How to Body Surf

Three Methods:Finding the Right GearPlanning AheadCatching Waves

Catch a wave, but not like an amateur. You're a pro! Take these directions to the beach.

Method 1
Finding the Right Gear

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    Decide what you'll wear. You'll want to visit a surf shop if you don't already own adequate gear. Planning ahead can save you time and money, and can help prevent injuries.
    • Choose comfortable swimwear. Some experts recommend wearing swimwear with minimal drag, like brief-cut swimming trunks, to cut down on the resistance your body will have in the water.[1] The less resistance your body has, the faster and smoother your body will cut through the water. But water resistance isn't the only factor to consider.
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    Know the temperature. Unlike a typical outdoor outing, where the air temperature is the most important factor, body surfers need to take the water temperature into account. For this reason, you may want to wear a wetsuit to stay warm when the water is cold.
    • Choose the right wetsuit for your environment. There are many cuts and styles of wetsuits available, and where and when you will be body surfing will determine what kind of swim wear you'll need. The most important factors to consider are the thickness of the suit and the sleeve/leg length. These vary from short sleeves and legs, three-quarter length sleeves and legs, and full-length suits. [2]
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    Choose comfortable fins. Unlike traditional surfing, which uses a floatation device like a surfboard, body surfing uses only the surfer's body to ride waves. But that doesn't mean you have to navigate the waters without any assistance. Many body surfers wear fins that strap to the feet to help cut through water faster and ride waves more efficiently.
    • Find the right fit. Try on different pairs by different brands to find the pair that fits you best. You don't want fins that are too big or too tight. It may be helpful to think of fins as a natural appendage. They should move with you comfortably and help you swim more fluidly, rather than hinder you. [3]

Method 2
Planning Ahead

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    Find the right beach. Surfing of any kind requires a beach that has a noticeable surf break. This means that the water breaks, forming a surfable wave.
    • Choose the right waves. For beginners, it's best to start out small. Choose a beach with waves that are less than four feet high, and look for surf locations with gentle slopes. [4]
    • Know your breaks. Breaks are caused by a variety of factors, typically because of some underwater landscape change that causes the surface to rise up. While big waves can offer ideal opportunities for surfing, shore breaks can also create dangerous situations. Know the beach you plan to surf at and understand the potential hazards. [5]
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    Read surf reports. These reports, which are easily found online, can tell you vital information, such as wave heights and weather forecasts. Check the local weather listing and read updates from the coast guard, as well as from other surfers.
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    Check for environmental hazards. If there is increased shark activity at a certain beach, you'll want to know about it in advance. Likewise if a storm has brought in new, potentially hazardous wood or rocks underwater. Doing research at home can save you from learning the hard way about a potentially dangerous situation.
    • Ask an expert. If you're unsure whether a beach is safe, and the online surf reports aren't up to date, call or email the lifeguard association in that region. They'll know which beaches have hazards like rip currents or shark sightings, and they may be able to recommend a safer alternative than the beach you're planning on surfing.

Method 3
Catching Waves

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    Wade out into chest-deep water. Wait for the right wave to come your way.
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    Practice your form. While paddling toward land, let the wave meet your body.
    • Once you're riding the wave, stop paddling your arms, but keep your legs moving.
    • If you want to simply ride to shore, stretch your arms out in front of you and let the wave carry you toward the beach.
    • If you want to ride with the wave, keep one arm out in front and use your other arm behind you to control your body. Your arms should work together, the front arm to "aim" your body and the back arm to keep it from arching out of control. Having that hand out front will also protect your head from potentially hitting the sand. [6]
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    Streamline your body. At this point you should be riding the wave, either with it or against it, working your way toward shore. Keep your body rigid if you want to go faster, but don't go too fast without learning the basics first.
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    Know when and how to escape the wave. If you feel yourself moving out of control, you'll want to leave the wave as quickly and safely as possible. Leveling out or tucking and rolling out the back of the wave are the easiest ways to escape and swim to shore. [7]


  • Learn the basics before attempting advanced techniques.
  • Always put safety first. If a wave is too big, don't try to ride it. If you aren't dressed for the water temperature, don't risk body surfing without a wetsuit.
  • Ask for advice. Like most sports, body surfing has a community of enthusiasts. If you're just starting out or looking to improve your form, ask other body surfers for tips and pointers.


  • Don't body surf if sharks have been seen in that area.
  • Check local weather forecasts. Remember, the weather can change quickly, especially along the coast.
  • Check surf reports and ask lifeguards or other surfers whether a beach is safe for body surfing.
  • Never surf alone. If a beach is deserted, it might be empty for a reason. Always bring a friend, and never surf at an unpopulated beach.
  • Understand the risks. Body surfing, like most sports, comes with inherent risks. But planning ahead, taking precautions, and always having a partner with you can help minimize those risks and ensure that you both have a fun and rewarding experience!

Article Info

Categories: Surfing