'Bones' came up trumps for the SABA West Coast Classic

SABA have had their first competition at the legendary Bones and she came up trumps for them. These big waves can be exceedingly elusive – but not this time… perfect waves greeted the West Coast Classic.

West Coast Classic South Africa: perfection on Earth

Recently we have concentrated on surfing and where to surf in South Africa. Bones never came under discussion but the recently completed SABA bodyboarding event brought it to our attention.

Bodyboarding is not a new sport. In fact as early as the 1700’s people have been out there making the most of what the sea had to offer Regency surfers…

“But a diversion the most common is upon the Water, where there is a very great Sea, and surf breaking on the Shore. The Men sometimes 20 or 30 go without the Swell of the Surf, & lay themselves flat upon an oval piece of plank about their size and breadth, they keep their legs close on top of it, & their arms are us’d to guide the plank, they wait the time for the greatest Swell that sets on Shore, & altogether push forward with their Arms to keep on its top, it sends them in with a most astonishing Velocity, & the great art is to guide the plank so as always to keep it in a proper direction on the top of the Swell, & as it alters its direction. If the Swell drives him close to the rocks before he is overtaken by its break, he is much praised.” – – James King, Journal, March 1779

Thank you to Wikipedia for that wonderful quote.

Bodyboarding differs from surfing in the length and material of the board – it is much shorter and made of foam. Each type of foam gives the bodyboard a different amount of flex and control for the rider. Most modern boards are equipped with channels that increase surface area in the critical parts of the board which, in turn, allow it to have greater wave hold and control. The use of these channels also means that the tail of the board is free to move.

Crescent tails provide the greatest amount of hold (keeping a rider on the board) in steep waves but make it difficult to slide the tail deliberately. Crescent tails are generally preferred by drop-knee riders because the shape interferes less. A bat tail is better suited for prone riders because it is easier to slide the tail. The bat tail also makes the bottom of the board slightly longer in the middle, helping to keep the rider’s legs out of the water, reducing drag.

The top of the board, the ‘deck’, is made from a softer foam to give grip and cushioning to the rider. Bodyboarders frequently wax their boards to increase the coefficient of friction on contact surface areas.

The shape of the board affects how it works. If the wide point of the board is near the nose, the board is best suited to prone riding as the riders weight is further up on the board. Boards with rails that are more parallel or ones with a wide middle and a narrow nose are ideal for drop-knee and stand-up riding as the rider’s center of gravity is further back.


Bodyboarding is not constricted to well behaved waves on nice sunny beaches.

Phylis Dameron was the first person — male or female — to ride big Waimea, North Shore Hawaii in the late 1970s. Carol Philips was the first woman to ride big Pipe in the 1980s and to compete against the men at Pipeline, North Shore Hawaii.

Mike Stewart is considered the father of modern bodyboarding and holds an unprecedented 10 world titles. The current World Tour champion is Hawaiian Jeff Hubbard.

But back to SABA.

Contestants were hoping for at least a clean swell with offshore winds. What they got was beyond their expectations. Super smooth 3-4ft lines peeled down the spongy reef at Bones. The waves were some of the best seen for a SABA event and seeing that it was the first event of its kind on the west coast, organisers couldn’t have asked for better. With a looming 5m swell predicted on Monday and Sundays conditions looking abit onshore, organisers used the days’ conditions to run as much of the contest as possible.

Unfortunately the day of the finals dawned with very contestable waves but the decision was made to go ahead and complete the final 7 heats.

Mark McCarthy backed up his previous days riding with another impressive display of combination manoeuvres to be crowned the REEF/ KUMBA IRON ORE West Coast Classic Pro champion and Josh Kleve, newcomer to the Mens division also won his first SABA title in a close battle between fellow Capetonian David Lillienfeld. Storm Prestwich again showed his class in difficult wave conditions and surfed his way into 1st place in the highly competitive Juniors division.

Modern bodyboarding, while still paying attention to style, focuses mainly on aerial manoeuvers in heavier and bigger waves, in which the waves become launching platforms for these manoeuvres. They also place a heavy emphasis on riding within the barrel of a wave as well as completing multiple tricks on the wave face in a single ride, including inverts, aerial spins (forward and reverse), reverse spins on the face, spins in the barrel, ARS’s and backflips.

And if you’re still not sure whether bodyboarding fits into our extreme sports catagory, check out this video from sbodyboardw.


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