Surfing vs. Bodyboard: What Is the Difference?

The battle for watersport supremacy has never been this intense. Bodyboarding is making a comeback, but is it enough to topple surfing, the most popular watersport to ever exist? If you’re wondering what it takes to be a surfer or a bodyboarder, then this article is a godsend.

What’s the goal of this article, you ask? To help you, the beginner, to find a new passion outside of your house. To help you understand the differences between surfing vs. bodyboarding and to help you decide which one is perfect for you.

Do you want to brace the waves on two feet or while prone? The showdown begins now.

Equipment and Gear

Surfing gear is very simple yet sophisticated. Due to the nature of the sport, finding a cheap surfboard from unreputable brands is very risky. You also need board fins, leg leashes, surf wax, plus other tools to get started.

If you’re on a tight budget, but you badly want to start a new watersport activity, then bodyboard is arguably the cheapest way to get started. There are plenty of affordable boards that you can buy, whether new or used, from arm leashes, flippers, and wetsuits.

How much does it cost?

For surfing on a budget, if you’re not too picky with used items in online marketplaces, you can start surfing with as little as $1,000 bucks for the basics. For bodyboarding, the cheapest foam board is around $50 bucks! Better ones cost around $600 bucks. 

Skills and Techniques

Surfing requires advanced skills when it comes to balancing yourself. Bodyboarding is all about paddling and maneuvering yourself in waves that you can play around with. One is very intense to learn, while the other is almost a walk in the park.

Both of these sports have a wide variety of techniques and tricks you can do as you improve with surfing and/or bodyboarding.

Learning Curve

Surfing: Surfing has more requirements when getting started. Learning how to balance yourself from the prone position to standing up has proven to be very challenging for beginners. There’s also learning how to read waves, the forecast, plus other data.

Bodyboarding: Bodyboarding basics are very easy to grasp, and almost anyone can become familiar with the process in just a few hours. This is perfect for people who have zero knowledge and skills in watersport activities.

Ride Feel

The bond between an individual and their surfboard is a very personal relationship. The vibration that the waves produce can be felt as you balance on your board. Combine that feeling with insane turns and tricks, and you’ll know exactly why there’s no other sport like this.

With bodyboarding, the board feels much more stable, and you can really control your movement, albeit in sluggish detail. Since you are riding closer to the water, you can perform quick turns and tricks that make up for its slower pace compared to surfing.

Safety Precautions

Learning the code and etiquette for surf and bodyboard culture is very important. Think of it as the unwritten guidebook on how to interact with the community, as well as when to take off and when to wait your turn.

While bodyboarding is safer compared to surfing, the same risks that surfers try to avoid are also present with this sport since it’s mostly done in the same place. Understanding weather conditions, marine life activity, and many more is crucial. 

Culture and Community

Culture is usually what defines the sport to greater levels. The surf culture has evolved into a giant worldwide community that is very open and warm to beginners. Being part of something this big can be gratifying, especially once you fall in love with the sport.

Since the surf culture is very inclusive, bodyboard culture has been considered a subculture, as both can co-exist in one area without any issues. While bodyboarding may not be as famous as surfing, you can still enjoy this sport with a few like-minded people all around too.

Health and Fitness Perks

While surfing and bodyboarding have great health benefits, the two activities target different muscle groups to give it a solid head-to-head comparison. For a full-body workout experience, nothing beats surfing.

Bodyboarding for most of the time is spent on either the prone or kneeling positions, whether in single or both knees. The amount of times that you would have to rely on your legs to paddle is a workout in itself. Expect to increase your leg endurance every session.

Pros and Cons of Surfing

The Good: Made for adrenaline junkies. Jam-packed communities and events all year. Has better health benefits compared to bodyboarding. Gives people a very unique and different perspective on Mother Earth.

The Bad: It has a very steep learning curve for beginners. Entry-level equipment costs more than top-tier bodyboards. Has been known to affect marine life and its environment. Popular surf spots for beginners can be cramped during peak seasons.

Pros and Cons of  Bodyboarding

The Good: Relatively low entry-level price. Even the top-tier products are more affordable than the cheapest surfboard. Very easy sport to learn. Perfect for any type of wave. More relaxing and less intense.

The Bad: Less adrenaline-inducing, unlike surfing. Bodyboards are also sluggish to maneuver and are generally slower than a surfboard when riding waves. Some people are prone to cramping due to the amount of leg work needed to propel themselves forward.


There’s no greater joy than to experience the waves crashing in, and you are on your trusty board, ready to overcome it all. Whether you choose bodyboarding or surfing, the important thing is that you choose an activity that is outside of your comfort zone.

Regardless of the surfing vs. bodyboard debates, the true winner is you. Both of these activities promise a fun way to exercise, and the opportunity to experience the ride with like-minded people is always a welcome bonus.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can always learn two watersports at the same time! If you’re itching for a leg day at the beach, go bodyboarding. For a more complete workout, then go surfing! 

Oliver Jones

Written by Oliver Jones

I'm a dedicated surfer and writer, and my heart truly belongs to the ocean. Surfing is not just a sport but a way of life for me. I ride the waves in the water and on paper, pouring my passion into every word I write.

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