Here's our guide to the various materials and features of a bodyboard.
The surface you lie on.
The top, where you hold on.
The other end. The shape of the tail determines how the board moves in the waves. Types include the original crescent tail, shaped like a new moon. It provides maximum hold on the wave and is good for dropknee riding.
The more recently designed bat tail (which roughly resembles a bat’s wings) gives more speed and manoeuvrability and is often preferred by prone riders.
The core of most boards is either polyethylene (also called dow or PE), or polypropylene (polypro or PP). Dow is heavier and more flexible than polypro and performs well in cold water and big waves. However, it can absorb water over time or if damaged. It also generally needs to be strengthened with at least one stringer, otherwise it can fold under the rider.
The more expensive polypro, on the other hand, is 100% waterproof and is lighter, stiffer, more durable and better in warm water and smaller, choppy waves. Both dow and polypro come in different grades of strength and consistency and this affects the price. Cores can also be a combination of various types of plastic or foam, such as EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) and EPS (expanded polystyrene) — mainly used for cheaper children’s boards.
The downward-facing surface is covered by a slippery covering called the slick, which gives the board strength and speed. The two most common types of slick are Surlyn, a softer plastic hybrid, which is very flexible and responsive, and HDPP (high-density polypropylene), which is harder, thicker and stiffer, but with little or no flex.
HDPP is usually found on beginner boards and is good for casual riders as it’s very durable and hardy, but serious riders who want to progress will prefer the higher-performance Surlyn.
The sides of the board. Straight rails are faster. A rounder outline (with a central widepoint) gives better manoeuvrability.
Grooves cut into the slick bottom that channel the water for better performance and control.
A straight rod inserted into the board’s core to maintain stiffness and increase the lifespan of the board.