How to Prepare for Getting Caught on the Inside

When bodyboarding, you will get caught on the inside of a big, breaking wave periodically, it could be the wave of the day, you got dropped in on, or an error in judgement. Whatever the reason, being in the wrong place, with a giant wave approaching requires a correct and dynamic response. Prepare for all contingencies before beginning bodyboarding, during the off-season and between swells, and weekly if you bodyboard year-round.


  1. 1
    Before starting your bodyboarding adventure, be comfortable in the ocean. Swim for distance, practice all the swimming strokes, read about drownproofing, and be able to do a bit of diving. Read surfing, bodyboarding and surfing books and articles and learn how other surfers deal with getting caught on the inside. Also know the dynamics of the ocean, waves and currents.
  2. 2
    Know the layout of your break. Observe, talk to other people and read books. Go snorkeling or paddling, when the ocean is calm. Identify the problems such as reefs, pilings, rocks, strong currents, metal etc.
  3. 3
    Have a sturdy leash and attach it to your board with a plug and on the handle, you want a double attachment. A six foot high layer of whitewater takes time to settle enough to allow breathing, and even so, the next wave will be coming. Do not get separated from your board.
  4. 4
    Choose a bodyboard appropriate to your weight and so you can be competitive in catching waves. Shop around for the right board and price.
  5. 5
    On the beach, set your bodyboard on the sand and notice how it reacts to the wind. Aerodynamics is similar to hydrodynamics. Note that all bodyboards are the most stable upside down. In smaller waves, dismount and experiment hanging on to your bodyboard in a broken wave: 1) with the board right side up and hanging on to the nose, 2) with the board right side up and hanging on to the tail, 3) with the board upside down and hanging on to the tail, and finally 4) with the board upside down and hanging on to the nose. The fourth method has the least resistance and is what you should do in the big waves.
  6. 6
    In dealing with incoming waves, progressively use the different techniques according to the wave strength: 1) in small waves, stay on the board and punch through the wave, 2) in bigger waves do an Eskimo roll and continue paddling without skipping a beat, 3) and with the biggest waves, turn your board belly up, kick hard with your legs, hold your bodyboard firmly, and head out and down to the bottom.
  7. 7
    You will get caught on the inside of a big wave when the wave of the day comes in, when you get dropped in on, or from mistake in judgement. Whatever the reason for being in a terrifying position, this is what you should do: 1) paddle either for the horizon or the paddling channel, 2) get caught in deep water or get pushed in to shallower waters.
  8. 8
    When paddling for the horizon or directly into the wave, anticipate where the power of the wave will be and avoid that area. Either be: 1) ahead of that power or 2) after the wave has broken and its power has weakened somewhat. When ahead of the power, you may have to get off the board and dive. If you can survive that wave, without losing ground, paddle furiously to outside to escape the next wave - you will be in good position. If paddling to the outside is not an option, let the wave break before you - you will lose your position and get pushed towards shore
  9. 9
    Smaller waves and shallow water will usually not be life threatening. Stay flat, perfectly level on your board and do not have the nose high such as in the paddling and wave riding positions. Paddle out of the shallow water with shallow, oar-like strokes and with your legs level. Beware of sharp corals, boulders, metal and sea urchins. For fun and safety, ride safe waves and at places where people do not get hurt or die.
  10. 10
    Big waves break in deep water, so with most big waves, be concerned with drowning and collisions with other bodyboarders, surfboards and surfers. When in extreme underwater turbulence, perhaps in eight feet, or bigger and powerful wave, minimize the violent wave force (like a 500 pound gorilla chiropractor adjusting your back) on you by forming your body shape into a ball. In very big waves, the board will get ripped out of your grasp and you will be at the wave's mercy. If you fear a collision, protect your head and neck.
  11. 11
    Bailout as a last resort if going over-the-falls will be truly horrendous. You will be the anchor and headed to the horizon, and slightly downwards, where there is less turbulence. If you need just a bit of distance, away from the churning turbulence, to avoid disaster, bailing out may be the correct move, however factor in, the kite-effect, the board will have if the leash is attached far from the tip of your bodyboard. Generally, do not abandon your board.
  12. 12
    Avoid shoulder injury on the side that the leash is attached to your wrist. Do chin-ups, rows and rearward shoulder shrugs. Keep your shoulder and elbow tight, when you lose your board and have to depend on your leash.
  13. 13
    Always do a set, of perhaps 15 repetitions, of lying leg crossovers. This is an easy exercise, do it twice a month at the very minimum. The purpose of this exercises is to avoid any mind-numbing heel to shin impacts when getting tossed around, like a rag doll, in the underwater turbulence.

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Categories: Surfing