Most people who start bodyboarding end up riding breaking waves towards the shore.

You can’t lie in wait until the momentum of powerful breaking waves propels you forwards forever. Eventually you’ll need to learn how to catch real waves like a serious bodyboarder.

It’s actually easier than you think although there are a couple of things you’ll need to know to maximize your chances of success.

How To Catch A Wave Bodyboarding

Even if you own the best bodyboard in the world there are still things you’ll need to learn and skills you’ll need to master before you get good at catching waves. Luckily it’s not too hard to explain and you will be flying around in no time. Here are a few important things to work on:

  1. Choosing the right wave
  2. Learning to read waves
  3. Paddling into the wave
  4. Choosing your direction
  5. Starting to gain speed

Custom X Beast Big Guy Bodyboard | Larger Riders | Big Bodyboard for The Biggest Riders | 42 Inch | Black Deck, Navy Rails, White Bottom

1 – Choosing the right wave

Before going into the water you’ll want to know what waves you’re going to ride. Beginners shouldn’t attempt to catch anything too big when getting started, but at the same time you want a wave powerful and steep enough to push you.

This is even more important if you’re a heavier individual. The best bodyboard for big guys will help keep you buoyant, but you’ll still want something powerful enough to move you at top speed. Just make sure it’s a size you don’t find intimidating in case you panic.

Steep waves with a clean face are good targets. When choosing the right wave you’ll also need to keep other bodyboarders in mind too. There is such a thing as bodyboarding etiquette. Be aware of your surroundings at all times because it will also keep you safe.

2 – Learning to read waves

You will need to learn how to read waves. Although it might sound difficult you’ll become a natural if you spend lots of time in the water. In order to catch a good wave you’ll need to start paddling into it well before it breaks.

So your ability to read waves will tell you exactly where to sit in the water as you wait. Pay close attention to where all the waves seem to be breaking. It’s where the water seems to get shallow at the bottom allowing the wave to reach up to the sky and fall on itself.

In a perfect world, you’ll be around 10 feet away from the waves as they start climbing. If you want to start paddling when the waves are 5 feet away from you it means you’ll still have plenty of time to get ready. Over time you’ll discover a good distance that works best for you.

3 – Paddling into the wave

Let’s just assume you’re now at the perfect distance away from the wave. Once it gets about 5 feet away from you it’s time to start paddling. There are actually a few ways you’ll be able to paddle into the wave, which we’ll quickly mention before moving on:

  • Paddling with your arms
  • Paddling with your legs
  • Paddling with your arms and legs

The speed of the waves will play a huge part in the way you paddle. Sometimes you don’t need lots of velocity to get into smaller waves like the kind that don't require bodyboard fins.

On the other side of the spectrum, larger and steeper waves will require a lot more thrust so you’ll need to use your arms and legs.

Please Note: The best bodyboard fins are more or less essential when tackling anything big. They’ll provide you with an unbelievable amount of thrust, plus you’ll have much more control and stability when riding big scary waves too. The Makapuu Pro fins are extremely popular among bodyboarders.

Churchill Makapuu Pro Swimfins -Black/Orange - M/L

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind depending on which way you decide to paddle:

  • Arms only
  • Legs only
  • Arms and legs

Arms only – Arch your back until your chest is sticking up in the air. You should be looking in the direction you want to go. Your hips should be resting on the tail of the board with your legs submerged in the water. Use the front crawl stroke and try to generate as much power as possible.

Legs only – When you’re not using your hands they should be gripping firmly onto the top of your bodyboard. Ensure your elbows are locked up and digging into the board for extra control. Your legs should be fully submerged because it’s the downward stroke that generates thrust.

Arms and legs – The back shouldn’t be arched when you’re using your arms and legs. You’ll actually need to keep a lower center of gravity instead to ensure you don’t slip off. When your head and chest is low you’ll be able to generate extreme power using your arms and legs.

Please Note: The reason why so many bodyboarders use wax is so they don’t slip off the board. Not only will something like Sticky Bumps Original surf wax help you catch waves, but it’s going to come in tremendously helpful when riding them too.

Sticky Bumps Original Surf Board Wax (Tropical, 6 Pack)

4 – Choosing your direction

Hopefully you have one of the best beginner bodyboards because it will make this part much easier. When you catch the wave you’ll need to choose a direction while maintaining a great level of control to prevent any wipeouts.

Once you have chosen the direction you’ll need to shift your weight that way, which involves using your inside hip and elbow to apply pressure. Always hold onto the nose of the bodyboard with your outside hand. You can grab the rail with your inside hand roughly one-third of the way down.

5 – Starting to gain speed

Now you should be riding in the direction you want to go. It’s time to start building up as much speed as possible to set yourself up for tricks. Your main goal should be trimming, which basically means riding the optimal surf line once you catch a wave.

Your bodyboard should be flat and you might need to slide forward a little while ensuring your nose doesn’t drop into the water. If you have the right amount of wax on your boogie board you won’t fly off the end. Make sure your legs are elevated out of the water too.

Lifting your legs out of the water will reduce the amount of drag helping you stay ahead of the breaking whitewater. Bodyboards with a fast slick reduce the amount of drag even more. If you need to alter your speed just stick your bodyboard flippers back into the water.

Once you’re in this position you have a couple of choices available:

  • Ride the wave towards shore for as long as possible
  • Setting yourself up for a cool trick or maneuver

How To Catch A Wave Bodyboarding

Now you know exactly how to catch a wave when bodyboarding. If you keep practicing it won’t be long before you consider yourself an expert. Reading waves and riding them to their ultimate conclusion isn’t hard, plus you can make life easier on yourself by using the right equipment:

Don’t forget you’ll need to reach the waves in the first place, so you might have to learn the duck dive sooner rather than later. It’s especially helpful when you’re riding beach breaks. In reef and point breaks it’s easier to find channels and currents to help you get back out.