A Bodysurfing Revival At Sandy’s

Many things in life come in waves, including those who ride them. Such is the case for the sport of bodysurfing.

“The number of body-surfers in Hawaii had dwindled over the years, but there’s been a huge influx of new bodysurfers,” says longtime bodysurfer Neal Morisato. “I don’t know if it’s social media or other new ways of communications being done, but there’s definitely a crew of younger guys out there and they’re performing really well.”


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An unidentified bodysurfer pulls a reverse at Sandy Beach | Daren Akana / Hawaiian Line International photo

Bodysurfing is alive and well in Hawaii thanks to a new generation of wave riders. The young and old recently hit the surf at Sandy Beach for Hawaii State Bodysurfing Association’s (HSBA) championship event.

“We had about 90 men and women in this year’s contest,” says Morisato, who serves as treasurer of the HSBA. “Divisions ranged from 17-and-under to 55-plus for men and women. There were also hand board divisions for men and women.”

Conditions at world-famous Sandy Beach were smaller than previous years, with head-high surf on day one of the event and waist-to-chest high surf on day two. It proved to be more than enough energy to bring out the best in the field.

“Performances were outstanding this year, and there was an excellent vibe with the competitors,” says Morisato. “Even though the competition was heated and awesome, it was still friendly. We didn’t have any problems out there.”

This year’s winners include Makenzie Arita, Brandon Hull, Kazu Muneoka-Jepson, Matt Solomon, Blaine Lewis, Mike Stewart, Mark Cunningham and Kai Santos.

Morisato says the number of competitors has fluctuated through the years. Two years ago, he said more than 120 competitors came out for the two-day event at Sandy Beach. Contest officials say turnout is often dictated by ocean conditions and the size of the surf. They also say a vast majority of those who compete are same-day beach entries.

“It all depends on the surf that day because when it’s good they come out in droves,” laughs Morisato. “It wasn’t the best conditions at Sandy’s, but everyone was definitely showing their repertoire of moves.”

For years, bodysurfers have asked for more competitions and contests. Currently, there are only a handful of sponsored events on Oahu including contests at Sandy Beach, Point Panic and Pipeline.

Contest organizers want the same but the reality is, it takes money to put on events. Morisato is grateful for the sponsors who already support the sport but hopes one day more businesses will see the value in putting their financial support behind the sport as well.

“Our (HSBA) events are amateur events, meaning there’s no prize money involved, but we do have a lot of prizes donated by our sponsors,” says Morisato. “Like anything else, the growth of the sport goes hand-in-hand with sponsorships. We don’t like to chase down businesses but we also know that we can’t do it alone. We’re always welcoming new supporters.”

Many believe bodysurfing reached its peak in the early 1980s, but it has seen steady participation over the last 30 years. And even though sports like stand-up paddle boarding, stand-up paddle surfing and one-man outrigger canoeing are seeing a surge in popularity, Morisato believes body-surfing will always be an option for wave riders.

“I see guys converting from bodyboarding and surfing to bodysurfing all the time, and a ton of guys move in between all of the ocean sports,” says Morisato. “What you see a lot of times is the younger guys will hang out with the older crew and see how fun and fulfilling this sport really is. There’s nothing like it.”

For more information on HSBA, visit its Facebook page or its website, hawaiistatebodysurfingassociation.com. rkmizutani@gmail.com