How to Body Surf: Equipment and Techniques
March 27, 2012

Forgot to bring your board to the beach? Want to body surf like Cunningham? Here are some tips that will get you out there and dropping in like the pros. This article won’t teach how to swim, so use your common sense and know your limits at the beach.

Why body surf?

– Experience the wave in a more natural way
– Good skill for when you snap your leash
– It’s just darn fun


Fins: Good fins are crucial for bodysurfing. A solid pair of fins will give you that extra propulsion to match the speed of a wave and race down the line.

You will want a surf fin (aka swim fin), NOT a diving fin. What’s the difference? A surf fin has an open heel and does not look like a shoe at the back. If you are trying to body surf with dive fins, water will fill up the shoe pocket and easily rip them off your feet when you get pounded by a wave.

A great fin for body surfing is the DaFin Swim Fin. This is the fin used by lifeguards on the North Shore and waterman up and down the coast. It features soft foots pockets that are easy on your feet and are not foot specific. That means you won’t have to look at your feet or fumble with right and left fins when you are putting them on in a hurry.

Click here to see all Body Surfing Fins at Swell


Trunks: You will want a snug pair so they don’t end up around your ankles. The pros like to bust out the ol’ grape smugglers (speedos), but unless you’re in Europe you might get some strange looks from all your mates for sporting such a revealing garment.

Super stretch trunks are a great option. NO one likes leaving the beach feeling like they’ve been brillo padded down below and body surfing in sub-par swimwear will most definitely take it’s toll. Grab a pair of performance shorts if you plan on staying out there for more than fifteen minutes.

Click here to see the best selection of Boardshorts online!


Fin socks (optional): If you are going on a prolonged body surfing session, especially in warmer water, fin socks can be great for protecting against rashes/blisters.

Once your feet start to become pruney you’re fins can easily irritate your skin and a neoprene fin sock will give you some added protection.

Handplane (optional): A handplane can help you take your body surfing to the next level. These are great fun and it’s surprising how much they will help you pick a line and pull you down the wave.

They guys at Almond Surfboards make quality, hand shaped planes that are easy on the wallet and loads of fun to ride.

Click here to check out all Handplanes

Sunscreen: Melanoma is no one’s friend and if your swimming in the ocean you’ll need some serious sun protection.

The Vertra Mick Fanning Face Stick is a great choice to keep your face shielded when you are in the water. It goes on light, but offers a powerful formula that will keep protected in and out of the water.  Watermans and Headhunters both offer tough water resistant screens as well.

Click here to check out all of our great Sunscreens


Come Hell or High Water: This multi-award winning movie from Keith Malloy will make just about anyone want to grab a pair of fins and hit the beach. In the sport’s first ever feature film, the body surfing  pros show off their best moves and their love for the ocean from the Wedge to Pipe and Montana to Teahupoo.

This film will get you stoked and can introduce you to different body surfing tricks and styles.Check out the trailer and then add it to your collection.

Click here to get Come Hell or High Water on DVD


Body Surfing:

Picking a spot:

When choosing a spot it’s good to pick one without surfers and, if you’re new to the sport, one that isn’t breaking right on the shore. Once you master your skills on easier waves then you can start braving shore pound and surf breaks, but until then try to start off with some more user friendly waves ( ie. Breaking in slightly deeper water and on a sandy bottom).

Also when possible SWIM NEAR A LIFEGUARD! This is especially important for novices. They can also point out rip currents and potential hazards in the line up for you.

Getting out there:

First off, NEVER put your fins on when you are in the sand, this is just bad form! No one wants to see you waddle down the beach like a duck and then trip over yourself when an ankle slapper washes over your feet. Wait until you get to about waist deep water and then put on your fins. You’ll roll onto your back, slip them on and then start swimming.

To get past waves, no matter how big or small, ALWAYS go under them. Also MAKE SURE to put both hands out in front of you when you’re going under waves so you don’t bang your head on the bottom. I’ve seen a lot of people hurt their head/neck because they’ve gone under a wave and straight into a rock or sandbar. Don’t be that guy!

On especially large waves the procedure is the same. Just dive down deep, grab the sand if you have to and then try to lie flat. The wave energy with go right over you and should leave you unscathed. DO NOT try to jump over the wave unless you want to get smacked around, hurled over the falls and possibly injured.

Catching a Wave:

Once you are out in the lineup you will want to choose a wave with an open face to ride. Much like surfing, line yourself up with the crest or peak of a breaking wave and then start swimming (kick hard!) towards shore to match its speed.

If you do this correctly the wave will start to pull you and then you’ll be able to turn either left or right depending on which way the wave’s breaking.

Click Here to See POV Body Surf Footage 

When you start gaining speed and pick your direction, kick and extend whichever arm is closer to the curl. A leading arm out in front helps you draw a line and assures neck protection when you go over the falls.

So if you are taking a left, use your left arm to guide you and your right arm extended behind you to help maintain stability, and if you are taking a right do the exact opposite.

Tip: In shallower water sometimes I like to drop the leg or arm further from the curl at the end of the ride to help brace myself when going over the falls. Learning to fall correctly is something that takes practice, so if you goal is to womp macking Waimea shorebreak, start off first in smaller surf and try to master your falling techniques first.

If you follow these directions correctly you will be body surfing in no time and logging in some serious barrel time.

Questions? Ask in the comments below and we’ll try to give you a reasonable response.