It was a cool and windy Sunday morning at the beach in Del Mar, far from ideal conditions for bodysurfing. Less than a week prior, Vince Askey, the leader of the Del Mar BodySurfing Club (DMBC) and event sponsor, put out a Facebook invitation to women bodysurfers to help set a world record for the greatest number of women on a wave at the same time.
No one knew for sure if anybody would take him up on the proposal, especially when it became apparent that wave conditions would be dreadful. But when the day arrived, 13 female bodysurfers ranging in age from 8 to just short of 75 arrived at the beach to make history. If you count the six months in utero baby girl of the pregnant mother (who also brought her own mother to join in), you could argue for a total of 14 aspiring record setters.
The participants had an impressive list of bodysurfing and other sports accomplishments. Nearly half of these women had won or placed in major world bodysurfing competitions while others excelled at water sports like swimming, water skiing, and water polo. In addition, some were competitors in unrelated sports like volleyball, cycling, and skateboarding. Occupationally, they included, for example, a computer consultant, museum curator, military officer, retiree, student, and stay-at-home-mom. These women share a love of the ocean and the exhilaration of riding waves. The sentiment most often expressed among them about bodysurfing was the marvelous feeling they experience being in and blending with the ocean, no matter how many or few waves they catch.
This dream team consisted of a core of competition superstars enveloped by other talented and spirited bodysurfing devotees determined to answer the call to set a world record. Calla Allison drove from Orange County and ran out of gas in Oceanside. Scotti Shafer came from San Clemente. The San Diegans included Morgan Launer, who hadn’t been in the water for a couple of months, Angela Oschmann who usually bodysurfs in La Jolla, Sunny Rickard who hails from nearby Carlsbad, and Meredith Rose, a local Del Mar DMBC regular, completed a core of the competition-winning ringers. To round out this dream team, the other hearty participants included: Alessandra Barbosa, Hayley Nemeroff, Colleen Boyd Turner, Christy Hahn, Lyn Shafer, Sue Lafferty, and Sabrina Jutronich.
Bodysurfing has not been recognized as an Olympic sport and has no professional pay component. The Guinness World Records folks have no category for the most bodysurfers on a wave. However, they have documented the record of the most board surfers on a wave at the same time (110) by a group in South Africa in 2009. Like the surfers did, DMBC wanted to set a record for bodysurfers.
This particular cooler 60-degree morning offered blown-out conditions and a strong current carrying everything in its path fairly rapidly towards Mexico. The cold water, gusting winds (~ 9 knots), and decent-sized waves with tight intervals made for a demanding swim. Pounding waves like these mean holding your breath to repeatedly duck and swim under them or end up being tossed like a cork towards the shore.
The intention was for all of the women to swim to the outermost break and form up an arm’s length apart. Instead of angling in the customary left or right directions, the women aimed to ride the waves straight toward the shore. In this way, when Meredith Rose called out which waves to catch, they would have the greatest chance for as many women as possible to ride the same wave at the same time. But just to get out far enough beyond the unrelenting waves while fighting the drift of the current was a formidable task. Needless to say, women who bodysurf hardly shrink from challenges. As such, they rose to the occasion and made several inspiring attempts.
It wasn’t like the Guinness World Records folk were there to count, but of the 13 women who entered the water, a drone photo appeared to show 8 of them on the same wave at the same time. You can decide for yourself. Regardless of the exact number, since there are no other known attempts, it can reasonably be said that on March 25, 2018, the sponsoring Del Mar BodySurfing Club established the world record for the largest number of women bodysurfing on a wave at the same time.