Bodyboard size guide: what size bodyboard do I need?

What size bodyboard do you need?

Our bodyboard size guide will help you find the right bodyboard for kids and adults alike.

The bodyboard is a supremely versatile contraption. It can be enjoyed in waves ranging from 1 foot to 50 foot, by everyone from kids and novices to life-long practitioners. A serious sport in its own right, it’s also an accessible and relatively cheap introduction to the act of riding waves.

Getting one that’s the right size for you (or your kids) will help maximise enjoyment in the water. Too small and you won’t have the necessary float and glide to paddle quickly, catch waves, or maintain speed as you ride along them. Too big and your bodyboard will be cumbersome and hard to control, plus your legs and arms will bump against the board as they kick and paddle, unable to generate much power.

Fortunately, whether it’s for a child or a fully grown adult, working out the right size bodyboard is a fairly straightforward calculation.

For your best chance of catching and riding waves like this one, somewhere in Cornwall, your bodyboard should fit roughly between your chin and knees. Photo: Tom Vaughan

Rules of thumb for bodyboard size

Bodyboard size is typically measured in inches, and the main measurement refers to a bodyboard’s length, so this is the one you want to pay attention to. There are several basic rules of thumb here. The most basic of all is that, stood upright on the floor, a correctly sized bodyboard will reach roughly up to your belly button.

An alternative approach holds that your ideal bodyboard length is equivalent to the distance between the top of your knees and your chin, when your neck’s craned and chin outstretched. It’s arguably a more logical test, given how you typically position yourself on a bodyboard.

The height of the rider isn’t the only relevant dimension, however. Weight is also worth taking into account, and may affect a board’s ability to float its rider sufficiently. Size an inch or two up or down accordingly.

Let’s take a 5’10” adult weighing around the 70-75kg mark as an example. A 42″ bodyboard is likely to be about right.

Bodyboard sizing for kids

The above systems work for kids, too, but there’s also a more generic way of arriving at the right size. A 34-inch long bodyboard is usually just right for a six-year-old to get going on. From there, add an inch onto the board for every year.

So, using this system, a ten-year-old will need a 38-inch bodyboard to get the most out of his or her bodyboarding. Obviously kids grow at different rates and come in all different sizes so you may need to factor that in when making your decision.

Bodyboard pollution

High-quality bodyboards are virtually indestructible. The same unfortunately can’t be said for the cheap supermarket polystyrene versions that litter the seaside at the end of every summer. Such bodyboards are discarded in their thousands at popular beaches every summer.

cheap discarded bodyboard pollute a north devon beach
“Effectively a disposable design…” Broken and/or discarded bodyboards on a North Devon beach. Photo: Keep Britain Tidy

These boards are effectively a disposable design. Look instead for a bodyboard with a HDPE (high-density polyethylene) backing on the bottom, known as a “slick”. It’s a hard layer of plastic with a different texture.

In addition to providing structural integrity, the slick is also a general indicator of a board that’s been built to last. Such boards are still available at affordable prices. Higher-end bodyboards, designed to withstand the impact of aerial manoeuvres and powerful barrelling waves, are generally built around a stiffer core of polyethylene or polypropylene, and may also feature an internal “stringer” for further support.

How does bodyboarding compare to surfing?

Bodyboarding has been around since the dawn of surfing. The indigenous Polynesians, whom historians generally credit with being the world’s earliest surfers, would often ride waves on their bellies or knees rather than on their feet. Their craft of choice was a thin, round-nosed, wooden craft called an “alaia”.

Learn the thrill of catching waves without worrying about being hit by a fibreglass surfboard

In the ’70s, legendary surf inventor Tom Morey made some tweaks to the alaia design and came up with what he called the Morey Boogie. Cheap, lightweight and durable, it changed the game and sold millions.

What’s the difference between bodyboards and boogie boards?

There’s no difference. Just like Hoover and Aspirin, the Boogie suffered a form of “trademark erosion”, and is now a generic term synonymous with the bodyboard. Many still talk about boogie boards

9-time world champion bodyboarder mike stewart
9-time world champion bodyboarder Mike Stewart is arguably the world’s most barrelled human being. Photo: Science Bodyboards

If you’re wondering whether to buy a surfboard or a bodyboard, the latter’s the more accessible entry point, and not just in terms of price. You can learn the thrill of catching waves without worrying about being hit by a fibreglass surfboard or having to learn the whole getting to your feet part.

Don’t be fooled though, these aren’t just for kids: the best bodyboarders ride the heaviest waves in the world. Thanks to the smaller craft and the lower, sturdier riding position, they spend more time in the barrel – the hollow part of the wave – than anyone.

Current big names include Alexandra Rinder, Amaury Lavernhe and Guilherme Tâmega, but the undeniable GOAT of the bodyboarding world is Mike Stewart, pictured above. Stewart has won the bodyboarding world title a record nine times, and is renowned for his dominance at Pipeline, the sport’s ultimate proving ground. He has also helped pioneer bodyboard design and manufacturing through his brand Science Bodyboards, which we stock at Surfdome.

bodyboarder with bodyboard fins in cornwall
A pair of bodyboard fins will help you catch waves and navigate the line-up. Photo: Tom Vaughan
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