Is Bodyboarding Easier Than Surfing? (&What Is the Difference)

If you are familiar with the surfing world, you will be well aware that there is some underlying tension between surfers and bodyboarders.

Although this is due to multiple factors (many of which are no longer relevant), one thing you will always hear surfers say is that bodyboarding is not as hard as surfing.

Is Bodyboarding Easier Than Surfing?

Bodyboarding is easier to learn than surfing, particularly because there is no need to learn how to stand up and remain standing on your board.

Because of this, bodyboarding is seen as the easier extreme sport, and although true in part, this statement does not show the entire picture.

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Is Bodyboarding Easier Than Surfing?

What’s the Difference Between Surfing and Bodyboarding?

Surfing and bodyboarding are often put in the same category as they are both exercised by riding a flat board along the surface of a wave.

This, however, is where most of the similarities stop.

Riding Position

One of, if not the biggest difference between surfing and bodyboarding is how we ride our boards along a wave.

When surfing the goal is to pop up onto our feet and ride our surfboard along the wave in a similar style to snowboarding or skateboarding.

Bodyboarding, on the other hand, is traditionally done in a prone position (lying on your stomach).

Although this is true for most, there are more complex bodyboarding riding styles such as Drop Knee (DK) and standing up on a bodyboard.

The Board

The second biggest difference between surfing and bodyboarding you will notice is the different sizes and shapes of the boards.

Surfboards are longer and wider than bodyboards as they need to support our entire body weight when we stand.

Bodyboards, on the other hand, tend to be much shorter (about the length from our hips to our chin).

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Bodyboards need to be smaller as they would be impossible to control in the prone position if it was too long or wide.

Paddling Style

Leg vs. arms is the biggest difference here.

On a surfboard, you paddle predominantly with your arms (although some surfers like to give a little kick before dropping into a wave).

This is easy as the board is large and buoyant, so our fiction is very low.

This allows us to plane across the water’s surface easily.

When it comes to bodyboarding, because our boards are smaller and the lower half of our body is in the water, we need a little extra assistance.

This is why it’s important to wear fins when bodyboarding.

Bodyboarders rely much more on the power they generate from their legs, as opposed to their arms (which are used to assist).

Type of Waves

For the most part, bodyboarders and surfers compete for the same waves, but this is not always the case.

Because surfboards are larger and more buoyant, it’s possible to use them to ride a smaller rolling wave.

Bodyboards, on the other hand, are perfect for steep and late takeoffs, some of which are not possible on a surfboard.

Is Bodyboarding Harder Than Surfing?

There is no true way to say whether bodyboarding is harder than surfing, as the two sports are so different.

This is like comparing kayaking with wakeboarding. They are both done on the water, but that’s about where the similarities stop.

The further you progress in each of the sports, the less similar they become.

Advanced surfing, as well as advanced bodyboarding, are both dangerous, and difficult, and offer their own sets of challenges.

That being said, at the beginner stages of both sports, bodyboarding is significantly easier than surfing.

The reasons for this include:

  • You don’t need to stand on a bodyboard
  • You paddle with your legs (which are naturally stronger than our arms)
  • The board is easier to control (because it’s smaller)
  • The board poses less of a risk (bodyboards are softer than surfboards)
  • Duck diving is easier (the less buoyant a board, the easier it is to learn to duck dive on)
  • You can jump into shallow-water waves to get a feel for the sport
  • Bodyboarding equipment is cheaper, which means you can begin practicing sooner
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That being said, there remain aspects of bodyboarding that can make it more challenging than surfing.

Why Is Bodyboarding Harder Than Surfing?

Learning to bodyboard is without a doubt easier than learning to surf, but that doesn’t mean it’s easier in every aspect.


Yes, bodyboarders use fins, and because of this, many surfers will argue that it’s much easier to paddle on a bodyboard than on a surfboard, and in part, this is true.

Although fins generate much more power with less effort than paddling with your arms, bodyboarders need to fight against more friction.

Because the bottom half of your body hangs in the water when you bodyboard, you create more drag.

This means you need to kick harder and paddle faster to bring yourself out of the water and plane its surface.

Types of Waves

Closely related to extra drag, the types of waves that are ideal for bodyboarding are different from those for surfing.

Because of the extra drag I mentioned above, we need larger, faster, and steeper waves to bring us out and keep us out of the water.

Trying to bodyboard on waves that are too small will just leave you falling off the back of them.

This means that once you have learned the basics, there is a big step up to get the most out of bodyboarding.

This is different from surfing as with surfing, you can slowly progress through different wave types and sizes as you change your board size.

In short, bodyboarding takes a little more heart as you will often find yourself well out of your comfort zone.


Even when surfing the same-sized waves, they always appear larger on a bodyboard.

Although you may not think it makes much difference, waves are a lot more daunting on a bodyboard.

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Think about it this way,

if you are 6ft tall and surfing a 6ft wave when riding the wave, it will appear that the wave is no bigger than you are.

Take the same ride and do it on a bodyboard.

In this case, what was once an eye height wave has now become a 6ft overhead giant.

Same wave, but an entirely different experience.


Taller people have an advantage over their shorter friends.

Vision and foresight provide us with a better perspective of the entire picture, as well as a better chance to prepare for the future.

Take the same concept and apply it to bodyboarding and surfing, and you’ll see how bodyboarding can be more challenging.

As you are always lying on your board, it can be difficult to see over the waves and gaze at the oncoming sets.

This means you’ll have less time to paddle to the best position for take-off.

It also means you might experience a few surprise sets breaking on your head.

Bodyboarding vs. Surfing (Which One Is Best?)

It’s not about whether surfing or bodyboarding is best, but more about which is best for you.

As sports are so different, they have different things to offer.

Bodyboarding is easier to learn but more limited to board options and wave types.

Surfing has a steeper learning curve, but once you have the basics down, you can progress quickly with a small board and wave changes.

If you like fast, intense rides on steep, shallow waves, then bodyboarding is for you.

If you only want to have a chilled cruise on a slow-rolling wave, it’s best to pick up a longboard surfboard.

Bodyboarding and surfing, although appearing similar, are very different, and it’s best to give both a go before deciding which one is for you.

Final Thoughts

When comparing surfing and bodyboarding, it is clear that surfing is harder than bodyboarding to learn.

This, however, doesn’t mean that surfing is more difficult altogether.

Surfing and bodyboarding are like comparing apples and oranges.

Both are fruits (water sports), but they aren’t the same. When we look at them in their entirety, neither could really be considered harder than the other.

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