As a beginner bodyboarder, there’s a crucial piece of kit that will help take your riding to the next level.
Swim fins, or ‘flippers’ make a massive difference. They help to propel you through the waves more easily. That means you’ll accelerate at a higher speed and catch more waves. And the more waves you catch, the quicker you’ll progress – bonus!
When you get more experienced, you’ll learn how to use your swim fins when duck diving, and use them as a rudder or brake when you trim across the waves. They’re also a pretty nifty safety feature as you’ll get back to shallow water much quicker than without them!
Buying your first pair of swim fins
If you don’t already have a pair, you need to invest. Visit a good bodyboard shop and get fitted properly. They need to be comfortable. The last thing you want is to waste good money and have to cut your sessions short because your fins are too tight, they rub and cause cramp in your feet.
If any of that sounds uncomfortably familiar, replace your fins immediately. Comfort is key!
Putting your fins on
To begin with, they’ll feel like clown boots and you’ll trip over. Don’t put them on as soon as you hit the sand. Wait until you’re at the shore and place them on the sand.
Put one fin in front of the other, make sure they’re the right way up and simply slide your feet in. You can sit down to do it but we see all sorts of kooky shenanigans going on – from wrestling with them at an awkward angle to filling them full of sand. It’s much easier to put them on whilst standing up and it’s what all the pro’s do so you’ll be in good company!
How to walk with swim fins
Even us seasoned bodyboarders still trip over. Keep your toes pointed in the air and take big steps – it makes a huge difference and means you won’t catch your fins. Plus, if you use your bodyboard almost like a walking aid, you can steady yourself if you trip.
Entering the water
When you reach ankle deep water, turn around and walk backwards out to sea. Use your board to steady yourself by holding the nose against your stomach. If the waves hit you and knock you back towards shore, the board will help you stay on your feet.
Keep looking in the direction you’re walking – don’t look towards the shore otherwise you’ll trip over. Also, be prepared for any oncoming waves, deviations in the sand and hazards such as rocks. By holding the bodyboard to steady yourself, you’ll make yourself as hydrodynamically shaped as possible. This will stop the waves from knocking you over.
How to paddle out
Start paddling when you get to at least waist depth. If you paddle when you’re only in knee to waist high water, you’ll waste a lot of energy. Your leg muscles are far more used to walking than paddling so it’s important to conserve your energy, especially for paddling into waves!
Wait for a lull in the sets and then jump onto your board and paddle swiftly towards the horizon.
Adopt an efficient paddling technique
We call this ‘paddle position number 1.’ Place both hands on the nose of the board with your arms straight. Keep your weight right up the back of your board with your hips in the water. Kick up and down, one leg after the other but keep both legs in the water.
Use a paddle motion that feels most comfortable for you – either a peddle motion, like a bicycle, or kick both feet up and down. When you tire of one method, switch up your technique.
How to catch a wave
Once you get out beyond the breaking waves, choose a wave that you want to go for. Lock your arms to keep the board flat and pull your body up onto your board. Apply pressure to the back of the board’s tail with your hips.
Kick your legs using the 0-60 technique where you paddle from a still position to maximum speed in the shortest possible time period. Kick as hard as you can, making sure your feet remain under the water’s surface. But don’t worry if you cause some splash. Lock your arms out and make sure you’re in front of the peak of the wave.
If you’ve kicked hard enough, you’ll catch the wave and fly down the face. Wahoo! Then do it all over again and catch as many waves as you can.
It’s tricky getting to grips with swim fins for the first time but stick with it. They’re an essential part of improving your bodyboarding and once you get used to them, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without them!
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