Bodyboarding originates from an ancient form of riding waves (surfing) on one's belly. Indigenous Polynesians rode "alaia" (pronounced ah-lie-ah) boards either on their belly, knees, or feet (in rare instances). Alaia boards were generally made from the wood of Acacia koa and ranged in length and shape. They are distinct from the modern stand-up surfboards in that they had no ventral fins. Captain Cook recorded seeing Hawaiian villagers riding such boards when he came to Hawaii in 1778.
The boards he witnessed were about 3 to 6 feet (0.9 to 2 m) and were ridden prone (on the belly) or on the knees. Alaia boards then evolved into the more modern "paipo" (pronounced pipe-oh) board. Paipo boards were either made of wood or fiberglass. Fiberglass boards usually had fins on the bottom
The original idea for the modern bodyboard began at Doheny State Beach in California, USA, when Tom Morey watched some young kids surfing on a couple of polyethylene foam logs held together with PVC pipe.
A surfboard builder with a background in math and engineering had left his California surfboard business to relax, play music and design on the island of Hawaii. While Tom was following his passion as a Jazz musician (this is where the term “Boogie” came from ….the boogie rhythm ) he experimented with a piece of polyethylene to enjoy a perfect day of surf at Honols on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Morey borrowed an electric carving knife and a household iron, whittled some scrap polyethylene foam into a small rectangular mat and covered it with newspaper. He found his invention (first dubbed S.N.A.K.E. -- side, navel, arm, knee, elbow) easy to produce and even easier to navigate. In 1973, he trademarked the name Morey Boogie for $10 and got together enough money to place a quarter-page ad in Surfing magazine.
Demand for Morey's boards was incredible. By 1977, he was producing 80,000 per year, mainly sold in the United States. The next year, Morey-Boogie was purchased by Kransco (and later resold to Whamo, Inc. in 1998, with Morey hired as a consultant).
Since the conception of the modern bodyboard by Tom Morey, bodyboarding has experienced rapid growth episodes, both as an industry and as an extreme sport. Although originating in America, from the mid 90’s onwards the industry of manufacturing and selling bodyboards has quickly spread, shifting from a primarily American to a global industry phenomenon.
The sport itself has also experienced a veritable transformation as a worldwide industry, with important centers in Australia, Peru, Chile, Japan, the Canary Islands, South Africa and so forth. It is a good idea to add that bodyboarding can be considered riskier than surfing, with bodyboarders typically executing a wide array of aerial maneuvers on various types of waves, some more dangerous than others.
Some bodyboarders are thought to be pioneers of some of the most difficult and heaviest surf locations ranging from Teahupo’o in the French Polynesia, to Shark Island, Cyclops, and Ours and Luna Park in Australia. Additionally, bodyboarders place a strong emphasis on aerial maneuvers executed on heavier and more sizeable sections of waves.
There are also female bodyboarders who’ve set a name for themselves. For instance, Phylis Dameron was the first person, man or woman, to ride the big Waimea Bay on a bodyboard, in the late 1970s. The most important women’s event was the 1990 first official World Championship of Women’s Bodyboarding, which was won by Stephanie Petterson.
Some major events in Bodyboarding history
1971: Tom Morey invents the bodyboard on July 9, and gives it a try at Honels, in Hawaii;
1973: Morey Boogie, the most famous bodyboard company of all time, is founded;
1976: The first Morey Boogie ( Pro/AM) contest is held in Carlsbad, California;
1977: Tom Morey sells Morey Boogie to Kransco;
1977: Phyllis Dameron becomes the first bodyboarder to ride the waves of Waimea Bay;
1979: First professional bodyboarding contest was held in Huntington Beach
1980: Pat Caldwell lands his first el rollo at Pipeline;
1982: Daniel Kaimi wins the first ever International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships at Pipeline;
1983: Mike Stewart, the most successful bodyboarder of all time, wins his first of nine world titles;
1984: The Morey Boogie Mach 7-7, one of the most popular bodyboard models of all times, hits the market;
1986: Mike Stewart and Ben Severson surf Teahupoo, in Tahiti, for the first time;
1990: Stephanie Pettersen is crowned the world's first female bodyboarding champion;
1993: Michael "Eppo" Eppelstun lands the world's first air roll spin (ARS);
1995: Guilherme Tâmega and Claudia Ferrari win the first ever GOB World Tour;
1996: Mike Stewart follows and surfs an 8,000-mile swell from Tahiti (Teahupoo) to Hawaii (Maalaea), and then California (Newport Beach) and Alaska (Yakutat);
1997: Matt Percy wins the first edition of the Shark Island Challenge;
1998: Mike Stewart founds Science Bodyboards;
1998: The first season of the European Tour of Bodyboard (ETB) kicks off;
1999: Mike Stewart's Pro Bodyboarding, the world's first bodyboarding game, is released for PC;
1999: Surfer Magazine lists Tom Morey as one of the 25 most influential surfers of the 20th century;
2003: Damian King and Neymara Carvalho conquer the first edition of the IBA World Tour;
2009: Mike Stewart wins the Arica Chilean Challenge at 46 years old;
2011: Pierre Louis Costes wins the inaugural ISA World Bodyboard Championship, held in the Canary Islands;
2014: Amaury Lavernhe and Alexandra Rinder claim the first world titles of the APB World Tour era;
2016: Mike Stewart is the first bodyboarder to have his name and board on the Surfer Wall, in Nazaré;
2017: A group of international bodyboarders decides to celebrate the International Bodyboarding Day on November 4;