Bodysurfer Gets Barreled

Bodysurfers seek no glory, just thrills. They might be surf culture’s unsung heroes. Photo: Unsplash/Drew Farwell

The Inertia

“There is no glory in carrying a pair of fins. It’s a basic, primitive thing. It’s just you and the ocean.” –Kevin Gardner, author of The Art of Bodysurfing

Bodysurfers are as pure as the Pacific.

These saltwater saints ask for nothing, yet sacrifice their chiseled abs for barrels no one will see.

They hashtag no photos and probably won’t toss you a shaka or call you “dude-man-bro.”

Instead, they’ll drop into an overhead set wave then disappear like Laird’s Superfood Creamer in your cup.

Trust me: my dad taught me to bodysurf as a kid amid Rhode Island’s summer rollers. But like many addicts, I sought a more intense rush, man. A beat-up longboard triggered my descent into depravity.

Once a bodysurfer crosses to the dark side, return is impossible. Within the surf universe, bodysurfers are martyrs and surfers are lowlifes.

Don’t believe me? Here are five reasons why bodysurfers are better humans than surfers. (With an obvious wink and a nod for the saltiest of readers among us. The point is: bodysurfers are surf culture’s unsung heroes. To those in speedos and fins dropping into giant closeouts with a shit-eating grin, we salute you.)

1. Bodysurfers are true watermen.

Mike Stewart, 14-time Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic champ, draws inspiration from marine mammals like otters.

Ever seen an otter get pitted? It’s mind-blowing.

During a session, bodysurfers always tread water. Surfers alternate between tough guy glares and deep chats: “I thought it’d be bigger, bra.” Our better selves kick into waves and steer with the hands like seals.

Bodysurfer Kalani Lattanzi reportedly treads water for about four hours in exchange for three waves at Nazare.

Picture Kalani next time you nap in the lineup, straddling your bonzer and planning for veggie omelets with your crew of zinc-nosed degenerates.

2. Bodysurfers have one middle name: Danger.

Bodysurfers drop into barrels headfirst, screaming like superheroes over razor-sharp reefs.

Santa Cruz bodysurfer Ryan Masters fractured his neck, broke his collarbone and seven ribs, and bruised a lung during a Maverick’s slam.

Most SoCal surfers dance the stingray shuffle on the way out, then whine about icy toes before parading around the lot in a baggy poncho telling everyone how “glassy it was this morning, bro.”

3. Bodysurfers don’t seek attention.

American culture fetishizes surfing. From Spicoli to Point Break, riding waves has always been about tight abs, tighter spliffs and California cool.

Bodysurfing hasn’t spawned Instagram surf coaches, Chasing Mavericks, surfer-style breakfasts, mid-lengths, foamies, Surfline “experts,” Sex Wax, “Gnarly, Bra!” surf podcasts, or reality shows (thanks, Kelly).

Bodysurfers freedive away from the limelight; surfers claim waves and even worse, use “vibe” as both verb and noun.

4. Bodysurfers are a tribe.

Bodysurfers foster an inclusive community in the water based on their small population and rebel status. Surfers spend entire sessions dropping in on each other and applaud localism when they’re locals.

Catching waves is as gluttonous an act as eating all the chimichangas in the bag, and “lineup regulation” is just a fancy way of saying violence is the answer.

On the flip, bodysurfers commune with coral, fostering an underwater utopia. If you find a taco lodged under a rock during a long hold-down, that’s karma.

5. Bodysurfers actually believe in party waves.

We’re all seeking the same enlightenment, though, aren’t we?

It doesn’t matter what you ride, or don’t ride.

Every wave-rider is in search of one thing: the pure liquid rush that forces us to live in the moment.

Forget the noise: we should all flash shakas because we’re all part of the same outlaw tribe.

Except for spongers.

Those guys are total dicks. 😉


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