This is the story so far…
Bodyboarding originates from an ancient form of riding waves (surfing) on one’s belly. Indigenous Polynesians rode “alaia” (pronounced ah-lie-ah) boards either on their belly, knees, or feet (in rare instances). Alaia boards were generally made from the wood of Acacia koa and ranged in length and shape. They are distinct from the modern stand-up surfboards in that they had no ventral fins. Captain Cook recorded seeing Hawaiian villagers riding such boards when he came to Hawaii in 1778. The boards he witnessed were about 3′ to 6′ and were ridden “prone” (on the belly) or on the knees. Alaia boards then evolved into the more modern “paipo” (pronounced pipe-oh) board. Paipo boards were either made of wood or fiberglass. Fiberglass boards usually had fins on the bottom. Tom Morey hybridized this form of riding waves on one’s belly on a paipo to his craft of shaping stand-up surfboards.
On 9 July 1971, Tom Morey invented the modern bodyboard. His story is as follows:
Soon after arriving in Honolulu, Morey began toying with the idea of making a surfboard that would be “ultimately fast.” He designed a six-foot-long board with a fiberglass bottom and soft polyethylene deck that would be ridden prone. “I finally got this board together, and it was just as I had designed it, but it was weak,” says Morey. “While just paddling out in a Waikiki tide pool, a little four-inch wave broke the nose off. I thought to myself, ‘Man, I’ve got some thinking to do on this. This design just isn’t working.'”
A month later Morey moved to the Big Island to the town of Kailua-Kona where he lived just down the street from the surf break Honl’s. One hot July morning he awoke to perfect waves. The only problem was, he didn’t have a board to ride.
He knew he wanted to make something out of his last nine-foot piece of polyethylene foam, but he didn’t know what. “I grabbed a knife and cut it in half,” says Morey. “There was no turning back at that point. I looked at the foam and then at the surf and began fooling around with a hot iron and an electric knife. I found that I could shape the foam using the iron if I put a sheet of newspaper down on the foam first. Later that night, I drew a few curves on the foam with a red marking pen and went to bed.” Morey rose early on 9 July 1971, and cut and ironed out his planned shape. He left his board as wide as possible and left the nose square so that it would have more structural strength and so he could hold on to it. “I decided I’d shape the rails like those on a Hot Curl surfboard,” says Morey. “Those were the boards from the 20s and 30s; built before boards had skegs. I cut 45-degree Hot Curl rails into my board. They looked great, but I still wasn’t sure how it would ride.”
Mr. Tom Morey with the first body board he made.
Morey grabbed his board, ran across the street to Honols and the sport of bodyboarding was born. “I had a ball!” recalls Morey. “I could actually feel the wave through the board. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. On a surfboard you’re not feeling every nuance of the wave; you’re feeling how this seven-foot piece of fiberglass is chattering against the wave. But with my creation I could feel everything. I was thinking to myself, “This thing turns, it’s durable, it can be made cheaply, it’s lightweight, it’s impenetrable… God, this could be a really big thing!'”
Morey was so pleased that the very next day he shaped a smaller board and sold it to a neighbor for fifteen dollars. “I had to know if anyone would buy it,” said Morey. “After that sale I knew I would be able to sell it everywhere.” During this time, Morey had become involved in the Bahá’í Faith—a religion that stresses the principles of universal brotherhood. The Bahá’í believe everything done for the service of mankind is elevated to the state of worship, so when Morey asked to borrow some money to fund a move to the Mainland in order to market his board, his fellow believers were eager to help.
“One Bahá’í friend, Jack Spock, lent me 200 dollars,” says Morey. “Then another friend, whose name I’ve forgotten, gave me 100 dollars. A couple of guys had vehicles they wanted to sell, so I fixed their cars. After we sold the cars, one guy, Ray Olivaras, split his earnings with me. Another guy, Roger Glick, let me keep the 250 dollars as an investment.” Altogether Morey borrowed 1,000 dollars from his Bahá’í friends. He was ready for the Mainland.
Bodyboards are shaped to the rider’s specific needs and preferences such as height, weight, and form of riding. Three basic forms of riding a bodyboard include prone, dropknee, and stand-up.
Riding prone refers to when one rides the wave on his stomach. When the bodyboarder goes left, he places his left hand on the upper left corner of the nose and places his right arm halfway down the rail of the right side of the board. The opposite is true of when the bodyboarder goes right. Mike Stewart is responsible for establishing the standard and progression of the prone riding form. Most of the basic maneuvers that pertain to it were also invented by him. Prone booging is best for pulling into pits and chucking mad innys, also known as inverts, rather than doing turns on small waves, as is common with most forms of surfing.
Dropknee is when one places their preferred fin forward on the front of the deck with the opposing knee on the bottom end of the board with their fin dragging in the water. Dropknee was first pioneered in the late 1970s by Hawaii’s Jack “The Ripper” Lindholm. Hence the term “Jack Stance” is in reference to his contribution to this form of riding. During the ’80s and early ’90s DK bodyboarding was gaining mass popularity, some would argue that there were more bodyboarders than surfers during this era. With riders such as Paul Roach, Kainoa McGee, and Keith Sasaki pushing the limits of what could be done on a bodyboard it was no wonder the groms of the day started copying.
Holding a line on a wave in dropknee position is an art in itself, unlike fiberglass standup surfboards, the bodyboards Dropknee riders use don’t have fins underneath to help maintain a line on the face of a wave or to stop them sliding out, dropknee riders rely on weight transition from rail to rail to hold a line on a wave and turn/snap
The bonus of not having fins underneath the board is being able to 360 spin ( forward and reverse) . It’s a very technical move that looks incredible when performed in the pocket of the wave . It is also used during competitions to link up manourveres for a higher score, (cutback to reverse 360, forward or backhand 360 to barrel or off the lip 360 to impress judges)
Stand-up consists of standing upright on the board and performing tricks on the face as well as in the air. While it isn’t quite as popular as the other two forms of riding a bodyboard, three notable figures that popularized it are Danny Kim, Cavin Yap, and Chris Won Taloa. It has however fallen to number 2 in Southern New Zealand.
The bodyboard differs from a surfboard in the fact that it is much shorter (typically 97 to 109 cm (38 to 43 in) in length) and made out of different types of foam. The modern board consists of a foam ‘core’ encapsulated by a plastic bottom, a softer foam top known as the deck, softer foam sides known as the rails. The core is made of dow/polyethylene, arcel, or Polypro/polypropylene. The bottom is made of Surlyn or Bixby. The deck is made of 8LB or CrossLink. Each type of foam core, deck, or bottom material gives a bodyboard a different amount of flex and control. Speed from the bottom turn is increased when a bodyboarder bottom turns and the board flexes and recoils, releasing energy. If the board flexes too little or too easily, speed is lost. Dow (polyethylene) cores are best suited to cooler waters as they can be too flexible in warm water. Arcel and Polypro (polypropylene) cores are best suited for warmer waters due to their increased overall stiffness.
Most boards on the market today contain one, two, or three rods (usually of carbon or graphite), referred to as stringers, to strengthen the board, reduce deformation, add stiffness and recoil to the core, thus providing greater speed off bottom turns and transitions on the wave. If a single stringer is used, it is placed in the center of the board running parallel to the rails. If two are used, they are placed symmetrically about the y-axis. Triple stringers are a combination of the placement of both a single and double stringer.
Deck, rails, and bottom are bonded via various hot air lamination techniques to the core. Previous to the lamination technique, shapers accomplished this by using glue.
The shape, or curve, of the board affects how it rides. If the wide point of the board is nearer to the nose, the board tends to be best suited to prone riding as the bodyboarder’s weight rests further up on the board. Boards with more parallel rails or a narrow nose tend to be more ideal for drop-knee and stand-up riding as the rider’s center of gravity tends to rest further back.
Most modern boards are equipped with channels that increase surface area in the critical parts of the board which, in turn, allow it to have varying hold and control on the wave. Originally, skegs were installed to decrease slippage on a wave face. However, progressive bodyboarding has rendered use of such skegs obsolete due to the looseness required for maneuverability on a wave. For such reasons, skegs are rarely used today and, even then, almost exclusively by dropknee or stand-up bodyboarders.
Tail shapes influence the way that boards perform in the line-up. Crescent tails provide the greatest amount of hold in steep waves. Crescent tails are generally preferred by drop-knee riders because the shape interferes less. Bat tails provide looseness for rail to rail transitions. Prone riders tend to prefer bat tails more than dropknee riders.
From the conception of the modern bodyboard in 1971, bodyboarding has experienced spurts of rapid growth both as an industry and extreme sport. With its origins in America, over the past decade the industry has shifted from a primarily American to a global industry phenomena. The sport has grown into a worldwide industry with growing strongholds in Australia, South American countries like Peru and Chile, Japan, Canary Islands (Spain), South Africa, and so forth. The evolution of maneuvers and waves in which it is being done have rendered it one of the most extreme wave riding forms in the world.
Bodyboarders have been accredited with pioneering some of the world’s heaviest, most renowned surf locations in the world: Teahupo’o, French Polynesia; Shark Island, Australia; El Fronton, Spain; Cyclops, Australia; Ours, Australia; Luna Park, Australia; etc. In addition, bodyboarders place strong emphasis on aerial maneuvers on bigger, heavier sections of waves. These include aerial 360s, ARS (Air Roll Spin), el rollos, inverts (tweaking the board with the momentum of the wave and then swinging it back), backflips, and variations/hybrids of these maneuvers are also performed. Notable accomplishments for prone aerial maneuvers include:
El Rollo: Originally completed simultaneously by Hawaii’s Pat Caldwell at Sandy Beach & Hawaii’s Mike Stewart at Kona breaks such as Kahalu’u Bay. Reverse Rollo: Originally completed by Kauai’s Kyle Maligro. Invert: Unknown. ARS (Air Roll Spin): Originally completed by Australia’s Michael Eppelstun. Argued that California’s Jacob Reeve completed it at the same time. Backflip: Originally completed by Australia’s Michael Eppelstun. Double Rollo: Originally completed by Australia’s Michael Eppelstun. Air forward 360°: Originally completed by Hawaii’s Mike Stewart. Air reverse 360°: Originally completed by Hawaii’s Mike Stewart. Air Hubb (Forward air to el rollo): Originally completed by Kauai’s Jeff Hubbard. Gainer Flip: Originally completed by Tahiti’s David Tuarau. GORF (Invert to front flip forward): Originally completed by Nathan “Nugget” Purcell. Invert to Reverse 360° “Inverse”: Originally completed by Kauai’s Jeff Hubbard. Devert (Invert to reverse el rollo): Originally completed by Kauai’s David Phillips. Air reverse 720°: Originally completed by Hawaii’s Jeff Hubbard.
Mike Stewart (Hawaii, USA) is considered the father of modern bodyboarding, acclaimed as one of the best wave riders of all time, and holds an unprecedented 9 world titles. He is also the only bodyboarder to receive the Mr. Pipeline title.
Ben Severson (Hawaii, USA) is a pioneer of bodyboarding, world champion, and competitive rival of Mike Stewart for over fifteen years.
Guilherme Tamega (Brazil) is second only to Stewart for number of world titles: 6. He has gained reputation and fame for his aggressive riding style and approach in both small and heavy surf.
Mike “Eppo” Eppulston is the first Australian and also the first non-Hawaiian to win the World Title (1993). He is also known for creating the ARS and backflip.
Paul Roach (California, USA) is accredited with developing a new style of progressive dropknee riding in both small and large waves. He is also considered, by many, as the greatest dropknee rider of all time.
Jeff Hubbard (Hawaii, USA) is best known for his phenomenal aerial approach to bodyboarding. He currently holds three world titles.
Ryan Hardy (Australia) is influential in the progression of Australian as well as international bodyboarding. Known for his fluid yet powerful style of surfing in smaller to big waves.
Ben Player (Australia) is also considered one of the greatest influences in bodyboarding both Australia and the world. He holds 3 world titles.
Andre Botha (South Africa) is the youngest athlete to win the world title (1998). He then won a second world title the next tour season of 1999. Known for his extreme approach to wave riding in shorebreaks and heavy waves.
Eddie Solomon Bodyboarder He was an entrepreneur. Eddie parlayed his sponsorship earnings into an online business. He later opened in the United States the surf and skate shops OC Surf ‘n’ Sport in California and 662 Ride Shop in Hawaii, founded Bodyboarder Magazine, and launched his brands 662Mob, Empire Boards, Ally Fins, and ERS4 fins.
Phylis Dameron was the first person, man or woman, to ride big Waimea Bay on a bodyboard in the late 1970s. During the early 1990s in Brazil, Mariana Nogueira, Glenda Koslowski, and Stephanie Petterson set standards that pushed women’s bodyboarding to a world class level. Stephanie Petterson won the first official World Championship of Women’s Bodyboarding at Pipeline in 1990. It was the first women’s event ever held there and initiated the longest running women’s wave sport event in the world. 2009 marked the event’s 20th anniversary.
Alexandra Rinder is the top ranked female bodyboarder in the world.
Sari Ohhara is the third ranked top female bodyboarder in the world.
Jessica Becker is the fourth ranked top female bodyboarder in the world.
From 1982–1993, the winner of the International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships at Pipeline, Hawaii was considered world champion. Since then a world tour has determined the sport’s champion. The world tour is administered by the Association of Professional Bodyboarders (APB) World Tour, the governing tour determining bodyboarding’s world champion.
Current Men’s APB World Tour champion is Jared Houston of South Africa. Current Women’s APB World Champion is Alexandra Rinder of Canary Islands.
Results – Bodyboarding World Tour
Year Competition Winner Country
1982 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Daniel Kiami USA (Hawaii)
1983 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Mike Stewart USA (Hawaii)
1984 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Mike Stewart USA (Hawaii)
1986 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Ben Severson USA (Hawaii)
1987 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Mike Stewart USA (Hawaii)
1988 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Mike Stewart USA (Hawaii)
1989 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Mike Stewart USA (Hawaii)
1990 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Mike Stewart USA (Hawaii)
1991 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Mike Stewart USA (Hawaii)
1992 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Mike Stewart USA (Hawaii)
1993 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Michael Eppelstun Australia
1994 International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships Guilherme Tâmega Brazil
1995 GOB World Tour Guilherme Tâmega Brazil
1996 GOB World Tour Guilherme Tâmega Brazil
1997 GOB World Tour Guilherme Tâmega Brazil
1998 GOB World Tour Andre Botha South Africa
1999 GOB World Tour Andre Botha South Africa
2000 GOB Super Tour Paulo Barcellos Brazil
2001 GOB Super Tour Guilherme Tâmega Brazil
2002 GOB Super Tour Guilherme Tâmega Brazil
2003 IBA World Tour Damian King Australia
2004 IBA World Tour Damian King Australia
2005 IBA World Tour Ben Player Australia
2006 IBA World Tour Jeff Hubbard USA (Hawaii)
2007 IBA World Tour Ben Player Australia
2008 IBA World Tour Uri Valadão Brazil
2009 IBA World Tour Jeff Hubbard USA (Hawaii)
2010 IBA World Tour Amaury Lavernhe France
2011 IBA World Tour Pierre-Louis Costes France
2012 IBA World Tour Jeff Hubbard USA (Hawaii)
2013 IBA World Tour Ben Player Australia
2014 APB World Tour Amaury Lavernhe France
2015 APB World Tour Jared Houston South Africa
ISA World Bodyboard Championship
Year Host Country Gold Silver Bronze 4º Ref.
2011 Canary Islands, Spain France (5.860) Spain (4.871) Morocco (3.830) Australia (3.813)
2012 Isla Margarita, Venezuela Brasil (9.368) France (8.645) Venezuela (8.449) South Africa (7.258)
2013 Playa Parguito, Venezuela Brazil (9.585) Venezuela (9.119) Chile (8.189) Costa Rica (6.595)
2014 Iquique, Chile Chile (8.738) France (8.565) South Africa (8.336) Portugal (7.227)
2015 Iquique, Chile Brasil (5.246) Chile (4.963) France (4.506) Peru (4.313)