The sport of bodysurfing is believed to have initiated many years ago, in Tahiti, Polynesia, in the days of Captain Cook. He has been credited with founding the sport whilst exploring the area in 1769, taking the opportunity to try and catch the large waves that were a feature of the island. In those early days (and without any boards or other buoyancy aid) the sport was practiced primarily by royalty or the “well to do”.
Having started off in Polynesia in the 18th century, the popularity of bodysurfing quickly grew and spread to many other countries. People from all walks of life gradually took up the sport of bodysurfing.
The Hawaiian Islands became the mecca as far as the perfect wave was concerned, and it wasn’t long before boards were invented allowing surfing to gradually take over as the major water sport. Bodysurfers were being left behind as it became cooler to surf on boards. However, there remains a devoted crowd to whom bodysurfing is “surfing natures way”. Avid bodysurfers can be found throughout many countries, anywhere there are good clean waves on a frequent basis. These areas include California, South Africa, Australia, France, the Canaries and Britain. However, anywhere where there are good surfing conditions will lead to people bodysurfing, and indeed annual championships are organised in a number of countries.
For example the World Bodysurfing Championships are held hear year in Oceanside, California, with the Patagonia Pipeline Classic normally organised on an annual basis in Hawaii. In Australia they hold a number of competitions through the year.
At The Wedge, Newport Beach, California (a world renowned “man made” beach), bodysurfers have complete freedom to ride the waves without surfers. Since 1993 when the Wedge Preservation Society persuaded their City Council to implement a “Blackball” there has been a ban on surfboards entering the water between 10am and 5pm (May 1 to October 31).
In the 21st century bodysurfing remains a very popular sport for both young and old.