Body boarding and Bodysurfing
According to the movies, in the Old West there was always friction between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers. Sometimes a similar situation exists between surfers and body boarders. That's why they generally keep to their own separate surfing areas. Often the body boarders stay closer to shore and leave the outside breaks to the board surfers. Or the board surfers may stick to one side of the beach and the body boarders to the other. The truth is, body boarding (often called "boogie boarding" in homage to the first commercial manufacturer of this slick little flexible foam board) is a blast. The only surfers who don't also sometimes carve waves on a body board are hardcore purists, and almost none of that type live on this island.
Novice body boarders should catch shore-break waves only. Ask lifeguards or locals for the best spots. You'll need a pair of short fins to get out to the bigger waves offshore (not recommended for newbies). As for bodysurfing, just catch a wave and make like Superman going faster than a speeding bullet.
Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area. Often considered one of the top 10 beaches in the world, Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area offers fine white sand, tourquoise water, and easy rolling surf on most days, making it great for bodysurfing or body boarding at all levels. Ask the lifeguards about conditions before heading into the water, especially in winter. Sometimes northwest swells create a dangerous undertow. Parking costs $5 per vehicle. Hwy. 19, near mile marker 69, just south of the Mauna Kea Hotel, Kohala Coast, HI, 96738. www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/hawaii/hapuna.cfm.
Laaloa Beach Park. This white-sand, shorebreak cove is great for beginning to intermediate bodysurfing and body boarding. Sometimes in winter, much of the sand here washes out to sea and forms a sandbar just offshore, creating fun wave conditions. Also known as White Sands or Magic Sands, it's popular and can get crowded with locals. Watch for nasty rip currents at high tide. If you're not using fins, wear reef shoes for protection against sharp rock. Alii Dr., slightly north of mile marker 4, Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740.
Honolii Cove. North of Hilo, Honolii Cove is the best body boarding spot on the east side of the island. Off Hwy. 19, near mile marker 4, Hilo, HI, 96720.
Equipment rental shacks are located at many beaches and boat harbors, along the highway, and at most resorts. Body board rental rates are around $12-$15 per day and around $60 per week. Ask the vendor if he'll throw in a pair of fins—some will for no extra charge.
Orchid Land Surf Shop. This shop has a wide variety of water sports and surf equipment for sale or rent. They stock professional custom surfboards, body boards, and surf apparel, and do repairs. You can rent a body board here for $12 a day, or a surfboard for $20 a day. 262 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo, HI, 96720. PHONE: 808/935-1533. www.orchidlandsurf.com.
Pacific Vibrations. This family-owned surf shop has it all, from casual clothing to surf gear. This place stocks tons of equipment, and is enthusiastic about GoPro digital cameras. You can rent a surfboard, stand up paddleboard, or body board. Body boards rent for $5 a day, but you have to buy or bring your own fins. If you keep your board for more than five days, the rental rate drops to $3 per day. 75-5702 Likana Ln. #B, at Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740. PHONE: 808/329-4140.