There is no doubt that when you go out bodyboarding, you want to surf on the best waves possible. However, conditions don’t always line up to create this perfect scenario.
What Are the Best Waves for Bodyboarding?
The best waves for bodyboarding will be large enough to carry you on your small board and have a longer wave interval, offshore winds, and a tide that suits your specific location.
Let’s look further into what makes the best waves for bodyboarding, how they compare to surfing waves, and where to find some of the best bodyboarding waves in the world.
Conditions for the Perfect Wave for Bodyboarding
Although you can have fun with your bodyboard on most types of waves in various conditions, some situations are better than others.
For the perfect bodyboarding wave, you need perfect conditions. Although these will differ from location to location, the general idea remains the same (most of the time).
Generally speaking, when it comes to bodyboarding, the bigger the wave, the better, but this comes with conditions.
The perfect wave size will depend on your skill level. Smaller waves are perfect for beginners but may not be challenging enough for more advanced bodyboarders.
On the other hand, waves that are too large will overwhelm you and cause you to constantly wipe out.
The best-sized waves for bodyboarding are those that are big enough to challenge you but not so big as to put your life in danger.
The best swell direction will depend on the break you are surfing.
For example, a beach with a sandbar and A-frame break may benefit from swell hitting the coast straight on, while when surfing a point break, the ideal swell direction will be somewhat cross-shore.
To determine the best swell direction for your local break, you will need to know both what direction your break faces, as well as what the best swell for the spot is.
The easiest way to find this out is by asking the locals or doing a quick surf report search for your local.
Swell direction makes a huge difference. Even if all the other conditions are perfect, but the swell direction is off, you will be surfing choppy, broken, and inconsistent waves.
Similarly to swell direction, the perfect wind for bodyboarding will depend on your location, as well as the size of waves you are surfing.
Generally speaking, the best winds for bodyboarding and surfing alike are gentle to moderate offshore winds.
When winds blow offshore, they blow directly from the land to the ocean. Winds such as this help push the waves up, which keeps them from breaking for longer periods (this results in longer rides on clean wave faces).
That being said, if you are surfing small swells and the offshore winds are too strong, the waves will be pushed back and may become too slow.
Similarly, when bodyboarding in strong onshore winds (wind blowing directly on the back of the waves), the water will be choppy, and you can expect short messy rides.
This is a general statement as there are breaks that work better on different winds.
The best way to discover what wind is best for your local break is by heading down, talking to the locals, and surfing in different conditions until you find what is best for you.
The longer the interval between each wave, the cleaner and larger the waves will be.
For example, a swell period of 3 seconds with an 8ft swell will result in smaller (not 8ft sized) choppy waves that break all around the bay.
Raise the swell interval to 10 or 15 seconds with the same swell size, and you get some of the cleanest waves around.
In short, the longer the wave interval, the better it is for bodyboarding.
Time of Day
The time of day you choose to bodyboard is up to you as there is no specific time that is better than others.
That being said, surfing at night comes with added risk, as well as bodyboarding during dusk and dawn.
The best time to bodyboard on any particular day will depend on the weather conditions, as well as your own free time.
After all, if the sun is out and there are waves, then it’s a good time to surf.
Some bodyboarders prefer to surf at low tide, while others prefer high tide. This, on the most part, is up to personal preference but is also limited by the type of break and your location.
For example, paddling out into a bay at low tide will make your paddle distance significantly shorter, but if you are surfing on a shallow reef, then the reef will be dry at this time.
Similarly, some beaches work better on different tides, so there is no hard and fast rule about the best tides to surf on. But instead, you should look for the best tides to bodyboard on at your local break.
Best Waves for Beginners
As a beginner, the type of waves that will best suit you are very different from those you will be surfing as your bodyboarding progresses.
Because you are yet to master the fundamentals such as duck diving, wave selection, paddling, turning, and even remaining centered on your board, you will want to be surfing in a smaller, calmer swell.
If you are brand new to bodyboarding, then 1 – 2 foot waves near the shore will be enough to get a feel for how your board works on the waves.
Once you are ready for some paddling, then it’s best to stay in the surf under 4 feet until you are fully confident with your skills.
Attempting to paddle out into surf larger than this when you are still new to the sport is dangerous, especially if you are not familiar with the ocean.
If you are still new to bodyboarding and are struggling to move forward, then these bodyboarding tips for beginners may give you the edge that you are looking for.
Best Waves for Intermediates
As you progress and become a better bodyboarder, the smaller waves near the shore will start to bore you, and so you will naturally look towards the bigger waves in the backline.
Once you have mastered the basics of bodyboarding and have a good understanding of the ocean, you are free to adventure into a larger swell.
The size of the waves you surf is up to you, but you should progress slowly.
For example, it is probably safe to move from a 4-foot wave to swell 5 – 6 feet. However, going from a 4-foot roller to a 12-foot point break is looking for trouble.
Progress slowly and stay dedicated, and you will be surfing some monsters in no time.
What Size Waves Are Good for Bodyboarding?
You can bodyboard on almost any size wave, as long as it is large and powerful enough to carry you forward.
Smaller people such as children, can get away with bodyboarding on much smaller waves than adults.
Because of the nature of bodyboarding, once you have gotten past the beginner stages, you will want to surf waves as big as possible without them being so large as to put you in danger.
The size of this will differ from person to person, and so it is important to remember to always stay within your limits.
Do Bodyboarders and Surfers Ride the Same Waves?
Surfers and bodyboarders share the same waves in most situations; however, bodyboarders generally need larger and steeper waves, thanks to the smaller boards.
Because surfboards can be very large, it is possible to use them in smaller surf, as well as to catch a wave from further out.
It is this constant competition for the same waves that is a contributing factor to the rivalry between surfers and bodyboarders.
Can You Bodyboard on Small Waves?
As it is possible to bodyboard on big waves, so it is possible to bodyboard on small waves. However, smaller waves are harder to ride.
When a wave is smaller, it has less power which means you need to put more effort into ensuring you remain on a good line.
If you don’t, you will slow down too much and find yourself falling off the back of the wave.
Bodyboarding on smaller waves will allow you to fine-tune anything you have been working on in a calmer environment.
After all, Mike Stewart once said, “You learn more from surfing small waves than you do from riding big waves.”
4 of the Worlds Best Bodyboarding Waves
Although you can bodyboard on just about any wave, some waves are certainly better than others.
Yes, there are countless amazing bodyboarding waves around the globe, but here are a few to get you hungry for that swell.
1. Shipstern Bluff
Also known as “Devils Point”, Shipstern Bluff is one of the heaviest waves in the world and is located only 30 km off the coast of Tasmania.
This wave is usually uncrowded, but for good reason. You either need to be insane or really know what you are doing to surf at Shippies.
This wave is so raw that it is not uncommon for riders to reach speeds up to 50 km/h, not to mention that the spot is a favorite among great whites.
- Location: Cape Raoul, Tasmania, Australia.
- Type of break: Reef/ Slab.
- Ideal conditions: WSW swells with an NNE wind on a medium to high tide.
- Best time of the year: March-May.
- Wave size: Up to 30 feet.
Another favorite among big wave bodyboarding enthusiasts is Cyclopes. This wave has huge hype among bodyboarders and has seen some of the earliest air drops around.
This wave is near impossible for surfers to surf thanks to its size and shallow reef; however, the bravest of bodyboarders have an edge.
- Location: Esperance, Western Australia.
- Type of break: Reef/ Slab.
- Ideal conditions: Mid to high rising tide with an N, NW, NE winds, and SW swell direction.
- Best time of the year: March-May.
- Wave size: Up to 60 feet.
Possibly the most dangerous break on the planet, and without a doubt, the most famous Banzai Pipeline is a wave that everyone wants to ride.
A pipeline is almost always overcrowded, which leaves no surprise that this shallow reefed, hollow wave has claimed the lives of seven known surfers since the 1980s.
- Location: North Shore, O’ahu, Hawaii.
- Type of break: Reef break.
- Ideal conditions: Mid tide with a mid to long swell period and a WNW – NW swell direction.
- Best time of the year: October – March.
- Wave Size: 9 – 20 feet.
Locally known as Pe’ahi, Jaws is another world-famous wave for both surfers and bodyboarders alike.
Jaws is considered one of, if not the heaviest, largest, and fastest waves in the world, and is a break that only the bravest bodyboarders and surfers have attempted to ride, but those that do have never looked back.
Because Jaws is a finicky wave and tends to turn from a clean monstrous wave into a life and death washing machine within moments, bodyboarders have an advantage over their surfing friends when the conditions become choppy
- Location: Pe’ahi, Maui, Hawaii.
- Type of break: Reef.
- Ideal conditions: NNW swell with SSW wind direction. Tide does not play a major role.
- Best time of year: November – March.
- Wave size: 30 – 80 feet.
The best waves for bodyboarding will differ depending on your skill level, as well as your preferred type of bodyboarding.
If DK is your style, then you will be surfing smaller waves than the huge airdrop, big wave crazy bodyboarders.
That being said, bodyboarding is about pushing our limits, so we should always aim at surfing the biggest possible waves we are comfortable with while remaining safe.
Start small and slowly make your way to the larger waves. If you stay dedicated, you will get there in no time.