I recently had a birthday. My son, Casey, wanted some ideas for a gift. And my practical suggestions, like oven mitts or kitchen knives, would not do. He insisted that a birthday gift should be fun — something that would give me the kind of enjoyment that he gets from Lego sets and skateboards. Something I could play with. Hmmm.
When the day arrived, he presented me with a beautiful blue Boogie Board.
While I was excited about my new toy, there was a part of me that felt foolish about being seen trying it out. I knew that I was physically capable. I was pretty good at bodyboarding a decade ago, when the kid was a preschooler and I didn’t want him in the water alone. When did I start thinking I was too old to do these things?
I knew I still had what it takes — I can still swim and get myself in and out of the water on the ocean side. An internet search turned up this gem from Surfer Today: “Bodyboarding is an exciting experience for kids and a thrilling adventure for the elderly.” Hmmm.
I checked out a few how-to articles for technique tips. Casey thought reading up before going was cringey (a term popular with teenagers to describe the feelings generally caused by parents’ behavior).
Casey was right, of course. It was time for action. I took my board to the ocean and waded in about chest deep. I put my belly on the board and waited for a wave. When I saw one coming, I started to paddle toward the beach to get some momentum, then, once the wave caught me, I rode in toward the shore where I washed up, gently. It’s a wonderful feeling to be swept in by the ocean. I got up and went right back out. Rinse and repeat, as they say. That’s all there is to it. You don’t need lessons.
The physical therapist in me noted that my arms were working as I paddled (lats and triceps). Riding on your belly is a great extension stretch for the back, the perfect antidote to sitting in front of the computer. Every time I got up after riding in, I was doing the up phase of a squat (quads). Paddling and kicking in and out and walking back to the water, my heart rate went up (cardio). This is good exercise, I thought.
But that’s not actually the point. I was doing this because it was fun. Why do we grown-ups so often turn movement into some kind of chore?
Do you need to warm up before you go? For the casual boarder, I’d say no; your typical beach arrival should cover it. If you get there after 9:30 a.m., you will have a nice long walk from the end of the lot and down the dune. You’ll be carrying all your gear, so that should activate your core. As you spread out your towel and take off your T-shirt, you’ll get some range of motion in the arms. Finally, it takes some serious shoulder stretching to apply sunscreen to your back.
If you feel tight after a morning on your board, stretch your shoulders by placing your right hand on your left shoulder and using the left hand to pull the right elbow across your body. To stretch your triceps, raise your right arm overhead, then bend your elbow and reach your hand toward your neck or upper back. You can go deeper by using the left hand to gently pull the right elbow closer to your head. Of course, do both sides for each of these.
But please don’t let your kids catch you stretching in public — that’s totally cringey.