Who says you need a board to surf?
We had a catch up with local bodysurfing pro Ben Schofield. We picked his brain to find out what made him start bodysurfing, his fave places to catch a wave and what tips he’d share for anyone wanting to give it a try.
About Ben Schofield
I have grown up living on the south coast so I was literally thrown in the water from a young age. I’ve always been a keen swimmer and we had various boats in the family that we used for fishing, diving and days out, so that helped draw me to the ocean. As I have grown up, I have experimented with many outdoor, adventurous activities including surfing, kayaking, canoeing, diving and eventually leading onto bodysurfing. I am the youngest of 4 brothers and am married to my beautiful wife who is an adult nurse at Poole hospital. We have a stunning little girl who is 5 months old called Ruby Rose who is totally insane and is already having swimming lessons.
How long have you been bodysurfing for?
I have been bodysurfing now for 5 years.
What inspired you to start bodysurfing?
After watching the ‘180° South’ and ‘Come Hell or High Water’ documentaries, it changed the way I looked at the ocean and the beautiful waves that it creates. Bodysurfing has made me a more chilled out and relaxed person making it much easier to enjoy every session.
What’s the most challenging part of practicing this sport?
The conditions! Where we live on the south coast we don’t get very consistent or clean waves, so you have to be patient or have good luck. Only really in the winter is the best time for me to get out locally, unless I head to the West Country to catch some waves. Also, time! With a 5 month old baby, I don’t have the freedom like I used to, when I could just pick up my stuff and head out for a session. It takes what feels like months of planning to get out into the water at present. That will change as she gets older. She will probably be coming with me.
Where in the world would you like to bodysurf and why?
I would love to be able to get out to 3 places: California; to meet up with my Slyde Handboard family and crew to share waves and stoke with them, as they support me a lot for what we do and are leading the way in terms of Handboard technology. Tahiti: for the sun, mountains and to be able to bodysurf in nothing but swim shorts. Also, I have friends that live there who get to bodysurf the most beautiful, crystal clear waves in the world, and finally, Patagonia. Similar reasons to Tahiti but to experience the ice cold waters of the South Pacific, the mountains and the wildlife of Patagonia.
Where are your favourite spots to bodysurf?
You can never beat your local breaks with friends. The special place that is Kimmeridge Bay, as it gives a raw and natural feel, and really gives a sense of being away from society and being surrounded by the rugged Jurassic Coastline. Also Bournemouth, Boscombe Pier and Southbourne offer some amazing and fun waves to bodysurf throughout the winter months. There is an amazing wave down in Cornwall that is ideal for bodysurfing called the Wedge and it properly jacks up onto a shallow sand bar and you get an insane drop down the face of the wave.
What tips would you give to anyone thinking of trying bodysurfing?
Just get out and do it! And keep smiling!
Do you need any specific equipment for bodysurfing?
Typically in this country you’d want a wetsuit and a pair of Swimming Fins. These are short and stiffer than the ones you would wear for scuba diving or snorkelling as they need to give you quick acceleration when trying to catch the wave. You can then add a Handplane or Handboard (slightly bigger) which offers more of a surface area to plane on the wave face making it easier and more fun.
What’s your best bodysurfing story?
About 5 years ago I was skimming through YouTube and saw these guys using these handboards made by my sponsor ‘Slyde Handboards’. They were catching some sweet shore breaks that weren’t too big, and were getting way inside the barrel and coming out smiling. I got to a point with surfing where I wasn’t enjoying it as much around my local spots as there was too much agro in the water. Non-locals were jumping in, people getting in the way, not knowing the etiquette in the water and beginners way out of their depth, that it started to get dangerous. I thought there must be a better way to surf and enjoy the waves. That’s when I switched to just bodysurfing and swimming out with everyone gaining a lot more respect from the other local surfers. I come out of every session smiling, happy and feeling in a good place. Salt water therapy really does exist.
Is there a large bodysurfing community in the UK?
Absolutely not. There are a number of devoted bodysurfers around the country that bodysurf, and most of them live way down in the deep parts of Cornwall. We are starting to grow and more and more people are becoming made aware of the sport. With the help of the British Bodysurfing Association, local companies and brands that make their own Handplanes, and the first UK Bodysurfing champs this September, I am sure you will see more of it in the near future. I am hoping more events and competitions will appear locally and nationally and that UK Bodysurfing will become part of the Euro Bodysurfing Tour.
Do you think bodysurfing could one day be an official Olympic sport?
Hopefully not. I wouldn’t want it to become over run with mainstream media, it’s not what the sport is about. It’s about ground roots, the purest form of wave riding. It’s artistic and expressive creativity; I personally wouldn’t want to see it in the Olympics. I am stoked to be competing at the first annual British Bodysurfing Champs this September down in Newquay on the weekend of the 16th and 17th. I will be using my Kitvision Action Cameras to capture the action. Keep an eye out!
What’s your favourite part of being a bodysurfer?
The 5am wake up alarms on a bitterly cold winter morning, the fresh smell of coffee and heading out of the door in the dark to catch the sun rise over breaking waves. The community is close and we can share stories and media with one another as we can’t always get together. The freedom, expression and how much fun I have when bodysurfing. It’s all about good times and better vibes.
Head over to www.slydehandboards.com and enter the code Ben20 to get 20% discount on your next Handboard.
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