MSW's Best of Bodyboarding

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So the surfing world hates bodyboarding, has marginalised and made fun of it? So many jokes and derogatory terms exist for our prone cousins that you think they must have collectively committed a horrendous crime. The pack mentality behind this is arguably largely based on nothing but the desire to feel 'in' with your sub-culture and perhaps a means of defining your boundaries is to attack another. Identity often being defined by opposition. But to sit down and think about it, logically, bodyboarders pioneered numerous insane breaks and has allowed surfers to realise what is possible. In all honestly the surfing world owes a debt of gratitude to those pioneers. Bodyboarding conversely has in some ways benefited from being marginalised, free from brand-dictation, its core group relishing their outsider status, and this feature is a peek behind that curtain from the photographer's perspective.

Pictured above is Jose Octavio from Brazil dodging through a horrendous looking Puerto Escondido barrel, sequence by Daniela Ramos of RPM Surfer.

The Box / Western Australia

© 2021 - Mickey Smith

Apart from Bodyboarding being another really fun way of riding waves and enjoying the sea, here are some other reasons I personally dig shooting top-level bodyboarding:

You can hit heavy critical sections of waves that you cannot hit on any other wave riding vehicle.

You can paddle into heavy waves you cannot paddle into on any other wave riding vehicle.

You can ride the tube in ways you cannot on any other wave riding vehicle.

And last but not least: because despite the best efforts of the surfing industry to kill it off through small mindedness at various times, bodyboarding at the highest level has thrived as a subculture, with its own ideas of fashion and ways of looking at the world, carving its own identity as a functional and radical vehicle for wave riding, and inspiring the world's heaviest wave riders to rethink their perception of what is rideable again and again. Its cool simply because its so uncool to the clueless... Pictured is Jones Russel in Margaret River WA.
Mickey Smith

Zion / New South Wales

© 2021 - Mickey Smith

In my eyes at least there is good surfing and bad surfing - no matter what waveriding vehicle that person might be riding. The bad is always pretty awful to behold and if it comes with a bad attitude its even worse to witness, and though the good is always pretty incredible to behold, that stoke you felt soon sours fast around bad attitude. Pictured is Ryan Mattick at Zion in NSW
Mickey Smith

Teahupoo / Tahiti

© 2021 - Tim Burgess

Bottom line is though, if you're having fun, whatever you're riding, you're the one having the last laugh, no matter what anyone else might have to say about it. Pictured is Ben Player at Teahupoo in June this year.
Mickey Smith

Portugal / Sagres (Tonel)

© 2021 - Tim Burgess

Taken on a surf road-trip in the Algarve, Portugal. We scored some pretty sweet surf along with the usual misadventures. Only just off the plane we paddled out into a mass of skilled bodyboarders who were dropping into barrels all over the place. Snapping a board on the paddle-out put Nathan out of action for now, so we cruised down the coast, and that's where I took the photo. The unknown rider in the photo was really pushing the boundaries of what's possible - riding drop-knee in gaping overhead barrels and finishing with super-sized airs. I'm a stand-up surfer myself, but enjoy shooting all types of surf craft in all kinds of surf
Tim Burgess

Ireland / Lahinch

© 2021 - DigitalQuiver

The rider dropping into that absolute bomb is Rob Smith. I could be wrong, but I think he just swam out for a "look", and ended up going for this beauty. The adrenaline was pumping even for those of us watching up on the cliff. A super exciting day.
Tim Burgess

Oahu / Log Cabins

© 2021 - tony plant

Pictured is Bruno Rocha, From Brazil. I was just out shooting some scenic empty wave shots and he popped up with another photog, that's the photog in the water not a seal. I don't typically shoot bodyboarders but this guy Bruno was throwing himself into some really heavy pits, one after another. The angle of the shot shows how thick the shorebreak can get and the amount of energy you're dealing with. Serious stuff.
Mark Brown

England / Newquay (Fistral)

© 2021 - BigA

Boogers, yeah, I was never where they were to start with, like ships in the night. Then I ended up swimming around on Bumbloids with Jack Johns and Mickey Smith, came home and immediately set about hassling the sponge riding underworld flat-out. This wave is a wedge, boogers love a good auld wedge, this one gets shallow, boogers love shallow, this wave gets heavy on its day, boogers love heavy on its day and this wave is a secret spot. Boogers love secret spots. I'm not saying anything else.
Tony Plant

New South Wales / Wollongong

© 2021 - Gary McCall

I ride all manner of surfboards, I ride long and short boards, retro fish, surf mats and bodyboards. For me the enjoyment is in choosing appropriate equipment and sometimes choosing something different to see and experience what your mates are so stoked about.

I love to shoot bodyboarders because some of my good friends ride them and they can draw different lines and experience the ocean and its beauty in a different way. I think we often mistake 'unity' for 'uniformity' but how boring would it be if we all rode the same equipment in the same way. This would be like a world photographed in black and white, it's the myriad of colour and difference that make the visual experience so much richer. A long time ago I wrote bodyboarders off as well - till I started to share their lives and look through the lens at the beauty of their diversity to stand up surfing. They in many ways were far more gracious to me than I had been to them in the past... (Thanks Glen)

Featured is Chris James a professional bodyboarder. The photo is taken at a not to be disclosed reef somewhere on the NSW South Coast in Jan 2008. Taken on a canon EOS 30D with a 500mm lense the shot is 363 focal length, ISO 160, F 13.0 shutter 1/500. I had to perch myself on the side of a rocky escarpment and this air inverse is part of a 7 shot sequence and Chis will be landing in less than 1ft of water, the reef often runs dry at the end of the wave. Breathtaking and beautiful all at once...
Andrew Carruthers

Northern Ireland / Portrush

© 2021 - Joaquin Mallmann

This is a wave that until last year had gone mostly unridden for a long time. The guy in the photo (Matt Wright) used to charge it a lot many years ago but had been out of the country until this year, since when he has rekindled the old spark. It is cunningly named 'The Slab'. I had a arranged a shoot with Matt and Toby as part of their warm-up session so we all could get a feel for the place before it really started going off. The wave is extremely fickle but can throw up some intense kegs when it's on. Looking forward to a shoot on a big day!
Gary McCall

Orange County / The Wedge

© 2021 - Ricky Woodside

I took off from Santa Barbara at 3am. My friend that lives in Newport calls me and tells me the swell is filling in and its maxing out everywhere. After the 2 1/2 hour drive I get to the wedge and its out of control. The biggest sets were seen at dawn. This incredible beast of a wave swallowed and spat out bodyboarders all morning. And this, this is proof of an epic day.
Joaquin Mallmann

Northern Ireland / Portrush

© 2021 - ronus

I love shooting bodyboarding because it's intense, I have been a bodyboarder for 14 years now and barrels are what I love taking off in - and taking photos of. I love shooting surfers as well when they're charging - not to name names but you know who you are!

What makes this shot a keeper is the way the wave is chucking out so far and the sheer amount of water moving with the direct sunlight shining through the green lip. Also the fact that the bodyboarder looks like a rock at first because he's so far below sea-level. The rider is a guy called Toby Edward a young charger and was taken just outside Portrush on the North Coast, Northern Ireland.

We got up really early just before first light and scrambled down the reef, I went out onto to an outcrop and set up my tripod and camera gear to take a side on view of the barrel. I used my 50 - 500mm lens to shoot with.
Whilst I was shooting the tide was coming in so I got soaked a couple of times and it was a pretty sketch ledge that I was perched on with no water proof gear on my camera - let's just say I was clinging to my tripod.

Two guys only charged it that morning Toby and Matt Wright they both got some sick barrel's and not too many heavy beatings. Toby got off lightly with just a snapped leash.

I love shooting bodyboarders because they don't get much coverage in the world - although guys like Mike Stewart are legendary watermen and charge Jaws, Pipe, Teahupoo and many other world-class breaks with the best surfers in the world.

Most people think bodyboarding is a stepping-stone to stand-up surfing but it's a 'stand alone' sport with its own moves and skills to be learnt over years of water time. I respect everyone in the water if someone can take-off and get barrelled, fair play, no matter what they're riding, its all about having fun. I'm equally stoked for my stand-up mates when I see them getting pitted.
Ricky Woodside

Oahu / Pipeline

© 2021 - Rudolf Wild ( WPR )

Why I like taking pictures of bodyboarders? They are all passionate but stay simple, friends, cool guys... Even if they charge mutants like Pierre Louis Costes in this picture. I wish he (and bodyboarders in general) could be more compensated for what they do. This was the biggest Pipe during winter 2007, all the locals stay far away at the top-end of the reef (Mike Stewart was the only bodyboarder here), they wait for the big sets, to take off on an "easy" part of the wave and wait for the barrel. All the others were waiting on the shoulder for riders to fall. But Pierre Louis (he was 16 years old at this time!) was alone just on the inside, waiting for the middle-range wave that didn't break before - they were all bombs, just a perfect barrel! To snag it he had to duck dive on each set wave and stayed all session there, getting tube after tube.

On the biggest set of the day, he broke his leash and had to swim. He didn't even rest, or get another leash, just grabbed his board and went straight back in, caught this wave... dropknee... backside! He did get smashed by the wave eventually. On the beach I was mad, I found this crazy! But in fact, by knowing him, it's just like when your home break is working at one metre for him. This guy is just built for bodyboarding, like a Nemo in a fish bowl but in 6 metre slabs. I'd like to see him more, videos and photos and know that he can live well of his passion. It's a shame he can't.
Ronan Gladu

Lanzarote / El Quemao

El Quemao is the best spot for heavy and big tubes in Lanzarote. In February, there were a handful of excellent performers here in Lanzarote from Gran Canaria. One of them is Richard who you can see in this picture. He will always try the last and the biggest one in the set. I remember that day very well,It was a lovely relaxed and happy atmosphere.
Rudolf Wild (WPR)

Feature presented by Andrews Water Sports:


Ed Temperley

MSW editor. Instagram @edtemperley