Nothin’ like a good thrashin’ by the waves to clear your head. Experiencing the energy of the water with no surf or boogie board is exhilerating. The two and three-foot waves we get here along the Grand Strand are enough to toss, turn and tumble any bodysurfing neophyte.
That would be me. I’m about as adept at bodysurfing as Nathaniel Messinger, the character played so well by Dennis Franz in “City of Angels.” Remember that great scene in which Messinger, a former angel, rides a wave or two? It wasn’t pretty watching Franz peel his clothes off, but bodysurfing was used as an example of an earthly pleasure that angels can’t experience.
While bodysurfing is an activity that my family and I have enjoyed since first vacationing on the Grand Strand in 1970, what we do isn’t the same as what the people who take on the big swells in Hawaii and along the West Coast do.
If you want to see something cool, go to YouTube and search the name Mark Cunningham. Cunningham was a lifeguard in the county of Honalulu for three decades and he and others have turned the sport into an art form. He might very well be the most famous bodysurfer in the world.
My family and I always vied against one another to see who could get closest to shore. My brother, Brad, owns me in our playful head-to-head matchup to this day, and I still tell him that the sun got in my eyes or that the waves broke better for him. A mullet got in my way. Anything but admit defeat.
Like any physical activity, bodysurfing can also be a great way to relieve tension. Last week I had to immerse myself in the water for that purpose. A 20-something local’s dog ripped a nerf football apart and the local left the ragged remains of the ball floating at water’s edge to be caught up in Neptune’s eternal rinse cycle. I love animals, but sometimes I have problems with their owners. I waited till he took his canine home and I picked up the trash and threw it away. Yeah, I was angry, but I didn’t want to piss off another neighbor.
Once again, the sea offered me salvation. The ocean was greenish-blue beneath the bright summer sun except closer to shore where it was light aqua. I accepted the beautiful surf’s invitation and slowly waded out to the breakers, studying the swells to my left and right.
I use the most simple of techniques: wait until the wave is a few feet away, turn your back to it and “launch” off the bottom with your legs. Kick and stroke until you’re confident that the wave hasn’t passed you by. From there, it’s a matter of keeping your legs together and extending your arms out in front of you.
Turning along the wave face isn’t nearly as simple, but it can be achieved by dipping one shoulder or the other into the crescent.
Remember. Our beach has a shallow grade and it doesn’t take much for a wave to push you straight to the bottom. At the very least, you could end up with a nasty sand scrape. Be careful out there.