Buying A Bodyboard
Choosing the right bodyboard
OK, things are getting serious. Looking at this page means you’re ready to choose the perfect bodyboard. Choosing the right board is an essential part of your progression as a rider. Matching the ideal features with your and abilities will ensure your rides are not just fun but totally epic.
Making 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, swat up and 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.
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.
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.
Picking cores for peak performance
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 and polypropylene known as PP. But which is best for you?
PE versus PP
PE is the most common core used in bodyboards, especially in the cooler waters of UK and northern Europe. Despite being significantly heavier than PP, it has far more flex which offers more control.
PP cores are preferred by warm water riders. They’re lighter and stronger than their PE counterparts, so offer a faster ride with more speed out of turns. A 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 northern European 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.
Generally, PP boards last much longer than PE ones. 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.
Dual cores (3D cores)
So, Polyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP) are the two main building blocks of board cores, representing each end of the spectrum - stiff at one end and flexible foam at the other. As board technology progresses (and to add to the confusion), 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 to create a sandwich affect which offering extra durability and superior performance.
Low density PP cores
PP cores are also starting to appear with a lower density, which means they’re less rigid. Brands use different names for low density PP core boards. NMD and VS call them NRG cores, whereas Found call them Paradox 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 feature 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 - Expanded Polystyrene (beginner / starter bodyboards)
Bodyboards for cold water (eg. UK & European waters)
PE - Polyethylene
LOADED - Low Density PP
NRG or NRG+ - Low Density PP
PX - Low Density PP
PC - Paradox Core Low Density PP
D12 - Low Density PP
EFC - Low Density PP
FUSION - Low Density PP
3D - Dual Core (sandwich of PE and PP)
Bodyboards for Warm water (eg. Indonesia & 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
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?
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, but just like PE cores, after time they’re unable to find their original shape. Indentations and creases in areas under pressure also develop quickly in PE decks.
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. If you purchase one of these, be aware that it will require more wax for traction. This is due to its vinyl feel and touch.
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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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 nose 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.
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 board core. Stringers not only make boards last a lot longer, they also increase performance.
In cooler waters, a single central stringer usually of medium stiffness is the norm.
However, two and even three stringer systems are now appearing in bodyboard design. As a general rule, the more stringers used the stiffer and more durable the board will be.
A single stringer is enough for most riders, as it keeps the board rigid when paddling but allows it to flex when riding a wave.
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.
A reasonably new innovation in stringer technology is the Interchangeable Stringer System (ISS). The ISS allows you to change stringers to suit different wave conditions and water temperatures. The soft stringer is suitable for cold water, the mid stringer for cold to mid temp water, the stiff stringer for mid to warm water and the carbon fibre stringer is ideal for warm water. You can purchase individual stringers or the complete set as a pack from BBD here.
Whichever design you choose; always bear in mind that generally, more stringers mean more weight and that a flexible board 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 and/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! The ability of a board to return to its original shape is called memory.
The older and more worn a board 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 board, but it means you’ve been shredding loads, so 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).
Crescent tails are great for groms or beginners, as they 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 back out.
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, as the name suggest, resembles the shape of a bat. No surprises there then. Its shape is designed for heavier riders or shredding smaller waves. It produces more lift towards the back of the board, allowing more speed and maneuverability.
This design is first choice for many top European riders and UK riders - who even confess in hushed circles that it makes bodyboarding easier. It’s certainly a good summer option for British shores and prone riders who never shred in the DK position should definitely consider it. The increase in speed that it offers can be noticed straight away.
It’s also a 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.
Both crescent and bat tail designs should be tried and tested to suit individual taste. Give both a go, and 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 board that run from the nose down to the tail.
There are two sections to a rail. The top part of the board edge, which is called the chine and the bottom part which is usually called the rail. Two different rail designs feature 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.
A 60/40 rail means that 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.
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 board’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 board 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 board. Look out for these features if you love riding heaving slabs and taking 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.
Sizing and Dimensions
The dimensions of your board 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. 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 less than 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 - it determines the overall shape and template of your board. A higher wide point creates more surface area around the nose and offers more stability if you ride prone. 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!
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.