Learn to Bodysurf Like President Obama

categories: Uncategorized

When I saw an article recently of President Obama budysurfing on a trip to his boyhood home of Hawaii it occured to me that many of my landlocked friends may not know how to participate in the free and enjoyable activity.


Not all beaches are created equal when it comes to budysurfing.

  • The best body surfing beaches have waves that break far enough out from the shore that you can ride them in 50-100 feet
  • A good body surfing beach has a long gradual grade. You should be able to stand around 100 feet from shore in water around shoulder depth
  • A good body surfing beach has nice soft sand, especially in the shallows where you will eventually beach yourself after catching a wave. Nothing takes the fun out of body surfing quite as quickly as grinding off your upper body on sharp shells or rocks


  • Swim or walk out to a place where the waves are about chest to shoulder deep.
  • Always keep at least one eye on the waves
  • If a wave approaches that is breaking too far out to shore or too late just duck under it or ride over it and wait for the right wave
  • The right wave is just starting to break when it gets to you
  • Just before the right wave gets to you push off and swim towards shore
  • If you catch the wave put your arms in front of you, joining your hands together and keep your head up enough to see where you are going

You will not “catch” every wave. You will know when you have caught a wave because you will ride it for distance caught about half wave down the wave, not having it roll over you. There is nothing quite like the feeling of catching a wave and riding it in.


  • No equipment is necessary but some people prefer to use a boogy board which is like a short surfboard


  • Let’s assume you are smart enough not to swim where there are sharks or box jelly fish
  • The biggest real danger is neck injuries which is why we want a beach with a gradual slope where waves will diminish more slowly. This is also why your arms are out in front of you. If the wave takes you head over heals you want to hit the bottom with your arms not your head.
  • Riptide – A riptide will drag you out to sea. Be aware of your position relative to shore. This is one of the reasons I recommend staying where you can stand. If you get caught in a riptide remember that you should swim parallel to the beach to get out of the riptide rather than fight it to swim directly towards shore.

Best Beaches

  • Hawaii – I have bodysurfed on Makena’s “big beach” on Maui but this is a beach that is a bit more dangerous as the surf break is rough. This would be a good place to break your neck. My kids learned to bodysurf at Kamaolee Beach One near Kehei. This is a good beach for kids but dads will probably have to bodysurf from their knees.
  • Southern California – Pacific Beach near San Diego or Seacliff beach near Santa Cruz are my favorites although both can be cold. Santa Cruz is best in September when the water is at its warmest.
Share this:
Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

One Response to “Learn to Bodysurf Like President Obama”



This made me smile because it never occurred to me that folk don’t know how to body surf, but, of course, why would they. I’m always surprised when I hear that people haven’t even seen the sea.

Leave a Reply

Tags: ,