Big Island Travel Guide
Body Boarding and Bodysurfing
According to the movies, in the Old West there was always friction between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers. A somewhat similar situation exists between surfers and body boarders (and between surfers and stand-up paddleboarders). That's why they generally keep to their own separate areas. Often the body boarders, who lie on their stomachs on shorter boards, stay closer to shore and leave the outside breaks to the board surfers. Or the board surfers may stick to one side of the beach and the body boarders to the other. The truth is, body boarding (often called "boogie boarding," in homage to the first commercial manufacturer of this slick, little, flexible-foam board) is a blast. Most surfers also sometimes carve waves on a body board, no matter how much of a purist they claim to be. Novice body boarders should catch shore-break waves only. Ask lifeguards or locals for the best spots. You'll need a pair of short fins to get out to the bigger waves offshore (not recommended for newbies). As for bodysurfing, just catch a wave and make like Superman going faster than a speeding bullet.
Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area. Often considered one of the top 10 beaches in the world, Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area offers fine white sand, turquoise water, and easy rolling surf on most days, making it great for bodysurfing and body boarding at all levels. Ask the lifeguards—who only cover areas south of the rocky cliff that juts out near the middle of the beach—about conditions before heading into the water, especially in winter. Sometimes northwest swells create a dangerous undertow. Parking costs $5. Hwy. 19, near mile marker 69, just south of Mauna Kea Hotel, Kohala Coast www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/hawaii/hapuna.cfm.
Honolii Cove. North of Hilo, this is the best body boarding spot on the east side of the island. Off Hwy. 19, near mile marker 4, Hilo.
Magic Sands Beach Park (White Sands Beach. This white-sand, shore-break cove is great for beginning to intermediate bodysurfing and body boarding. Sometimes in winter, much of the sand here washes out to sea and forms a sandbar just offshore, creating fun wave conditions. Also known as White Sands, it's popular and can get crowded with locals, especially when school is out. Watch for nasty rip currents at high tide. If you're not using fins, wear reef shoes for protection against sharp rocks. Alii Dr., just north of mile marker 4, Kailua-Kona.
Equipment-rental shacks are located at many beaches and boat harbors, along the highway, and at most resorts. Body board rental rates are around $12–$15 per day and around $60 per week. Ask the vendor to throw in a pair of fins—some will for no extra charge.
Orchidland Surfboards & Surf Shop. This venerable shop—in business more than 40 years—carries a wide variety of surf- and other water sports equipment for sale or rent. They stock professional custom surfboards, body boards, and surf apparel. You can rent a body board for $12 a day or a surfboard for $20 a day. Owner Stan Lawrence, famous for his "Drainpipe" legacy, was probably the last person to surf that famous break before lava flows claimed the Kalapana area (the rubber slippers he left on the beach burned up before he got out of the water). Through the shop, he hosts surf contests here and on Oahu, and does the daily surf report for local radio stations. Located in the heart of historic downtown Hilo, this surf shop is as authentic as they get. 262 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo, HI, 96720. 808/935–1533. www.orchidlandsurf.com.
Pacific Vibrations. This family-owned surf shop—in business more than 35 years—holds the distinction of being the oldest, smallest surf shop in the world. Even at a compact 400 square feet, this place stocks tons of equipment, surf wear and gear, sunglasses and GoPro cameras. You can rent a surfboard or stand-up paddleboard (under $20), or a body board ($5) but you have to buy or bring your own fins. Right in the heart of downtown Kailua Town, tucked away in a vintage cul de sac, it's worth a stop just for the authentic Hawaii surf vibe. 75-5702 Likana La. #B, at Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740. 808/329–4140.