10 boards that shaped the sport

What is the most influential bodyboard of all time?

Guest writer Rob Beaton from VintageBodyboards.com gives us, in his expert opinion, the 10 most influential bodyboards of all time. Of course this list is all open to opinion so let us know what you think. Were there any left out?

Have you ever wondered how your favorite bodyboard came to be? The evolution of the bodyboard has been made possible by the gradual introduction of new designs, concepts, and improvements over time. While many bodyboards have come and gone without much fanfare, others have introduced new features and elements that would forever influence modern bodyboard design.  The ten boards listed below are among the most influential ever.

10 morey 1979

10. Morey Boogie Pro-Line Red Edge

Legacy: Stiffness (1979)

The first significant advancement in bodyboard design came in the form of the Pro­Line Red Edge.  With the polyethylene bottom skin wrapping over top of the rails, it became the first board to introduce double rails. The resulting red pinline that ran the length of the board became the board’s signature look and namesake. 

10 morey 1979 Detail new

The Pro­Line was Morey Boogie’s top of the line board for a few years, as well as the stiffest and fastest board on the market.  Riders quickly realized the correlation between stiffness and speed, making flimsy boards a thing of the past for serious riders.

9 sure Craft 1980

9. Sure Craft North Shore

Legacy: Bottom contours (1980)

The North Shore model from Sure Craft boasted a “tunnel bottom”, making it the first commercially available bodyboard to experiment with bottom contours.  The tunnel bottom looked like reverse channels ­­ rather than concave channels carved into the bottom, there were two convex zones that protruded from the board to redirect the flow of water for better tracking. It was a design favored by dropknee pioneer Jack Lindholm, eventually showing up on his Easy Rider “The Ripper” and Wave Rebel “Jack the Ripper” signature models.

8 Mach 10 1984

8. Morey Boogie Mach 10

Legacy: Stringers (1984)

What word comes to mind when you hear the words “Mach 10”?  If you answered “wingers”, you’re right ­­ but certainly not in the context of this article.  It’s true that the Mach 10 was best known for its contoured wingers (the corny, notched rails that have since been largely dismissed in modern bodyboard design).  A better word to associate with the Mach 10: stringers.  This board’s greatest contribution to bodyboarding was that three stringers ­­ flat strips of fiberglass and graphite ­­ were embedded into the core for rigidity and durability.  The concept of stringers would be duplicated in several other models of the era (most notably the BZ Pro Stinger and Scott Hawaii Wave Stalker) before eventually becoming a common component in modern bodyboards.

7 Mach 20 1987

7. Morey Boogie Mach 20 RS

Legacy: Skegs (1987)

It was one of the most anticipated ­­ and controversial ­­ bodyboards in history.  Skegs were once a popular accessory for bodyboarders who wanted improved steering and control, but many bodyboarders felt that skegs would cause unnecessary drag.  An even worse downside was that spinning maneuvers become impossible with permanently­ installed skegs.  In response to this ongoing dilemma, Morey Boogie released an innovative design that equipped riders with retractable skegs (hence “RS”). 

7 Mach 20 1987 Detail

The twin skegs could be raised or lowered individually with the simple flick of a lever whenever desired ­­ even while riding!  Once retracted, the skegs would vanish completely into its specially designed fin boxes.  The concept seemed great in theory, but it turned out to be completely impractical.  In the end, the greatest legacy of the Mach 20 RS wasn’t the introduction of this new, nifty design.  Quite the opposite: the Mach 20 RS helped settle the debate, proving that maybe skegs weren’t such a great idea after all.

6 TSD 1983

6. Turbo Surf Designs SE

Legacy: Custom bodyboards (1983)

In the early 1980s, Morey Boogie held a near monopoly of the entire bodyboard market. That is, until Russ Brown ­­ better known as Captain Turbo ­­ came along.  Brown’s company, Turbo Surf Designs, gave the bodyboard titan a run for its money with a unique line of incredibly rigid bodyboards.  With features like hard PVC bottoms, fin boxes, and vinyl decks with outrageous silk screened graphics, Turbo offered a vastly different product than the usual Morey Boogie fare with the promise of ultra high performance.  More significantly, Turbo Surf Designs offered a brand new concept: custom bodyboards.  Why settle for a stock model bodyboard off the shelf when you can have a custom board built just for you that will best suit your riding style?  Captain Turbo’s vision of custom made bodyboards would open the doors for many other companies who would later follow suit with great success, including Toobs, Custom X, and Ben Severson Designs.

5 Mach77 1983

5. Morey Boogie Mach 7-7

Legacy: The standard for bodyboard design (1983)

The Mach 7­-7 is the most iconic bodyboard of all time.  The yellow deck, black rails, and orange Surlyn bottom was an instantly­ recognizable, signature look that would grace magazine covers, television commercials, and beaches worldwide.  The charm of the Mach 7­-7 was that it was crafted with a perfect balance of speed, maneuverability, and flex, and the very neutral template was equally well suited for both dropknee and prone riding.  Best of all, the Mach 7­-7 was also extremely affordable ­­ at only $100 AUD in 1989, virtually anyone could get one of the best boards on the market without going broke.  The Mach 7-­7 quickly became the gold standard to which all other bodyboards would be compared.

4 airwaves

4. Airwaves J.P. Model

Legacy: Channels (1986)

While some other companies of the era had been attempting to incorporate channels into their bodyboards, the channels looked like hard­edged grooves haphazardly plowed down the center of the board.  The exception was Airwaves, the first company to truly nail the concept.  At the helm of the company was bodyboarding legend J.P. Patterson, one of the founding fathers of the sport, who used his experience as a rider to design a better bodyboard.  Each Airwaves board was hand shaped with concave rails and a channel bottom that utilized the more refined approach of subtle concaves along the rail near the tail.  Considering that Patterson’s design for functional channels can be found on most bodyboards to this day, it is safe to say that the J.P. Model was way ahead of its time.

3 benboard 1990

3. BZ Ben Board

Legacy: High performance (1990)

It was the right board at the right time.  Ben Severson’s groundbreaking signature model was arguably the first “modern bodyboard”, blending functional design, craftsmanship, and durability to create a high performance masterpiece.  The highlights included a very flat rocker for the era, 50/50 slick skin rails and tail, and a stiff Arcel core.  The Ben Board was one of the first boards to offer multiple sizes for different sized riders, and a wide array of other variations were added over the years. The most notable was perhaps the hydrodynamic work of art known as the Ben T­10 Channel board.  Despite the board’s hefty price tag ($270 AUD in 1990 – ­­ more than double the price of the standard Mach 7­-7), ­­ the Ben Board flew off the shelves and became the most sought­-after board in the BZ lineup.  The Ben Board proved that riders were willing to pay a premium for a top ­of­ the ­line board built for performance.

2 Mach77-g1 1981

2. Morey Boogie Mach 7-7 (First Generation)

Legacy: Slick bottom (1981)

No, you’re not seeing double.  While it is true that the Mach 7-­7 has already been mentioned in this article, the first generation Mach 7-­7 deserves its own separate acknowledgement due to its landmark contribution to bodyboard design: the slick bottom.  The “ion speed” slick skin on the original black­bottomed Mach 7­-7 was perhaps the most significant advance ever seen in bodyboarding.  This revolutionary feature created much less surface drag in the water, giving the Mach the ability to reach unprecedented speeds as compared to its rough­bottomed predecessors.  Any manufacturer worth its salt quickly followed suit, adding slick bottoms to their higher end bodyboards to keep up with the space age Mach 7-­7.  Today, the slick bottom is a standard feature on virtually every bodyboard except entry­-level beginner boards.  Without the speed of a slick bottom, the air­-intensive maneuvers of modern bodyboarding would be an impossibility.

1 morey 1971

1. The Morey Boogie Board

Legacy: The entire sport of bodyboarding (1971)

It stands to reason that the most influential bodyboard of all time is the one that started it all.  With the wild mind of an inventor and a burning desire to go surfing, Tom Morey whittled a spare foam blank into the very first of what would eventually become the world’s most popular surf craft.  The bodyboard has since gone through countless revisions, making the original Boogie Board look primitive when compared to its modern day counterparts.  Yet, in many ways, the bodyboard hasn’t changed that much in the grand scheme of things.  The general outline, size, and rails of modern boards are fairly similar to Morey’s original concept.  Although he envisioned his fun, flexible invention being enjoyed by people of all ages, even Tom Morey himself likely could not have anticipated the emergence of technical, high performance bodyboarding that would soon follow.

What do you think? Are there any other bodyboards that should have made the list? Post your thoughts in the comments section.

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Michael is the Editor-in-Chief at Riptide Bodyboarding and oversees all editorial content on the website and print publications. He currently resides on the Gold Coast where he can be found battling the crowds on the beachbreaks in between chasing up the latest bodyboarding news.