I’ve surfed most of my life, and my first introduction to the sport was a bodyboard when I was 10 or 11 years old. Back then, they were mostly cut in half longboards; the feeling was the same – thrilling. Standing on the thing was a segway in to surfing for me, but I never forgot the feeling of power and the sensation of flying the first time I dropped into a wave. It was a great way to learn and understand, appreciate and realize the power of the ocean. The feeling was so alluring that I’ve been drawn to it my entire life. When things go bad or when life gets tough, there is always the ocean as an escape and solace for the soul.

What is it that makes bodyboarding so compelling? I think when you ride a body board, you are in close proximity to the wave, making it seem larger and more intense, but compared to surfing you are in a lot less danger. Bodyboards are usually made of a softer and lighter material, and in the event of a wipeout the board is usually moving away from you, but should you get hit by it the chance of injury is less. There are many reasons for choosing bodyboarding as an introduction, the least of which is safety.

The cost of bodyboarding equipment is half the price of a surfboard, and due to their construction less likely to need costly repairs. Wooden planks called paipo date back hundreds of years as the first bodyboards – so todays bodyboarding is just a natural evolution of the sport. Bodyboards are small and easy to carry, do not require roof racks or special equipment. Only bodyboarders can drop into vertical faces and the feeling of speed is incredible. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, the learning curve is the same whether you take classes or just learn on your own like I did, feeling out the sensation, learning to be in tune with the waves. Sometimes the best way to learn is to just do it.

The bottom line: if want to add something to your bucket list, and you have never surfed before, try bodyboarding first – you may find you are hooked. I love the ocean, though I’m not a great surfer or bodyboarder but each allow me to spend time in a place that I feel at peace. I would not trade the experiences I’ve had in the ocean on these boards – they make you feel alive no matter your age.