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History of Boogie Boards and Bodyboarding.
Courtesy of the International Bodyboarding Association.

The sport of bodyboarding started in 1971 in Hawaii, thanks to surfing legend Tom Morey. From its humble beginnings, bodyboarding has grown into an international sport. The first major professional competition was held at the Banzai pipeline with a $5000 dollar prize purse. That was 17 years ago and John Patterson, now a top man with Manta Bodyboards in the USA, won the contest in beautiful 6 to 8' foot waves. Over the years, the Pipeline competition evolved into what has become know as the World Bodyboard Championships. The top athletes from around the world would converge on the North Shore of Oahu to surf the competition and see who was the best. This was fine for a few years, but soon it became evident Pipeline favored a special type of rider.

Around the same time the ISP/ASP tour was beginning to take off. So in 1988 competitors and officials alike began meeting following every Pipeline event to write a set of competition rules that all countries could follow with the hope of forming a world circuit to determine the World Champion. The driving force behind these meetings were the heroes and legends of today. Riders like Pat Caldwell, Jack Lindholm, Alexander de Pontes, Mike Stewart, Ben Severson, Ross Hawke, and Fabio Aquino, met with officials Mary Lee Christensen, Derek Hulme, Tony Abrahams, Phil Smith and Bob Thomas. This was not an easy task but after 4 years, a set of competition rules was finally approved. It was first used by the Honolulu Bodysurfing Club to run the 1992 World Championship and later adopted by all the major bodyboard associations.

The next task was to set up a would tour. So in 1993, with the guidance of former ISP director Randy Rarick, the Association of Professional Bodyboarders was formed, with the focus on developing all levels of the sport, both amateur and professional, male and female. In 1994 the APB change its name to Global Organization of Bodyboarding. (for visual effect, GO Bodyboarding) That year was also the beginning of the inaugural World Tour. Surf Club de Vienna from Northern Portugal put up $10,000 in cash and agreed to follow the GOB guidelines for a professional competition. The contest was a great success and the GOB now had validity as a organization.

In 1995, the GOB had 8 events ending with the World Bodyboarding Championships at Pipeline. That year we changed our name to Global Organization of Bodyboarders, and crowned our first GOB World Tour Champion, Guilherme Tamega from Brazil. He narrowly edged out Mike Stewart to clinch the title in the last heat of the year. The total prize money for the year 1995 was close to $200,000.

The year brought new challenges. GOB sanctioned its first ever Wave Pool event and Women Bodyboarders were added to the tour with outstanding results. The level of bodyboarding, like figure skating, is not as lopsided between the men and women. The women can bust the big moves just as well and sometimes better than the men. The combined tour sanctioned 18 events with $335,000 in total prize money.

The tour continued to trundle along, but there began to come about a shift in the focus of the athletes towards having a tour held in more extreme waves rather than just quantity of events and prize money. The 1997 Morey World Champs at Pipe only helped fuel this desire amongst the riders....this is a contest that will go down in history as one of the best and most dramatic ever in bodyboarding. Pipe lived up to it’s true reputation and put on a stunning display, sending in 2 massive and perfect swells in 3 days, and the final day was as good as Pipe gets....the level of bodyboarding was raised a few more bars, and when the spray cleared Australian Steve Mackenzie emerged the winner, only the 3rd non-Hawaiian since the event’s inception to win the contest. Seeing bodyboarding at this level, in big, spectacular and precarious surf, was seeing bodyboarding at it’s best and really truest form.

Over the following years Pipe continued to be the mainstay and standard for bodyboarding as an extreme sport, however there were also some events held in Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean that were nearly as awesome and terrifying as Pipe. It was these events that also got the most attention from the media who wanted some radical photos to publish and stories to tell. These comps were also the most effective bait in drawing new guys from the far most regions of the world to join the tour and challenge themselves both against their competitors and the ocean itself. The 1998 Reunion contest was one of the tour’s best ever. It was held at a gnarly left reef break in perfect 10-12 foot surf. Again the level of the sport was being pushed ever forward, and this event also saw the rise of a new star in South Africa’s Andre Botha: at the time just 16 years old, André surfed his way through the crushing surf all the way to the finals where he was narrowly defeated by the more experienced world champion Guilherme Tamega. However the world title was about to change hands, as Andre went on to win the end of year contest at Pipe, thereby becoming the youngest person in the sport’s history to take the title at just 17 years of age. This was testimony to the rapid growth of the sport worldwide, and the huge new influx of talented kids that are making a name for themselves on the GOB today. In ‘99 Andre retained his title despite fierce opposition all the way through the year, lending credit to the depth of talent in the sport in places as obscure as South Africa.

At the end of the tour, riders again met to discuss how the tour could be improved. At the time there was a split within the sport. In the one camp there were the competitors that supported and followed the GOB tour, and in the other camp were a group of riders that were incredible in their ability, but chose not to compete because some of the venues on the tour had weak waves, which in turn did not reflect the really radical side of bodyboarding. However the latter group had a lot of popularity with the kids and media around the world with their “soul surfer” approach. In order to bring the bodyboarding world together as one and strengthen the sport as a whole, riders realized that the only feasible way would be to create a “Supertour”, an international bodyboarding tour held in the most challenging waves in the world.

An Australian by the name of Tom Wilson who ran the Australian bodyboard tour at the time, put forward a proposal to run a contest in Tahiti at an infamous reef break called Teahupoo in 2000.It was to be an invitational event of sorts, restricted to 24 elite bodyboarders. While it was not a tour event, it was sanctioned by the GOB, and herein lay the seeds for the Super Tour of the future. In May the comp went ahead in epic 10-12 foot surf that was as heavy as the ocean can throw out...the contest was a spectacular success, and was won by a young Australian named Ryan Hardy, who took the lead in the finals with an insane 360 in the guts of an 8 foot barrel...it was a vision of what was to come, bodyboarding at the highest level in waves of severe consequence, at a surf spot that is every bit literally deadly as any surf break ever surfed.

In 2001 the first trial run of a Super Tour (ST) was held. Unfortunately in part due to the terror attacks of 9/11 and the resulting impact on the global economy, the tour was hindered in getting fully off the ground. However the seeds had been sown and there was finally a unity amongst the riders in supporting the ST concept. One of the year’s finest highlights actually came from without, where in Sydney, under the direction of Mark Fordham and Nathan Purcell, a contest that had been put on for six years each July....the Shark Island Challenge. This was one of the most feared and revered contests and surf spots in the world, but had never been run under the GOB umbrella due to the fact that Shark Island could only accommodate a small group of competitors because the spot can only be surfed at high tide and on a rare combination of swell and winds. This year the event just happened to coincide with one of the biggest swells to hit the east coast of Australia in living memory. The contest went off in a big way, and the 24 invitees put on a show that would either be described as heroic or suicidal, depending on your view point....they were surfing on waves as high as 2 or 3 story buildings that were breaking over just a couple of feet of water, waves that were utterly inaccessible to any other wave craft. The public took notice, and so did the event sponsor Human Shoes, who were impressed enough to come forward with an offer to sponsor the entire ST for 2002.

With the financial backing that bodyboarding had needed for so long, and with the new leadership of Mark Fordham and Steve Kirkman from Australia, 2 of the most prominent figures and visionaries in bodyboarding, the ST looks ready to go into orbit.

The GOB is now looking at working with the ISA toward gaining Olympic recognition for the sport of bodyboarding. The future holds even more promise with the advent of a televised World Tour and events in exotic locations. We will also begin a series of safety and bodyboard rescue clinics in conjunction with the International Surf Lifesaving Association. We see a fantastic future for this fun and competitive sport.

Such a brief overview of our sport in the last 20 years says little to convey it’s real picture. Ours is a special sport where a little kid that finds his way onto the beach for the very first time can pick up a basic bodyboard and go out in the water and have hours of safe fun. Bodyboarding has a fast learning curve, since you bypass the technicalities of standing up on your board, and immediately begin to focus on the art of riding waves. And someone with the right experience can take that same craft and use it to attack waves that surfboards are incapable of dealing with due to their shallow and surging nature....the very type of waves that are most exciting to behold, let alone be ridden. While surfing is yet progressing, bodyboarding is barnstorming, and no doubt will continue to do so, as riders push the frontiers of rideable and unrideable.




Tom Morey
Tom Morey
The man with the creation.

Bill Severson
Ben Severson
Circa 1991

Mike Stewart
Mike Stewart
1992 Morey Pipeline World Championships.

Seamus Mercado
Seamus Mercardo
Wave pool action.

Jack Lindholm
Jack Lindholm
Jack the ripper cranking of the bottom out Pipe.
 

 

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