Body Boarding and Bodysurfing in Honolulu and Oahu
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Body Boarding and Bodysurfing
Body boarding (or sponging) has long been a popular alternative to surfing for a couple of reasons. First, the start-up cost is much less—a usable board can be purchased for $30 to $40 or can be rented on the beach for $5 an hour. Second, it's a whole lot easier to ride a body board than to tame a surfboard. All you have to do is paddle out to the waves, then turn toward the beach as the wave approaches and kick like crazy.
Most grocery and convenience stores sell body boards. Though these boards don't compare to what the pros use, beginners won't notice a difference in their handling on smaller waves. Another small investment you'll want to make is surf fins. These smaller, sturdier versions of dive fins sell for $25 to $60 at surf and dive stores, and sporting-goods stores. Most beach stands don't rent fins with the boards. Though they are not necessary for body boarding, fins do give you a tremendous advantage when you're paddling. If you plan to go out into bigger surf, we would also suggest getting a leash, which reduces the chance you'll lose your board.
Bodysurfing requires far less equipment—just a pair of swim fins with heel straps—but it can be a lot more challenging to master. Typically, surf breaks that are good for body boarding are good for bodysurfing.
If the direction of the current or dangers of the break are not readily apparent to you, don't hesitate to ask a lifeguard for advice.
Body boarding and bodysurfing can be done anywhere there are waves, but due to the paddling advantage surfers have over spongers, it's usually more fun to go to surf breaks exclusively for body boarding.
Bellows Field Beach. On Oahu's windward side, Bellows Field Beach has shallow waters and a consistent break that makes it an ideal spot for body boarders and bodysurfers. (Surfing isn't allowed between the two lifeguard towers.) But take note: the Portuguese man-o-war, a blue jellyfish-like invertebrate that delivers painful and powerful stings, is often seen here. 41-043 Kalanianaole Hwy., Waimanalo, HI, 96795.
Kuhio Beach. This beach is an easy spot for first-timers to check out the action. The Wall, a break near the large pedestrian walkway called Kapahulu Groin, is the quintessential body-boarding spot. The soft, rolling waves make it perfect for beginners. Even during summer's south swells, it's relatively tame because of the outer reefs. 2461 Kalakaua Ave., between the Moana Surfrider and the Kapahulu Groin, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815.
Makapuu Beach. With its extended waves, Makapuu Beach is a sponger's dream. If you're a little more timid, go to the far end of the beach to Keiki's, where the waves are mellowed by Makapuu Point. Although the main break at Makapuu is much less dangerous than Sandy's, check out the ocean floor—the sands are always shifting, sometimes exposing coral heads and rocks. Always check (or ask lifeguards about) the currents, which can get pretty strong. 41-095 Kalanianaole Hwy., across from Sea Life Park, Waimanalo, HI, 96795.
Sandy Beach. The best spot—and arguably one of the most dangerous—on the island for advanced body boarding is Sandy Beach, located on Oahu's eastern shore. Dubbed one of the most treacherous shore breaks in the nation, the break can be extremely dangerous even when it's small. As lifeguards will attest, there are more neck injuries suffered here than at any other surf break in the United States. It's awesome for the advanced, but know its danger before paddling out. 8800 Kalanianaole Hwy, 2 miles east of Hanauma Bay, Honolulu, HI, 96825.
Waimanalo Bay Beach. With the longest sand beach on Oahu's windward side, Waimanalo Bay has a shallow sandbar at the water's edge that provides good waves for body boarding and bodysurfing. It's an ideal break for novices because of its soft waves. Like Walls in Waikiki, this area is protected by an outer reef. And like Bellows, it's favored by the dangerous Portuguese man-o-war. Aloiloi St., Waimanalo, HI, 96795.
There are more than 30 rental spots along Waikiki Beach, all offering basically the same prices. But if you plan to body board for more than just an hour, we would suggest buying an inexpensive board for $20 to $40 at an ABC Store—there are more than 30 in the Waikiki area—and giving it to a kid at the end of your vacation. It will be more cost-effective for you, and you'll be passing along some aloha spirit in the process.
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