All wording is © Bodyboard-Depot / Rob Barber
Choosing the right bodyboard
OK, things are getting serious. Looking at this page means you’re ready to choose the perfect bodyboard. Well, sit tight we’re going to start stirring your grey matter. But only a little bit.
Choosing the right board is an essential part of your progression as a rider. Matching the ideal features and benefits to your needs and abilities will ensure your rides are not just fun but totally epic.
Make an Informed Choice
A bodyboard can become one of your most prized possessions, the best travelling companion you could ever hope for and the most exciting wave riding vehicle imaginable. But beware, an unsuitable board will only hold you back and leave you frustrated in the water.
There are lots of variations between manufacturers and their designs all of which make major differences to how a bodyboard performs. That’s why we’ve crafted this handy guide to help you navigate through the industry’s tech and jargon maze.
Take your time. Swot up. Get to know your onions before parting with hard-earned cash.
Bodyboard size considerations
Size is the most important element to consider when choosing a new bodyboard. Both height and weight will make a difference to your performance. Even half an inch the wrong way can affect your ability to catch waves and make manoeuvres a major challenge.
Rough sizing chart, When held out in front of you, your ideal bodyboard should reach from your knees up to your chin. Heavier riders are advised to choose a template with increased width for extra flotation and buoyancy.
Find out more. Skip to the bodyboard size section.
Choosing a board for your ability
When choosing a bodyboard you generally get what you pay for. A top end board won’t necessarily turn you into a world champion in seconds so it’s important to be honest with yourself. Don’t waste money on a bodyboard with awesome features if you’re unable to use them.
Understand your kit. Skip to the Awesome Features section.
Picking Cores for peak performance
Granted. You can’t see the actual Core of a bodyboard but it’s the most important element. It defines a board and, used in the right circumstances, will allow you to progress, enjoy the sport and reach your full potential. Get the Core type wrong and there’s a good chance you’ll never become best pals. It just won’t feel right.
The type of foam used in each Core determines the bodyboard’s performance in the water. So, think about the type of conditions in which you’ll be using your new-found friend. Consider water temperature, wave sizes, wave types and your own dimensions.
OK, now we’re going to wade through a whole bunch of names used by different companies to put their mark on what is essentially the exact same material. Foam. There are two types: polyethylene known as PE or Dow and polypropylene known as PP or beaded PP. But which is best for you?
PE Versus PP
PE is the most common Core used in bodyboards, especially in the UK. Despite being significantly heavier than PP it has far more flex which offers more control. Ideal for cooler waters.
PP Cores are preferred by warm water riders. They’re lighter and stronger than their PE counterparts and so offer a faster ride and extra speed out of turns. A beaded PP board also has the ability to recover its original shape extremely well preserving its life span, over and above a PE board.
Though a PP board may seem tempting to use in UK waters, its extra stiffness can make for an uncomfortable and uncontrolled ride especially during the winter. The lack of flex may also render simple moves a real challenge. Some riders like this extra stiffness and feel that it gives them speed and makes the board last for a good length of time.
Despite this, beaded PP has become the industry standard for high performance riding because the manufacturing process allows for increased consistency in Core density. This means PP has better buoyancy properties which makes some moves easier and generally means that it’s faster, especially in smaller waves.
Generally, beaded PP foam lasts much longer than a PE Core. Though in bigger sucky waves like shore breaks, some riders prefer the increased flex that PE Cores offer. It has the ability to bend and shape itself into the wave face more easily. Not sure which one to go for? Don’t worry. Once you start bodyboarding regularly in different breaks you’ll begin to explore Core properties in more detail. Experiment riding your friends boards or come to our shop and use some of our test centre boards to see which you like the best. Choosing a type will then become second nature.
Depending on the types of water conditions and temperatures, we strongly recommend you try both as most top UK riders use PE and PP Cores. The latest development in core technology is low density PP cores, find out more. Skip to the Bodyboard Cores section.
Tail shapes and their benefits
Another major component influencing the performance of a bodyboard is its Tail. This has as much influence on your bodyboard as the Core because it dictates directional movement and release through manoeuvres. The two most common Tail shapes are crescent and Bat Tails. A narrow Tail allows you to release from moves more easily as it is less buoyant whereas a wider Tail offers more stability. For more edge and control you should choose a crescent Tail, for more surface area and drive go for a Bat Tail. So which would work best for you?
Find out more. Skip to the Bodyboard Tails section.
Awesome features that will improve your ride:
You guessed correctly! The deck is the material on a bodyboard that you lie on. The usual configuration for deck material is 8lb (density per inch) PE (polyethylene). PE decks are soft and flexible just like PE Cores but, similarly, after time they’re unable to find their original shape. Indentations and creases in areas under pressure also develop quickly in PE decks.
Manufacturers are looking at ways to stop this happening but some riders prefer their boards a little warn in, with elbow divots through continued use and mellow deck creases.
The alternative to a PE deck is known as crosslink, a thinner 6lb cell structure that absorbs less water whilst being more durable but it tends to be far stiffer. This is often used on boards in the £100 and under price bracket as it’s slightly cheaper to produce. If you purchase one of these numbers be aware it requires more wax for traction, this is due to its vinyl feel and touch. The type of deck you will get really comes down to budget.
Whilst contours enhance the look of your board they’re specifically designed to increase flex, response and control. They offer extra grip, comfort and help you hold on through big duck dives or heavy landings. So don’t pass up contours when you’re examining a new board for purchase.
They can make a terrific difference during hairier rides. Riders that are new to bodyboarding can also find that they help to enhance their ability to put their hands and elbows in the correct place when they are riding.
Slicks (also known as Skins)
The slick is the underneath material of a bodyboard which is in direct contact with the water whilst riding waves. There are two types of material commonly used for slicks: Surlyn and HDPE (high density polyethylene).
Surlyn is the most common material used by bodyboard manufacturers. Believe it or not, it’s the same plastic used to cover golf balls. It’s a rubber composition of ethylene resins and copolymers which have elastic properties. These make the board responsive and recover to an original shape when flexed. It also makes the bodyboard faster by providing superior projection through waves.
The Surlyn layer increases board longevity and prevents creases so it’s a good quality addition. Due to its elasticity it’s the more expensive of the two slick materials but it’s the preferred skin of the world’s leading bodyboarders. And they know a thing or two.
The cheaper alternative is a HDPE slick. In terms of look and feel there’s little to separate it from Surlyn. However, HDPE slicks tend to appear on entry-level or beginners boards so unless you’re just starting out it’s usually worth paying that little extra for a Surlyn. Saying that, smaller and lighter riders tend to get away with HDPE slicks as they exert less pressure on the board. This means longevity isn’t affected. The HDPE skin is less performance-based to give great value for money while you increase your skill level.
These are small grooves on the bottom of your slick. They help hold the wave face much the same way a fin works for a surfboard, enhancing directional control and movement. Most channel designs feature a narrow entry for water at the front of the bodyboard with a wider exit at the back. This creates an increased surface area so your board holds the water better through bottom turns and rail transitions.
A design feature known as a Concave is a large channel running half the length of the bodyboard through to the back of the hull. It usually starts approximately 20-25 inches from the Tail with a gradual arc/channel through to the Tail. Concaves add greater control and are designed to maximize down-the-line speed and drive. Damian King pioneered the design and credits his first world title to this feature.
Mesh is a wire-like plastic material that sits between the slick and the Core. It enhances projection and makes boards more durable. It also cushions the stress boards receive when landing aerial moves. Good to know, next time you get some air time.
Dual Cores (3D Cores)
Polyethylene and Polypropylene are the two main building blocks of board Cores, as we’ve already mentioned, and they represent each end of the spectrum. Stiff and flexible foam. As board technology progresses, manufacturers have developed boards that now include the characteristics of both materials. These are known as 3D Cores. They use layers of both PE and PP foam creating a sandwich affect which offers extra durability and bodyboard performance.
Low Density PP Cores
PP Cores are also starting to appear with a lower density, which means they’re less rigid. However, these go by different names depending on the manufacturer. NMD and VS call them NRG Cores whereas Found call them Paradox and Core call them PX cores. For many riders this design offers the best of both worlds; a light board with good buoyancy and flex when the water is cool while holding its own in warm water without turning to jelly.
An Expanded Polystyrene Core or EPS most commonly features on entry level or beginner bodyboards. This stiff but lightweight foam provides the ideal platform for diving onto broken waves and riding them to the beach. It offers great buoyancy and a reasonable amount of flex. Perfect for first-timers tackling their first waves.
Bodyboard Core Glossary
EPS - Epanded Polystyrene Core (Beginner / Starter Bodyboards)
PE - Polyethylene (Cold water bodyboards eg. UK)
Bodyboards for UK & European waters
Loaded - Low Density PP
NRG or NRG+ - Low Density PP
PX - Low Density PP
PC - Paradox Core Low Denisity PP
D12 - Low Density PP
EFC - Low Density PP
3D - Dual Core (Made up of a sandwich of PE and PP)
Bodyboards for Warm waters (eg. Indonesia and South America)
PFS - Parabolic Flex System ( Central Section of board is thicker PP with a thinner band of PP on the rails.
PP - Polypropylene
Freedom 6 PP - Beaded Polypropylene
Now then. If you’re really serious about getting into our beloved sport, the stringer is an essential element of a bodyboard’s make-up with which you need to get familiar. Stringers are tubes or rods made from carbon fibre or fibre glass that run through the Core.
Not only do they make boards last a lot longer they also increase performance. Both are important for generating speed maintaining the boards memory (ability to return to its original shape). So, consider where you’re board is likely to be used before deciding on a stringer setup – we’re talking wave conditions and sea temperatures. This step is vital. Choose the wrong stringer configuration and you could ruin your ride.
In cooler waters, a single central stringer is the norm. However, two and even three stringer systems are now appearing in bodyboard design. Some manufacturers are also experimenting with oval shaped stringers to help maintain recoil in every direction. The more stringers used the stiffer and more durable the board with longer lasting recoil properties.
Advancements in Core technology are continually allowing companies to develop new stringer designs. Such as squared tabular, torsion and replaceable designs. The most successful of which would be Found’s Torsion Stringer system which offers an elliptical shaped stringer designed to evenly spread the flex of the board more evenly and decrease twisting (twisting is when a board is flexed more on one side than the other and as a result becomes un evenly bent on one side). More recently extra lengths of PP foam have been introduced, called Springers. These lie through the board’s Core and further increase recoil.
A single stringer is enough for most riders. It keeps the board rigid when paddling but allows it to flex when riding a wave. It has become more popular recently to have three stringers in order to maintain rigidity through the back of the board which is proven to reduce twisting of the core and increase speed and longevity. The board has one long central stringer and two shorter stringers positioned from near the tail to around two thirds of the way up the board, this allows the board to flex well at the point where a riders elbows are positioned. So it actually feels like a single stringer board but has increased strength due to the three rods. Double stringers are often used on boards that have HDPE bottom skins as this helps to keep rigidity and recoil. Some drop knee riders prefer double stringers as they feel that the flex that the board receives when they are bottom turning can recoil with more energy if there are two stringers.
Whichever design you choose; always bare in mind that generally, more stringers mean more weight. Also remember that a flexible board with fewer stringers will be more responsive and easier to control in steeper tubing waves. A more rigid board will be faster but generally a little harder to control.
Flex and recoil is something you’ll hear a lot of bodyboarders talk about. So let’s unpack this jargon. When looking for a board you need rigidity for paddling out but you also need flex to bottom turn or cut back. The speed with which your board recoils or reforms to its original shape creates projection. Effectively this is speed - what all bodyboarders crave! With us so far? The ability of a board to return to its original shape is called memory.
The older and more worn a bodyboard becomes the more it loses its ability to recoil. It becomes slower and loses its memory. At this point, it’s time for a new bodyboard but it means you’ve been shredding loads. Well done you.
The most widely used Tail design is the Clipped Crescent Tail. As the name suggests, it forms a wide U shape, which puts more of your body in contact with the water’s surface. This offers more control and is suited to drop-knee (DK) and prone riders (those who lie on the board).
Great for groms or beginners in the early stages of bodyboarding development, Crescent Tails make it easier for you to position your hips on the back of the board to catch waves. They’re also comfortable while you paddle out behind waves.
Crescent shapes have the best bite or purchase of all Tail designs because they allow you to engage the rail edge more easily while riding the face of a wave. The Tail peg is the name given to the back corner of the board. This nifty feature displaces water from wave faces allowing you to track or trim across it. Now you know why it’s the preferred Tail type for riders focusing on bigger waves and those totally addicted to tube riding.
Generally the crescent Tail is a popular feature as it’s the most user-friendly in terms of maneuverability and comfort.
The Bat Tail resembles the shape of a Bat. No surprises there then. Its shape is designed for heavier riders or shredding smaller waves. This is because it produces more lift towards the back of the board which provides more speed and maneuverability with less drag. While the protruding bulb at the back may feel uncomfortable to lay on at first, it’s a very functional design particularly for creating speed.
This design is first choice for many top European riders and UK riders confess in hushed circles that it makes bodyboarding in our waves easier. It’s certainly a good summer option for British shores as we have smaller, weaker waves and Prone riders who never shred in the DK position should definitely consider it as the increase in speed that it offers can be noticed straight away.
It’s popular belief that Bat Tails help you ride out of moves more easily and they generally offer a smoother ride through turns. However, in bigger more sucky waves they can become a little twitchy and lose some of their high-line holding power. Saying that, Damien King won his world drop-knee title riding a Bat Tail board so all designs should be tried and tested to suit your individual taste. Give both a go, see how they feel. Most riders will have a crescent tail and a bat tail board in their quiver.
Rails are the side edges of your bodyboard that run from the nose down to the Tail. Differences in design can determine how successful you lock into a wave face and your ability to release a rail to perform maneuvers. Let us explain in more detail.
Firstly, there are two sections to a rail. The top part of the boards edge which is called the chine, and the bottom which is usually called the rail. Secondly, there are two different rail designs featured in most bodyboards: the 60/40 and 50/50. These numbers relate to how much of the chine is at the top and how much of the rail is at the bottom.
OK, let’s give an example. A 60/40 rail means 40% of the chine connects to the deck whereas 60% of the rail is in direct contact with the water. This style of rail is best for maintaining control on bigger, more powerful waves and is traditionally the most common option.
On the other hand, 50/50 rails are equally divided. They offer more speed as it’s easier to disconnect from the wave face. Some signature boards designed by professional riders also have rails with slightly different ratios, such as 70/30 or 55/45. Due to testing different rail types they’ve discovered the ideal balance that works for them. It really does boil down to individual preference once you get to that level of riding. Who knows, that could be you one day.
The nose of your board is the front part at the top and its width affects your bodyboard’s manoeuvrability. A wider board such as one between eleven and thirteen inches (suited to prone riders) will be more stable. Whereas a narrower one which could be anywhere from a rounded nose to ten inches (preferred by drop-knee riders) will be more loose and manoeuvrable.
If you choose a board too wide for your riding style, you’ll start to lose speed. Similarly, choose a bodyboard with too narrow a nose and you’ll have a hard time controlling your board. Most boards have a very similar sized nose, so don’t stress about it too much. Choose the type of nose that suits how you wish to shred. It’s that simple.
Nose bulbs are amongst the many names given to the finger grips on the hull side (bottom) of your board.
Designed to increase finger and hand control, nose bulbs also increase strength and durability in this area of your bodyboard.
Look out for these features if you love riding heaving slabs and take some heavy drops.
They’re a really functional design feature and once you’ve got used to them you will never want a board that doesn’t have them.
The dimensions of your bodyboard greatly affect its performance in the water. There are lots of slight variations that harness different elements of wave riding that can suit riders of a certain shape or weight more than others. Let’s delve into this area further.
The Wide Point
The widest point of any bodyboard is measured rail-to-rail and it affects both flotation and turning ability. For example, a wider board will offer more flotation but will be harder to turn. Over the past few years boards have become narrower, most are under 22 inches, to accommodate harder and sharper turns in critical situations.
Nose to Wide Point
This is the distance from the nose to the board’s widest point, yep - you’re catching on quick. It determines the overall shape and template of your bodyboard. A higher wide point creates more surface area around the nose and offers more stability if you ride prone. This is because you drive and maneuver from this section. A lower wide point narrows this area which increases maneuverability. A low wide point is commonly preferred for drop knee riding as the DK rider can drive with their knee on the widest point of the board at the rail edge.
The most important element of bodyboard shape is the length. You must get this right. If it’s too big you won’t be able to control the board or paddle out very effectively. Your knees will hit the tail while pumping with your fins. A board that is too short in size simply won’t offer enough flotation. This will slow up your riding and make it difficult to catch waves.
Simply follow this golden rule. If you’re generally going to ride really small waves choose a bigger board size with extra flotation. Alternatively, if you’re seeking huge waves a smaller board will work much more effectively, you’ll have more of your body in the water which increases control.
The final step to make a purchase
OK, now you know all there is to know about bodyboards! Kind of.
Ready to start choosing the perfect model for you? Don’t worry. If you’re still unclear about anything or need more information about bodyboard features then give us a call.
We’re ready and waiting to find the perfect match for you.