparable swimming event to bodysurfing is the 50m freestyle. Freestyle swimming is defined with the fewest regulations, meaning the competitor is free to choose their stroke. The stroke that is most universally chosen is the front crawl. Also known as the Australian crawl or with kick modifications, the American crawl. This stroke involve alternating arms, up and out of the water and then pulling through the water. We use this frequently as bodysurfers, although our head is usually out of the water scanning with our eyes to find the spot. Conditions change, waves move unpredictably so swim speed is important for maximizing each wave. 

Swim endurance is also an important factor. Long sessions in heavy surf are exhausting. Bodysurfers that spend hours in the pool or distance swimming in the Ocean are better suited to swimming through strong currents for long periods of time.

The ability to see a wave approaching and maneuvering quickly to the right spot is fundamental in bodysurfing.  The Olympic record in the 50m freestyle is 21.30 seconds set by Brazilian Cesar Cielo in Beijing 2008. I do not know about Cesar’s wave knowledge (although he is from São Paulo), he could certainly get “to the spot” with speed and efficiency.

2015 WBC Grand Final. Tom Marr in the middle, red trunks.
2015 WBC Grand Final. Tom Marr in the middle, red trunks.

Australian swimmer and bodysurfer, Tom Marr, grew up learning the finer details of swimming from his swim coach father. Tom says, “I highly recommend that all bodysurfers should do some form of pool swimming at least once a week to maintain aerobic endurance in the water. It will not only enable a better swimming technique but also provide increased power in the water that comes from doing laps in the pool.”



It’s Always Been About the Toob

It was the summer of 2001, heading into my 2nd year of college, I rented a surfboard on a family vacation to the Jersey Shore. It was raining and the waves were ankle high. I definitely did not successfully ride a wave, but it didn’t matter. I was hooked. I wanted more.

Cory Lopez- Teahupoo 1999. I had this on my wall soon after riding my first wave. Photo: Tom Servais
Cory Lopez- Teahupoo 1999. I had this on my wall soon after riding my first wave. Photo: Tom Servais

Back in Ohio, I used the growing Internet to learn more about waveriding. Watching short clips and seeing hundreds of photos, one thing stood out immediately above all else. I didn’t care about tail-flick turns or the progression of aerial surfing. I was instantaneously fascinated by hollow waves. I stared at empty barrels and endlessly watched clips of Pipeline and Teahupoo. I would sit and think about the sensations that a surfer must experience inside.

As a beginner surfer, I quickly became aware of the difficulties in tube riding. After college, I moved to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and spent a couple years going over the falls on the hollow beachbreak waves without any success. But I was never deterred from my love of the barrel. I would sometimes stand on the sand and jump into shorebreak barrels without even knowing that bodysurfing was a thing.

My first toob photo- OBX 2005.
My first toob photo- OBX.

I then moved to San Diego and slowly became a better surfer but tube time continued to elude me. A good buddy would sometimes bring fins to the beach and occasionally bodysurf in between surf sessions. It looked like fun, so I bought fins and…WOW! A whole new world opened up and I mean literally opened up. Instead of surfing the soft, rolling reefs around Encinitas, I started swimming around local beachbreaks. My tube time started multiplying exponentially. It was all I really ever wanted from waveriding. Bodysurfing provides it and so much more.
-KSKyle Under Blue

Cylinder 20x16 canvas

League of Bodysurfing Superheroes

We’re building the League of Bodysurfing Superheroes from the Comic annals. This is a small strike force style crew with a variety of abilities. There are certainly scores of additional names for the list, but this is the crew I’m hitting the waves with.

5. Spiderman105c7ca7ef5aaa13a2d5ba8d4273af6c

Peter Parker is one of the most relatable characters in all of the Marvel universe. Peter is brilliant, insecure and always has a witty comback. I think he’d make a terrific bodysurfer. Spiderman has unrivaled reflex abilities that are borderline psychic. If perched in the curl, Spidey’s super strength and tremendous reflexes will ensure he finds the best path to navigate section after section.  As an added bonus, Spiderman is able to use tiny fibers in his skin (like spiders) to climb buildings and may be able to redirect this power to holding the high-line of a wave when the rest of us have bottomed out. In the end, Spiderman would definitely have the ability to be a great wave rider and since he is a New York city resident, he could hit up slabby peaks during hurricane season.

4. Storm 09be63a7113750466ba5fd6e2bbcec41

Storm is one of the leaders of Marvel’s X-Men. She was born mutant and has the ability to control the weather and fly. Most importantly she could create the weather events that send amazing surf her way. Her abilities extend from simply raising the temperature to modifying/creating major weather events. Not only could she send massive waves to your favorite spots, but she could also set the local winds to perfectly off-shore turning an average session to gold. Storm has not demonstrated super-human swimming or strength capabilities, but since she is able to drop in with a flight based entry we can be sure she will be in the right place to catch the waves of the day.

3. Aquaman and Mera aquaman-four-actresses-that-should-be-considered-to-play-mera-in-the-upcoming-justice-lea-730705

As Atlanteans, Aquaman and Mera are the commanders of all thing water in the D.C. comic universe. Mera is actually from the watery dimension Xebel, but she rules as queen of Atlantis. Aquaman’s origin story has varied through the comic ages, but his swimming prowess is unmatched. He is able to swim 3,000 meters per second and has even swam up Niagra Falls. With that kind of speed and the ability to breathe underwater, this water-bound duo would be bodysurfing legends. As an added bonus, you could ask Aquaman to summon friendly sea creatures to womp in the shallows with you.

2. Abe Sapientumblr_mj4dyz7ZrZ1r3az5to1_1280

Also known as Brother Blue, Abe is a must have in our League of Bodysurfers. Abe began his life as a Victorian era scientist who believed that all knowledge and life originated in the Ocean. In a secret society ritual with a jellyfish-like deity, Abe was exposed to the creature and transformed into an ichthyo sapien. Post-transformation, Abe’s physiology became amphibious including the ability to swim at great speed and breathe underwater. He is also somewhat “immortal” and highly intelligent.  As a member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense and Hellboy ally, Abe is an excellent teammate. I would consider Brother Blue the spiritual guide and intellectual center of our crew.

1. Namor the Sub-Mariner Sub-Mariner1968n1

The son of a human sea-captain and an Atlantean princess possesses super-strength, flight and all the aquatic abilities of Homo mermanus. Namor is Marvel’s first and one of the most powerful mutants. He is sometimes portrayed as jovial and sometimes as quick to anger with “surface dwellers,” so I wouldn’t recommend dropping in on him.  Like the other Atlanteans on our list, Namor can breathe underwater, so he wont shy away from a big hold down. Between Namor, Aquaman and Mera, we could safely bodysurf our dream waves knowing they’d be able to scoop us up off the bottom even after our most horrific wipe-outs. Namor is the aggressive protector the Ocean deserves and I’d be stoked to trade off waves with this titan of the Sea.

Honorable Mention: Aspen Matthews, Triton, Aqualad, Marineman, The Flash, Ocean Master, Sea Ghost

Enemies of the League of Bodysurfers:

1. Silver Surfer

This guy is the sentinel of spaceways. He began as a lonely astronomer, but saved his homeworld, Zenn-La, from the planet destroyer Galactus. The Silver Surfer commands great power, but despite his familiar title it is clear he would never be a bodysurfer. First of all, he never leaves his damn surfboard. It seems that some of his ability to travel beyond the speed of light is connected, at least in part, to his silver surfboard. It seems unlikely that he would step away from his board for fear of cosmic retaliation. Secondly, he didn’t even choose to be on Earth. He was temporarily imprisoned on Earth because he disobeyed Galactus. The Silver Surfer is in no mood to enjoy the simple pleasures of bodysurfing. It is also unclear whether or not his body would float on the surface of water. His flesh is made of an unknown cosmic substance which in all likelihood is more dense than water.

2. Electro

Where do we begin? A swim with Electro would mean certain death for any mortals in the water. Electro has the power to control electricity, but as you may guess, he is shorted out by water so a swim would be dangerous for Electro as well. He is also one of Spiderman’s greatest enemies, so having him as part of the League would be cause for internal conflict.

3. Catwoman

Also technically not a heroine, Catwoman wont be catching the womp anytime soon. Her abilities are so strongly based in “cat-like” behavior it is hard to imagine even getting her near the Ocean.

Special thanks to Scott Abercrombie for comic consultation.


It’s All in Your Head

We are dependent, completely at the mercy of far off storm tracks and meteorological events. And even when the gods play heroes and send surf our way we have the daily rat race to contend with. In no uncertain terms, we simply cannot bodysurf all the time. How can we maintain emotional stability? How can we improve our next session without being in the water? The case for daydreaming.

Research has shown that there are many benefits to visualizing yourself doing something you want to become better at. In several studies, researchers compare the results of people who perform physical practice, mental practice and a combination of both. A statistically significant benefit is produced by the mental practice. Science is telling us to mind bodysurf, but we have to make sure we mind bodysurf well.

Your average daydream may not produce significant results in our quest to become better bodysurfers. To maximize the upshot we have to channel our thoughts into a mental, sensory experience. Proponents of visualization, sometimes called mental rehearsal, claim you have to fully immerse yourself in the environment to prepare your mind for acting on the rehearsal. We should focus on feeling the lift of swell when we turn to drive down the face of the 10ft wave we’re catching. We would smell the warm salty smell of the ocean and the burst of spray at our back as we burst free of the barrel. The hoots of your crew sitting on the shoulder should ring in your mental ear as you relive the new experience in your mind.

Bodysurfing Mugu

When scientist observe the brain of people performing immersive mental rehearsal they notice something surprising. The mind of practitioners mimics the mind of a person physically performing the same task. This may be the link highlighting the blurry connection between the perceived duality of body and mind. So I would charge you to practice as you might, because it’s never a bad time in the Ocean (even if it’s only in your head).