Getting barrelled is much easier on a bodyboard, fact. It has seen the best proponents of their sport push the limits of deep-tube travel and pioneer many of the heaviest waves on earth, winning huge respect from all corners of the aquatic community in the process. Others, meanwhile, are despised and disrespected in equal measure for attempting to ride their equipment in hollow waves of a more perfect nature. Then there are those who bodyboard and surf better than you. Time now to wallow in aquatic inadequacy, friends.
What a loss to the waterman community Tyson Williams is. The ultra-talented pro bodyboarder and part-time stand-up took his life recently following a long battle with depression. But not before driving both sponge and stick through some of the heaviest barrels on the planet. Tyson, who turned pro at 16, grew up in Manly and rode for Rip Curl and Morey Bodyboards. He won a drop knee world title along with numerous World Tour and National Tour events. He was also one of the original ‘Milo Kids,’ appearing in commercials for the confectionary giant. His passing at the age of 36 means the end of the road for a pioneering cross-over waterman.
Tyson’s stand-up wave at Chopes featured in the clip above reportedly came about after he was lampooned by someone in the channel for riding a bodyboard. He took great offence and immediately paddled to another boat to retrieve his fibreglass surfboard. The spit from Tyson’s wave reportedly gusted the hat off his antagonists head revealing a big dirty patch of devon on his scalp. Heavy.
Nineties Cronulla hard-nut and Shark Island great, Andrew Lester, grew up in close proximity to the pioneers of stand-up slab surfing; the likes of Rusty Moran, Greg ‘Ox’ Mckinley, and Gerry Manion. After winning the Pipe Masters on a boog in 2001, and scoring countless mutant drainers at his beloved Shark Island, he honed his stand-up tube game to an admirable level. An Australian bodyboarding great, Lester now commands waves on a stick at several of the world class slabs that dot his area.
Yamba’s Dan Ryan was diagnosed with depression in 2008 but after being offered prescription drugs as a solution he instead turned to a combination of surfing giant waves, eastern philosophy, meditation, medicine and nutrition. He’s lives in Margaret River now and by last report was working in the mines in the state’s north west. He is a regular at The Right, which is where he first grabbed the two rope and got yanked into the wave you see above. You might also recall his game-changing Chopes beating in 2013 on a boog.
“I used to see him out at The Box a lot pulling into bombs out there, then a few years ago he gained some recognition for paddling into tow-sized waves at Teahupoo on the boog,” recalls leading lensman, Chris Gurney. “Since then I've seen him out at The Right a few times on a surfboard. He doesn't seem too phased about riding different crafts - he has gotten a few of the biggest waves ever ridden out there for sure. Overall I'd say he's a low key guy who is very confident and experienced in the ocean, be it bodyboarding or surfing, paddling or towing,” he says.
Without doubt one of the most tubed humans on the planet. Ryan Hardy is a bodyboarding Pipe Master, an Australian Tour Champion, and the star of countless bodyboarding videos, including the much-loved Tension series. He is also part of a surfing dynasty from the wave-rich Margaret River region in Australia’s South-West, with brothers Gene and Brett among the most respected underground chargers in the area. Ryan’s father is also a well-known shaper in the south west. Just because he can, Ryan often takes the stick out to the wave he made his name on, The Box, and gets spat out of stand-up tubes that have maimed and humiliated some of the world’s best (just ask Miguel Pupo, Adriano De Souza, or Adam Melling).
“The most versatile bodyboarder of all-time,” according to the Bodyboarding Museum. Kainoa Mcgee’s waterman abilities extend to all crafts and corners of the ocean. A longtime rival of Mike Stewart, and the star of countless cover shots through the late eighties and nineties, Kainoa shocked the surfing world in 2010 when he made the semi-finals of Hansen’s Energy Pro WQS contest at Pipeline on a fibreglass surfboard. He knocked out the likes of stand-up legend Shane Beschen on his way there. All after taking up surfing just two years earlier.
Two-time bodyboarding world champion Damian King hails from the self-proclaimed “Bodyboarding capital of the world,” Port Macquarie on the NSW mid-north coast; also the home of Australia’s first bodyboarding world champ, Michael Eppelstun, as well as World Title runner-up, Mick ‘The Ginger Ninja” Campbell. Kingy was also a dropknee world champion, which no doubt feeds into his ability to his impress stand-up surfing prowess. He now uses his bodyboarding profile to sell properties as a real estate agent in Port Macquarie.
Asked to compare the two pursuits, Kingy said, “I don’t think you can really compare them; they are 2 totally different sports and good in their own right and wave conditions. It’s not about what’s better and what’s not – at the end of the day whoever has the most fun in the water wins. From what I’ve experienced, both parties are on equal highs."
"Surfing is fast and fluent, and if you’re a good surfer you’ll be able to surf a lot of the heavier waves in the world. As a grom, what drew me to bodyboarding was the moves that you can do on a wave; it’s more orientated around projecting off the lip, with backflips, 360 airs, barrel rolls, etc. Now that I’m older, I am a little more experienced and my bodyboard allows me to get into some of the world’s heaviest and shallow waves. Because you’re lying on your board, you can free fall into waves when they jack in front of you and get into some positions on waves which would be hard on a surfboard.