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Bodysurfing heats up Oceanside

 Kevin Coniff  rides a wave during the World Bodysurfing Championships at the Oceanside Pier on Saturday.
Kevin Coniff rides a wave during the World Bodysurfing Championships at the Oceanside Pier on Saturday. Hayne Palmour IV

A soaked Rod Pearce sat on the beach just south of the Oceanside Pier, looked up at his granddaughter and asked, “You see the wave I caught?”

Pearce, 62, caught that wave Saturday without the help of a surfboard or boogie board. Instead, a pair of fins was the lone piece of equipment Pearce used in a 15-minute heat on the first day of the 38th annual World Bodysurfing Championships, held beyond the breaks on both sides of the pier.

The Imperial Beach resident joined about 300 other men and 50 women, ages 12 and up, for the bodysurfing championships, which conclude today. The competition, while historic, has seen increases in registration in the last few years as bodysurfing has gained some popularity, attracting participants from as far as France, Australia and Brazil.

“Bodysurfing is as pure as you can get of a sport,” said Tim Casinelli, the competition’s director. “Basically, it’s you and wave. You’re in the wave, you can even go underwater and do things like dolphins do. It’s very pure in that sense and it’s something that’s really easy to do.”

Casinelli, originally from San Diego but now living in Bend, Ore., said bodysurfing doesn’t have the big money sponsorships like traditional surfing, in which a competitor would get hundreds of thousands of dollars from a major company to use their products across the globe. The sport attracts everyday people with regular jobs, from lifeguards to doctors to waiters.

Vince Askey, 57, a real-estate agent and member of the Del Mar Body Surfing Club, said he took up bodysurfing because traditional surfing became too difficult physically.

“Bodysurfing is a lot simpler, you can just grab your fins and go. You don’t have to lug stuff around,” said Askey, who bodysurfed earlier this year despite a fractured hip that had yet to be diagnosed. “The only thing that can hurt you is the bottom. Nobody really drowns when they get tumbled around. Beginners tend to panic when they get pushed under but you’re really only under water for five to 10 seconds.”

Spectators lined both sides of the Oceanside Pier on Saturday to see the heats for the men, and the practice rounds for the women. The female competitors automatically advanced to the Sunday semifinal because there aren’t as many participants.

Joanne Saul, 56, an Apple Valley resident participating for the sixth year, said a lot of the women who attend tend to be the same each time.

“If we didn’t come nobody would. You’ve got to try to keep it going. Who wants to see all guys out there?” Saul said. “It’s nice the guys can do it but it’s nice to see women doing it too, and young girls.”

Askey said the sport has recently attracted more young people because of recent media attention, the Internet and the emergence of clubs.

Of course, there are also the veterans like Pearce who have been bodysurfing for generations. Pearce, competing in the 55- to 64-year-old division, said after his heat that he’s been coming to the Oceanside competition since its infancy in the 1970s.

“All these guys, they were young men when I started,” he said. “It’s interesting to see them all. We’re all oldies now.”

The contest picks up at 6 a.m. Sunday, with finals for women starting at 12:55 p.m. and the men at 1:20 p.m. at the pier. An awards presentation takes place at 1:50 p.m.

Tips for beginners

Bodysurfing tips

• Find a gentle sloping beach that allows you to wade out into the water for some distance.

• Find 1- to 4-foot waves and avoid those that crash close to shore, or at a beach with a sharp drop off. Crashing waves near the shore can lead to injuries.

• In waist- to chest-deep water, you can push off the ocean floor, start stroking toward shore and angle down the face of the coming wave. In deeper water, swim fins will help you gain enough speed to catch the wave. The trick is to get your head and shoulders below your hips and legs, to shift center of balance downward.

• If you see a wave coming and don’t want to catch it, drop the shoulder that faces the wave. This turns your body into the wave and pushes you out back.

Source: thesurfingsite.com

 
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