Is Bodyboarding an Extreme Sport? (Everything You Should Know)

From lying down on knee-deep water to free falling from the lip of a 10ft wave, there is no doubt that bodyboarding is a dynamic sport, but is it an Extreme sport?

Because bodyboarding is dynamic and suited for so many different conditions, it can be considered both an extreme sport, as well as a casual activity.

It is more how and where you bodyboard that makes it extreme, as opposed to the core concept of riding a wave.

Let’s take a deeper look into what makes bodyboarding an extreme sport, and when it could be considered extreme.

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Is Bodyboarding an Extreme Sport?

Is Bodyboarding a Sport?

Before determining whether bodyboarding is an extreme sport, we need to understand what makes it a sport.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a sport is defined as:

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Of course, this definition is now blurred with the rise of esports, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Bodyboarding requires both physical efforts and skill and is done for enjoyment and competition.

What Is an Extreme Sport?

Now that we know what a sport is and bodyboarding is considered one, we need to understand how an extreme sport differs.

According to Britannica, an extreme sport,

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This is only a single explanation of the term, as the concept of what defines an extreme sport is constantly being argued.

Either way, we can consider an extreme sport to include some or all of the following:

  • High speeds
  • Heights
  • A high degree of risk
  • A high degree of physical effort
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Is Bodyboarding Considered an Extreme Sport?

Teza McKenna, who manages The Bodyboarding World Tour and has over 30 years of experience in the surf industry, spoke of bodyboarding as an “It’s a super extreme sport where guys are flying through the air on shallow reef breaks and are putting their life on the line.”

If flying through the air above shallow water isn’t extreme, consider the 30ft waves and huge airdrops that some bodyboards choose to face.

If this still isn’t enough, let’s consider the following:

Does Bodyboarding Include Heights?

Some bodyboarders choose to chase some of the biggest waves out there.

One example of this was in 2016 when Brazilian Mango Passos rode one of the biggest waves in bodyboarding history.

The wave was ridden at Jaws and came in at 45ft.

Bodyboarding can involve huge heights.

Does Bodyboarding Include High Speeds?

Sean Collins, from Surfline, when referring to a video he shot at Jaws, mentioned that surfers reach between 30 – 40 mph on average and can reach speeds of 50 mph.

Making contact with a solid surface at this speed puts you at serious risk.

Does Bodyboarding Include High Risk?

Bodyboarding not only includes high speeds and heights but involves other dangers.

As bodyboarding is done in the ocean, there is the risk of drowning, currents, and dangerous sea life.

Furthermore, at high speeds, the risk of concussion and other serious injuries rises.

Is Bodyboarding Physically Demanding?

Although bodyboarding can be a calm relaxing sport that’s done in the shallows, when you begin surfing large waves, the sport becomes more demanding.

Bodyboarding is a great exercise that targets specific muscle groups, as well as endurance and cardio fitness.

When paddling, duck diving, and riding waves are done in more intense waters, the energy required increases drastically, thus making it extremely physically demanding.

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Bodyboarding covers all the requirements to be considered an extreme sport.

When Is Bodyboarding Considered an Extreme Sport?

Bodyboarding is considered an extreme sport, but it’s also suitable for kids, as well as those with less physical abilities.

So bodyboarding can’t always be considered extreme.

This leaves us asking when exactly bodyboarding is considered an extreme sport.

1. Big Waves

Big wave bodyboarding isn’t for the faint of heart and certainly isn’t for everyone.

For a wave to be considered “big” in the surfing community, it must reach at least 20ft.

This is roughly the height of a shipping container standing upright behind you and, in some cases, heavier.

As bodyboarders can reach speeds of 50 mph 

2. Shallow Waters

The best waves for bodyboarding are steep, big, and often break over shallow reefs.

One of the best parts of bodyboarding is that we can get deeper into the pocket, take off later, and hold our line for longer.

Although this offers more excitement, it also offers more risk.

The ocean floor is hard, and reefs can cut you to shreds.

Wiping out on a shallow reef is never fun, let alone when riding large waves.

3. Big Airs and Tricks

Bodyboarding in shallow waters on small crumbling waves doesn’t pose much risk, and neither does bodyboarding on slightly larger waves (if you follow bodyboarding etiquette).

When we start experimenting with ticks and getting air, our risks increase.

Although water is soft, hitting it from a height or speed is still painful.

Even if you don’t hit the water that hard, doing so at the wrong angle can cause serious damage.

As we usually lie prone on our boards when we do aerials, a lot of pressure is put on our spine when we land.

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The more tricks and more air, the more your chances are of getting injured.

4. Dangerous Locations

It’s one thing to bodyboard on a beginner-friendly beach, but when you begin moving to more intense waves such as point breaks, and dry reefs, things start to change, but this doesn’t always matter.

Some bodyboarding locations are more dangerous than others, regardless of the type or size of the wave.

One example of this is Pipeline in Hawaii. 

Pipeline, although forming some of the ideal waves on the planet and possibly the most famous wave in the world, has still claimed more lives than any other break.

Is Bodyboarding Dangerous?

Although bodyboarding can be considered reasonably safe if you know what you are doing and respect the rules of the water, there is always a degree of risk.

The ocean is an unpredictable place and can change with very little prior warning.

This can make a relaxed, shallow, knee-deep bodyboard session into a terrifying journey out to the back of the break as a rip pulls you out.

Similarly, a 2ft swell could surprise you with a 6ft set breaking on your head without warning.

Furthermore, you need to consider:

  • Other bodyboarders
  • Swimmers
  • Currents
  • Sea life
  • The ocean floor
  • The size of the swell
  • Changing weather conditions
  • The risk of drowning

Considering that each of the above poses not only a real risk but a constant one when we are in the water, it’s clear how dangerous bodyboarding can be.

This is why you should never try to surf if you can’t swim or have no prior experience in the ocean.

Bodyboarding is dangerous and should be done with caution.

Final Thoughts

Bodyboarding is diverse, and because of this, it can be considered both an extreme sport and a casual sport.

What defines bodyboarding is not the sport but where and how we bodyboard.

When swell size increases and speeds rise, a casual bodyboarding session becomes extreme quickly.

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