I am not a big fan of salt water beaches. The idea of spending 8 or 10 hours under the blazing hot sun with little or no refuge simply does not appeal to me all that much. I find that at the end of the day the sun has sapped all of my energy and I leave more tired than when I came. But having said all that when I do go to salt water I spend most of my time bodysurfing. For me it is positively the freest feeling I have ever experienced. And I enjoy it just as much today as I did when I was a young teen in the 1960's.
Among my many regrets in life is that I possess neither the coordination nor the courage to surf with a board. That's really too bad because Narragansett, R.I. is just 30 miles from our home and is one of the top destinations for East Coast surfers. I am sure that the highs experienced by the skilled surfers that go there are simply amazing! But I will have to settle for the next best thing. There is something pure and honest about bodysurfing. No expensive equipment necessary! Bodysurfing allows you to fully engage with the ocean and become one with the wave. And when you catch a wave just right there is absolutely nothing like it. Sometimes a wave is so darn powerful that it beats you to hell. Then there are those "perfect" waves that you just miss! Damn. But you just pick yourself up and scramble out to catch the next one. I really could do this all day long and I don't get to do it nearly enough. If I am lucky I get to a salt water beach 3 or 4 times a year.
In researching this little piece I was surprised to discover that Oceanside, California hosts the World Bodysurfing Championships each August and that there are lots of bodysurfing clubs and associations as well. I had no idea! Meanwhile, I also learned that President Obama and I actually have something in common--we both love to bodysurf! (Click on thumbnail above to see the President bodysurfing in his native Hawaii). I feel sorry for people who have never had the chance to feel the exhiliration of bodysurfing. I wish that everyone could experience it at least once in their lifetime. I find that getting older has not in the least bit diminished my enjoyment of this venerable water sport. Very highly recommended!
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To get on the wave, bodysurfers must pick a direction, swim and/or kick and/or paddle hard, use their back or an outstretched arm, and ride the wave in a streamline position. Left and right turns can be performed by digging the shoulder into the wave, causing the person to slide to the side of the wave. To exit the wave immediately after catching it, simply drop the head and a tumble turn will exit the person out of the wave. Care must be taken to ensure the water is deep enough so that no injury is brought about by the head, neck, and shoulders hitting the sand. Other tricks or variations include underwater takeoffs, like the "Dolphin Pop" which involves diving towards the shore in waist-deep water as the wave prepares to break, resulting in popping out on the wave like a dolphin, as well as spins, barrel rolls, and the ever-popular getting pounded.
Some bodysurfers have a minimalist attitude toward wave riding and consider their sport to be ...