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Bodyboarding is one of the most accessible surf sports. It’s a fantastically fun way to enjoy the waves, but can be dangerous if you’re not properly prepared. Check out our expert advice and safety tips.

Bodyboarding on a large wave

Photo: Shutterstock / Cassiede Alain

Understand the risks and bodyboard safely

British and Irish waters are incredibly unpredictable and one of the biggest dangers with bodyboarding is surfing outside of the red and yellow flag lifeguarded area, outside of lifeguard hours. There are different safety precautions for bodyboarding compared to other activities such as surfing and windsurfing.

RNLI lifeboat crews launched 18 times to bodyboarders in trouble in 2016. In addition, RNLI lifeguards went to the rescue in 883 bodyboarding related incidents. Over half of these incidents involved people caught in rip currents

Taking some simple steps to stay safe will reduce your chances of getting into trouble and help you get the most out of the sport you love.

Seven simple checks for safe bodyboarding

  • Always bodyboard between the red and yellow flags. It’s easy to be caught out in the sea.
  • Wear your leash and hold onto your board if you get into trouble - it will help you float.
  • Bodyboard with a mate, especially in big swell. Look out for one another.
  • Remember to check your equipment for damage before use.
  • Check the local forecast for wind, tide and swell. Don’t go on the water in conditions above your capability.
  • Consider other water users.
  • Follow safety advice from the lifeguards.

You’ll need the following kit to get started: 


When selecting a board you need to consider your height, weight and ability. When starting out, a soft foam board is ideal as it is thick and wide, making it easier to float, paddle and catch waves.


Always wear one, normally around the wrist or bicep, so you don't lose your board if you fall off!


Apply this to the deck of your board to give you grip.


These are vital when bodyboarding to help you catch waves and swim against strong currents.

Bodyboarding safety: Useful links and resources

Figures are taken from:

  • The National Water Safety Forum's Water Incident Database (WAID) 2011-15.
  • RNLI 2020 incident data.

Don't be a statistic

19 Lifeboat launches to bodyboarders in 2020

1,908 Bodyboarding incidents attended by lifeguards in 2020