Bodysurfing 101: The Dos And Don’ts

Lifesaving_bodysurfing_ocean swimming

Photo: Lauren Allott

Even though it’s the cold season, lifesavers and multisporters just keep calm and carry on. Winter is a hotbed of racing and an opportunity to prepare for the next summer. The one discipline which can be hard to continue is (you guessed it!)… swimming.

Swimming in winter can be daunting, even if indoors in a heated pool. So the most enjoyable way to keep your swimming fitness going through winter is to go outside and bodysurf! Bodysurfing is demanding on the legs, lungs and arms and mixed with periods of steady swimming out to the backline, high-energy sprints catching waves and lung-busting wipeouts. Just one hour of bodysurfing will leave your body stronger and keep your surf swim
skills sharp.

The Basics
Wear shorter swim fins for speed and getting onto waves. Bodysurf with a friend or near a group of surfers.

The Launch
Catch a wave just before it breaks. It should feel like the wave is throwing you forward, which it is. Land on the wave using your leading hand to steer by pressing it down onto the water with a flat palm and lifting your head and chest up. From here, it’s up to you. A really skilled bodysurfer can do belly spins or even launch off the wave. Simply catching a wave all the way to shore can be just as rewarding.

The End Zone
The hard work starts when the wave loses power. You need to work harder to stay on it. Keep your body streamlined and use those swim fins. Catching a wave that has already broken is even harder. Swim down to the bottom and grab the ocean floor. Anticipate the wave and launch yourself, popping the surface at speed just in front of the wave. Do it right and you’ll have enough speed to stay on the wave.

If you’re going to hit a rock, rather break a hand and not your head

The Warnings
Look out for sandbanks and rocks when diving through and under waves. Always keep your hands ahead of you. If you’re going to hit a rock, rather break a hand and not your head. If you’re going to use a wave gun (hand plane), make sure your shoulders are strong and flexible enough to handle a bad wipeout. You don’t want to tear your shoulder in the offseason, or any season for that matter.

Enjoy the surf and stay swimming strong for a kicker summer!

Originally published in the May/June 2013 issue.

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About Bryan Allott

Bryan has competed in lifesaving and triathlon since 1992 and is the current Around the Rocks open water swim champ. Unable to love just one sport, you'll find him out on a beach, near an ocean, mountain, the trail or the bush

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