Sometimes the final yards of an ocean race can seem longer — or more difficult — than the mile (or whatever distance) you’ve swum. The swimming was easy…it’s trying to get to the beach that’s daunting. For me, the quickest way to get into shore is to hitch a ride — or bodysurf — a wave to the beach. Of course you can take advantage of this only when the tide is right and there are waves to ride. But bodysurfing is a lot faster than swimming to the beach. Plus, you get to rest while the wave brings you to shore. If you’re not proficient at bodysurfing a wave, here’s how to do it.
As you round the last buoy and head for shore, you need to sight on the beach flags at the finish line. When you reach shallow water and are standing, look back over your shoulder and watch for a wave. Waves usually come in sets, so when you see one, there should be three or four others right behind it.
When a wave is ready to break, you’ll see white foam appearing at the crest of the wave. Ideally, you want to catch a wave BEFORE it breaks, but even if the wave has broken you can still catch a ride to the beach.
As a wave approaches you, take a deep breath and push off and dive into the leading edge of the wave with your arms in streamline. Your arms should be extended over your head just as they would for a pushoff in the pool, with your head in line with your spine. Keep your arms extended over your head to maintain the speed of the wave. The wave will lose power as it approaches shore, and being in streamline will help you extend the ride. If you need to breathe, keep your arms extended over your head and lift your head to breathe.
Your free ride may take you only ten to fifteen yards, but it saves energy and is usually faster than trying to run through the waves and backwash to the shore. You’ll be amazed at how many swimmers you can pass riding a wave to the beach.
Surf’s up, Moondoggie! Go swim!