How Do You Bodysurf Using a Handboard?
or
What Is Handboarding?

Handboarding or bodysurfing using a handboard is an uplifting experience for you as a bodysurfer.  Using a body surfing handboard or a bodysurfing hand plane adds speed, manoeuvrability and lift to your bodysurfing experience.

Using a body surfing handboard / handplane makes it is easier to catch waves and bodysurf waves.

In this article on how to bodysurf using a handboard or handplane we have included a number of videos to demonstrate some of the techniques so that you can use some of these tips in your bodysurfing.

This article provides a comprehensive guide on how to bodysurf and how to use bodysurfing equipment such as fins and handboards or handplanes.  We hope that as a bodysurfer this article helps you to learn more about bodysurfing.  If you are an experienced bodysurfer we hope that you will try one of our handboards or handplanes at PPP Handboards.

Bodysurfing is utter unity with the ocean. The bodysurfer is bodysurfing or gliding across the face of the wave, using just their body to surf.  In summer the chances are that you have tried bodysurfing.  Maybe you bodysurfed just a little and you get the thrill, we have a few tips on how to start out on bodysurfing.

This article should help you in taking it to the next level by helping with some of the tips and tricks of bodysurfing with a handboard or handplane.


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Why Should I Read This Article?

For the beginner handboarder this article will help you to improve your bodysurfing with your handboard.

For more advanced bodysurfers there may be some tips or insights that you take away to help with your bodysurfing using a handboard.  We have another article that looks at the elements of bodysurfing, the ocean, rips, and large surf.

This article discusses bodysurfing with a handboard or a handplane.

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Way Too Much Fun

Bodysurfing with a handboard or handplane as Abby says “I just do it for fun!”

People sitting on the beach come and say "That handboard is so much faster than anyone bodysurfing out there… why?"

This video demonstrates a bodysurfer using a handboard trimming across the wave, driving his shoulder into the wave and then releasing to control the speed he is travelling.  He is also trimming up and down the wave; just because he can - having fun.

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How Does a Handboard Help?

  • Bending water: Bending water is what displacement surfing is all about because it reduces drag and increases speed
  • Speed: Bodysurfers want to get into the barrel or around a crumbling section and SPEED is the king!
  • A handboard helps reduce drag by lifting your torso out of the water
  • The bodysurfing handboards buoyancy helps to catch more waves.
  • The more waves you catch the happier you are :)
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What's the Difference?

Handboard, handplane, handgun, handlid, handslide are all different names used to describe bodysurfing handboards.

There are differences between the handboards.  Some size and shape differences but a lot of “me too” handboards and handplanes are out there as well.  We tested 15 handboards and handplanes prior to designing our PPP Handboards.

We noted that many bodysurfers (and the sellers) started out using “take-out” or “take-away” fast food trays as handboards … all of these trays were/are flexible! yep… you know the ‘M’ trays from the fast food chain, down in Oz they were brown and flexed.  Yet we are the ONLY organisation offering a bodysurfing handboard that flexes!


Bodysurfing Tip 1

Most bodysurfers using a handboard use 1 handboard only at a time. Certainly pool swimmers can train with two swim paddles, … anyone ever seen anyone with two handboards?

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Wetsuit

Wetsuits are great for keeping bodysurfers warm when cold water is around.  They also protect you from the sun.  There are many different options…

TIP: Triathlon suits have added buoyancy!

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Handboard

If you are going bodysurfing you will need a handboard or handplane to go handboarding.

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Fins / Flippers

Fins really help with getting bodysurfers onto a wave as it makes it much easier; particularly if you are bodysurfing using your handboard out the back at a point break or in deeper water.

Early on during your bodysurfing life you might be staying close to the shore and using the seabed and your legs to drive onto a wave.  As you gain experience it may be easier to use your handboard only and no flippers.

Bodysurfing with your handboard is a great way to get fit but be careful when you are learning to bodysurf as it is tiring and might be best to bodysurf using your handboard close to the shore.


Bodysurfing Tip 2

Check your handboarding equipment to make sure it is in proper working order for your bodysurfing expedition!

So where are you going to go handboarding?

First let’s check out if there is any surf for handboarding.  In Australia you are spoiled for a choice of cams and surf reports such as Coastalwatch or, if you are in Sydney, Realsurf.

In the US you also have sites such as Surfline or Magic Seaweed.

Most of these sites offer surf reports and possible webcams, wave, tidal and water temperature information.

Recently we went to Perth and contacted Greg at bodysurfers.info who put us in contact with Rashie at City Beach.  We contacted each other and Rashie advised us that at City Beach handboards are generally not permitted between the flags.  The point of this is that it is often worthwhile reaching out to someone who is a local to find out gold nuggets of information.

So on Saturday we turned up to find 1’ of surf … and we still had a great time bashing about :)

So you have found a wave to go handboarding … what’s next after you arrive?


Bodysurfing Tip 3

When you arrive at the beach and have decided where you might like to go handboarding take a minute to check out the break and look for any rips or water movement, talk to someone getting out of the water or if there is a life guard on duty talk to them and ask about the conditions in the water.

Getting Out to the Breaking Waves

Let’s say you have decided to go out the back and catch the breaking waves to bodysurf.  Some bodysurfers using handboards prefer to put their fins on while they are on the beach, others prefer to wade out in the water to a comfortable height and put their fins on in the surf.

So now you have your fins on and you are ready to swim out to the breaking waves to use your handboard.  Some handboards require you to put your hand in the handboard and place the other hand over the top and kick out to the break.  Our PPP Handboards require you to put your hand on the handboard, adjust the strap and swim out to the break using freestyle or any other stoke that suits your fitness and skill.

This is one of the benefits of PPP Handboards design and paulownia wood – it is light and strong and can be used with both arms to freestyle onto a wave.  Again if you want to use your handboard to kick out to the break or swim out to the break that is a personal decision.

When you swim out to where the waves are breaking there are a few things to keep in mind;

  • Use the triangular option to pinpoint your location in the water.
  • Keep a watch on approaching waves for any opportunities with your handboard ready to swim onto a wave.

Having a handboard helps with buoyancy and reduces fatigue, letting you bodysurf for longer.  When you see a wave that you want to bodysurf, make sure you are facing the shore and as the wave approaches, kick your fins under the water and either swim onto the wave with both arms or place one arm forward and use your other arm to help get onto the wave.  Excellent … you are handboarding! Congratulations!

Which Hand Do I Put On The Handboard?

Whichever hand you prefer!

There are some thoughts that which hand depends on whether you are left or right handed or ambidextrous.  Whichever hand you prefer put that hand under the PPP Handboards adjustable hand strap.  Make sure the palm of your hand is facing down and feels comfortable under the hand strap.

Here Comes a Wave…

This video is worth a thousand words as it demonstrates swimming into position, swimming onto the wave and getting a barrel! Bodysurfing Positioning for a Wave.

An excellent tip for bodysurfing is to identify a fixed point on land, such as a surf lifesaving flag, the corner of a building or a tree to help you triangulate your position.  This helps you to identify any left or right rip, as well as any rip dragging you out to the ocean.  You might find some questions answered here.  Being constantly aware of your position gives you early opportunities to adjust as the ocean can be unforgiving.

Body Surfing Technique:  Here are some further tips about bodysurfing with a handboard;

  1. Pick a wave that is almost breaking and thrust your hand and handboard straight ahead of you;
  2. This time we are looking for 2-3 strokes only to get on the wave, kicking fast with your fins … once you feel the lift of the wave lift your head and enjoy the body surf.

As you get more experience bodysurfing you will have confidence to ride bigger waves and try to bodysurf diagonally across the face of a wave and race the breaking wave.

If you see a wave coming and you don't want to body surf it, dive under the wave.  Depending on the size of the wave you may need to kick your legs and use breaststroke to get past the wave.

Off for a surf … remember to:

  • Swim between the flags with a mate
  • If you don’t want to catch a wave swim under it
  • Be aware of other surfers who have right of way on a wave
  • As you gain more experience you will find that your timing to stroke onto the wave will improve.  If you are too slow you will miss the wave, too early and you will expend all your energy and be too far in front of the wave.

Have heaps of fun!

OK I Am On the Wave … Now What

In the video Bodysurfing - Positioning for a Wave you can see the bodysurfer positioning to go right on the wave.

Going straight on a wave is the least preferred option but cases do happen when that is the only option … however not a good idea in larger surf.

Regardless of which hand your handboard or handplane is attached to you can go left or right.

As you saw from the video, the bodysurfer set up to go handboarding to the right.

If the wave broke to the left then the bodysurfer could have gone handboarding to the left.

As you saw in the video the ride was longer to the right and the breaking wave propelled and carried the bodysurfer into a longer ride ending with a barrel.

One important tip: once you commit … give it everything you have.

Depending on the wave you can keep stroking with your free arm or rest it on top of your other hand … your choice!

Once you are trimming along the wave you can keep kicking, or try to behave like a longboard and stiffen up … some like to relax or bodysurf along the face of the wave using their fins for extra speed … or as a rudder particularly if you are bodysurfing and slide-slipping down a wave.

You can trim up and down the face of the wave and use the pressure and angle of your bodysurfing handboard to cut diagonally across the face of a wave.

Charge down the line, angle your handboard down the line and hopefully you will get a barrel at the end of it so … Go for it! Just as Marcus did in Bodysurfing Positioning for a Wave.


Bodysurfing Tip 4

If you are at the entry level check out our other "How To" article to check out what to look for when you are choosing a spot to bodysurf.  It is worth learning how to bodysurfing with your hands before adding the handboards to your sessions and committing to handboarding.  There is no substitute for experience as a bodysurfer to support the fitness and awareness required to keep improving as a handboarder and bodysurfer.


Final Thoughts on Bodysurfing / Handboarding

Don’t ever underestimate the ocean … know your limitations.

Make sure your bodysurfing equipment is in excellent working order.

When you are out there … Go For It!

Have heaps of fun!