Surfing and bodyboarding, to those that don’t surf, seem like much the same water sport, however, the reality is far from it.
There has long been tension and a so-called rivalry between stand-up surfers and bodyboarders.
Do Surfers Hate Bodyboarders?
Not all surfers hate bodyboarders, but those that do generally do it for reasons that included wave competition, historical reasons, blindly following the crowd, and a simple dislike for something different, not to mention bodyboarding is the easier sport to learn.
Let’s take a deeper look into the rivalry between surfers and bodyboarders, why it exists, and how both extreme water sports can exist together in the same waters.
Why Is There a Rivalry Between Surfers and Bodyboarders?
In the modern-day, the truth is that there’s not much reason for surfers to hate bodyboarders, however, thanks to past ideas, this judgment and segregation in the water is still present.
Although most surfers don’t have a problem with bodyboarders, those that do will likely do so because of one or more of the following reasons.
1. Surfing History
Hawaii is often seen as the origin of surfing on the globe. Although this may not be entirely accurate, the island nation is without a doubt the home of modern-day surfing.
The sport of the gods (surfing) was seen as a way to honor and respect the gods by displaying power, courage, style, as well as social standings.
The higher your social standing in the village, the larger your surfboard will be.
For example, kings rode on 14 – 16ft longboards known as an “Olo”, while those of lower standings would surf on shorter boards known as “Alaia”.
Although the Alaia was still 10 – 12ft long, they were still for the lesser class and left to the rough, barreling, and crumbling waves (much like bodyboarders of today).
Because of this ancient history, many surfers still hold onto the idea that bodyboarding is for the “lesser surfers” than stand-up surfing.
2. Wave Competition
One of the most amazing aspects of surfing is that we are entirely left with the choices of nature.
If there is no swell, we simply cannot surf. Furthermore, when there is swell, the waves are limited and competition is often high.
As the number of global surfers increases, the number of available waves seems to diminish.
As many new surfers take up bodyboarding, bodyboarders seem to overpopulate the water, which tends to annoy surfers.
Not only this, but because bodyboarders have fins and small boards, they find it easy to jump on a wave late and deep, which is not possible for surfers.
This means that many surfers lose waves to bodyboarders, which is clearly a sore point for any surfer.
3. Bodyboarding Is Easier than Surfing
Because so many “sort-of-surfers” love to ride their bodyboards on white water as they frolic on the shoreline, bodyboarding often gets a rap as a simple, easy, child’s sport.
Although this is far from the truth, bodyboarding is significantly easier to learn than surfing, which (unjustifiably) gives surfers a reason to look down on them.
That being said, the idea that bodyboarding is easy and takes no skill is far from the truth.
4. Blindly Following the Crowd
Humans do a great job at blindly following the crowd without a glimpse of their own thought and understanding.
This is perfectly represented in the rivalry between surfers and bodyboarders, particularly within the younger surfing community.
Young surfers who are new to the sport and have their egos rolling, catch a glimpse of this subtle rivalry and tend to blow it out of proportion.
This influences other young surfers to adopt the same mentality, many of which keep the mindset for their entire life.
This is a mindless reason to hate something, but it exists nonetheless.
5. Dislike for Something Different
People hate what is different from them. Surfers hate bodyboarders, kitesurfers hate windsurfers, and just about everyone hates stand-up paddleboarders.
But the underlying reason for most of this dislike is purely because it is something different.
Humans love to look at things differently from what they have and place judgment on them (likely because it makes us feel better about our own choices).
This, on the most part, is a large reason why surfers and bodyboarders have a rivalry.
Ironically, many surfers were introduced to riding waves on a bodyboard, and have chosen to ignore that part of their past in order to fit in with the mainstream idea.
Do Bodyboarders and Surfers Fight for the Same Waves?
For the most part, surfers and bodyboarders share the same waves, however, the starting position is usually different, unless you surf on a point break or reef.
That being said, bodyboarders need larger, powerful, and steeper waves, thanks to the smaller and less buoyant board.
Because of this, bodyboarders don’t often compete with longboarders or in swells that form slow rolling waves.
Instead, it is the fast steep waves that performance surfers are after that bodyboarders thrive on.
Because these waves are fast, short, and in low supply, it is easy to see why surfers (short boarders in particular) dislike bodyboarders.
Is Surfing Easier Than Bodyboarding?
Surfing and bodyboarding, although both done on a board in water, are for the most part, very different sports.
Because surfing requires you to learn to paddle with your arms, control a large board in water, pop up, remain standing, and of course choose the correct waves, it is much harder to learn than bodyboarding.
Although as you progress your bodyboarding you will find some real challenges in the sport, it is clear that surfing is harder than bodyboarding when compared in most aspects.
Surfing vs Bodyboarding: Pros & Cons
Surfers often claim that standup surfing is better than bodyboarding as it requires more skill, it is more elegant, and there is more you can do with the sport with tricks, wave options, and board types.
Which is better is always up to the individual, but let us take a look at the pros and cons of each.
Surfing vs Boarding: Pros
|Full body workout.||Improves fitness.|
|Variety of board and fin types.||Easy learning curve.|
|More available tricks.||Cheaper than surfing.|
|A wider variety of waves.||Can be learned at all ages.|
|Comes with style.||Safer thanks to soft board and shallow water.|
Surfing vs Bodyboarding: Cons
|Steep learning curve.||Smaller wave choice.|
|Surfboards are expensive.||More gear is needed.|
|Surfing is more dangerous than bodyboarding.||Cheaper than surfing.|
|Surfers tend to be aggressive||Bodyboarders are friendlier than surfers.|
|There are more surfers than bodyboarders (more competition).||Fewer bodyboarders makes competition in shallow waters minimal.|
Is It Better to Bodyboard or Surf?
The question of whether surfing or bodyboarding is better is an argument that will likely never be resolved, however, there are times when choosing one over the other is a clear choice.
Bodyboarding is, as mentioned before, much easier to learn than surfing, so if you find yourself limited with time (such as when you are on holiday) then it may be better to bodyboard than surf, as this way you will at least get to ride a wave.
That being said, if you find yourself near a beach with slow, small, rolling waves, then a bodyboard will not work and surfing will clearly be the better sport.
Although there are endless criteria that we can compare the two sports to, the truth is that it is impossible to choose one over the other as the better sport, simply because they are both so different.
Yes, there are times when wave conditions, equipment, and skill level will influence which is better for you, but at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference and what you find to be the most enjoyable.
There has long been a rivalry between surfers and bodyboarders. In a world with limited waves and an ever-increasing surf community, the number of available waves is quickly disappearing.
This causes surfers and bodyboarders alike to look negatively on those that they share the waves with.
As bodyboarders are different from surfers it is easier to place hatred and blame on them for the lack of waves we catch.
That being said, the rivalry between bodyboarders and surfers is a dying tension, and on the most part, members from both sports get along and share the ocean happily.