They’re known as handboards, handplanes and sometimes even handguns. Whatever you want to call them, you can’t deny that these little boards are making a big splash in the wave-riding world.
Handboarding is the biggest little sport you’ve never really heard of. It’s bodysurfing with a kick. The pure exhilaration it gives you as you’re getting shot through the barrel of a wave headfirst is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face, and its charm is infectious.
The sport grew from humble from beginnings. Just about anything flat enough would give handboarders their fix in the early years–clipboards, flip-flops, frisbees and even McDonald’s plastic food trays were viable options. It’s simply the handboarder mentality: If a hand can hold it, it can slide down a wave. In recent times, these DIY shred materials have fallen to the wayside to make way for the newly evolved, streamlined and sleek sliding devices we see today.
Shapers tackled the handboard and created something entirely new. At Venice-based Slyde Handboards, they give their boards a double swallow-tail for the ultimate ride. Regardless of shape, size or material, these boards bring back the pure, unadulterated joy that has been somewhat lost in the sport of surfing.
“I love surfing, however between the competition and the constant pressure to get better and get bigger airs and faster boards, I lost a little bit of why I started surfing in the first place,” said Steve Watts, founder of Slyde Handboards. “Handboarding brings back what it truly means to be out there in the water, without trying to be the best in the lineup as you’re jostling for the best spot on a crowded day.”
While surfing is still many people’s true calling, handboarding may start giving the sport a run for its money. “It’s been almost a year since I got my first handboard … and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever touch my surfboard again,” said surfer Farrell Israelson. “Even the local surfers don’t curse me out anymore for stealing their waves. Some have even tried my board and were stoked at the speed it generates on the waves.”
Even if it doesn’t make you give up surfing, handboarding provides watermen and waterwomen with an opportunity to take a break from the surfboards and get back to their oceanic roots. San Diego surfer Nick Tooman recounts how much using a handboard has allowed him to switch it up out in the water. “At some point in time, every surfer gets burnt out. Whether it be poor surf for weeks, or just not surfing like you usually do,” says Tooman. “When you start to get this feeling, grab a board and go have some fun. Get barreled. Get pummeled. Get sand in your face. It will reinstate your love for the ocean.”
So if there’s ever a time when you feel like you’ve lost that spark, grab a handboard and reignite your stoke. With just one ride you’ll be grinning from ear to ear.