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Wet behind the ears: catch a wave while bodyboarding, and you're sitting on top of the world.

Are you "body-bored" with swimming laps? Bodyboards let you get your summer exercise in the surf, the lake, the river and even swimming pools. Bright and lightweightbodyboards--a.k.a. Boggie boards, spongeboards or bellyboards--are making a big splash just about anywhere you can swim.

Bodyboarding is similar to surfing, but uses a short buoyant, flexible foam board about 40 inches long and 22 inches wide. The rider lies prone with the board under his stomach and with the aid of swim fins and some kind of a wave, propels through the water. Riding waves at the shoreline or behind a boat is a relatively safe thrill for anyone who has an average swimming ability.

The origin of bodyboarding dates back to 15th century Polynesians who were believed to have used short, flat pieces of wood to ride waves. In 1971, surfer-entrepreneur Tom Morey left the surfing industry in California, moved to Hawaii and began the 20th century bodyboard comeback. He put together strips of polyethylene, shaped them and designed the first modern bodyboard. The idea caught on and now "Morey Boogies" remain one of the top sellers in the industry. Morey's backyard enterprise has blossomed into a multi-national sport with at least 20 equipment manufacturers and an international circuit of riding competitions.

Riding waves on a bodyboard is akin to riding a surfboard, except the bodyboarder lies on the board. Kicking with swim fins and shifting body weight and positions to direct your path on the face of a wave provides head-to-toe exercise. Some advanced bodyboarders even kneel and stand on the boards while riding waves.

Bodyboarding is safer and easier to learn than surfing. Almost like rubber, the bodyboard is not as likely to cause serious injury if it hits you or someone else. It is also easier to control than a full-size surfboard. Wrist leashes attach the rider's hand to the board to keep from losing the board, making retrieval easy when a rider "wipes out" (falls off).

Like any water sport, good swimming ability and knowledge of water survival is a must for beginners before attempting the first bodyboard ride. If there's no ocean nearby, beginning boarders can ride small waves on the banks of a river. Another surf alternative is riding the wake behind a boat with a tow rope. Hearty souls in regions lacking summer climate as well as surf must brave colder waters wearing wetsuits to keep warm. Even a swimming or wave pool can provide enjoyable exercise using a bodyboard. Kicking your legs while doing laps across the pool tightens abdominals and tones legs and buns.

Purchasing a bodyboard can cost $15 to $20 for a used board and up to $200 for a pro model. When getting your feet wet on your first bodyboard, remember some simple rules:

* Make sure you are a good swimmer; don't rely on the board to save you.

* Bodyboard with a friend, not alone.

* Don't go too far from shore, and know your limits.

* If you're at the beach, always ask the lifeguard or locals about the water conditions and safest places to ride before you enter the water.

The ultimate challenge for bodyboarders (like surfers) is to experience the thrill of riding a wave. The giant powerful waves of Hawaii's beaches provide some of the best bodyboarding conditions in the world. The riders who take on large waves, over four feet, should have years of experience behind them. Don't consider riding waves like this while still learning the sport unless you are an exceptional water sports athlete. You don't have to "ride the wild surf" to introduce bodyboarding to your summer exercise activities. Swimming pools, lakes and most any shoreline can provide an adequate place for fun and fitness on a bodyboard.

In other words, catch a wave and go for it!
COPYRIGHT 1992 Aerobics and Fitness Association of America
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Romerhaus, Bill
Publication:American Fitness
Date:May 1, 1992
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