Handsurfing - why you should try it on your next beach vacation

Pretty much every person has a more or less accurate idea of what surfing looks like: you lie on a board, paddle when a wave is coming, stand up on the board and ride the wave. What hand surfing is all about, however, is probably still unknown to many. In recent years, hand surfing has become very popular in surfing hotspots such as Australia, California and Hawaii.

handsurfing two46 handplane handboard

The great thing about handsurfing?

For one thing, it requires minimal equipment. Everything you need can be stored in a backpack, which can save you extra money when traveling. Secondly, it's super easy to learn, even without prior surfing experience. In the following, we'll not only explain what hand surfing is all about, but also how you can get started and what you need to keep in mind to make your surf session a complete success.

What is handsurfing exactly?

Handsurfing is a form of body surfing. In bodysurfing, you either plunge into the waves with no equipment and virtually transform your own body into a surfboard or lay on a so-called body surfboard. If you use a handboard or handplane for bodysurfing, you are talking about handsurfing. The handplane is a small, about 30 cm long surfboard, which is attached with a strap to one hand (usually the dominant hand). Such a handplane makes it easier to glide on the wave, which allows you to surf faster, more controlled and often longer than with pure bodysurfing without equipment.

The cool thing about hand surfing is that you can do it anytime and anywhere, no matter if the waves are too small or too chaotic for real surfing. Therefore, it is also suitable as an excellent surf alternative on such days. Since you are not standing on the wave when hand surfing, the waves feel bigger and the chance of surfing through a barrel is a lot higher than when surfing on a board.

What do you need for hand surfing?

Before you can start hand surfing, you first need a handboard. There are many different shapes, sizes and materials from which you can choose. For beginners, similar to surfing, a larger and lighter handplane is recommended.

In cold weather, it is also advisable to wear a well-fitting wetsuit. This not only keeps you warm, it also protects you from minor injuries and possible sunburn.

In general, sandy beaches are best suited for hand surfing, because the risk of injury is much lower than, for example, on a coral reef. For beginners, smaller waves (1-3ft) that break over a longer period are best. For your first attempts, stay in an area where you can still stand on your feet.

If the waves at your spot are very big or the water is deep, you should also take flippers. They are typically quite short and have a fixed blade. However, you don't necessarily need them for your first attempts at shallow spots. In fact, it's often easier to leave the fins on the beach.

So what exactly do you need to do to handsurf?

Handsurfing is a full body workout. Therefore, as in every sport, it's important to warm up before you get in the water. After that, you can start surfing.

Step 1: Fix your hand plane on your dominant hand. Your hand palm should be facing down. The strap should be tight so you don't lose the handsurfboard in the water.

Step 2: Next, paddle out into waist-deep to shoulder-deep water. To surf waves, turn towards the beach, but keep an eye on the waves over your shoulder. If you see a wave you want to surf, start the next step.

Step 3: Position the arm (the one with the handsurfboard) stretched out in front of you. If the wave is still about 3-4 meters away from you, lie flat in the water and start kicking with your feet. With your free arm you can also do a crawl to swim even faster. When you feel the wave lifting you, kick again hard and stretch your body.

Step 4: If everything went well, surf the wave. Keep your arm stretched out in a Superman pose. Hold yourself up on your handplane. The harder you push against it, the more you lift your upper body out of the water and the faster you surf. In the beginning you will probably surf straight towards the beach on the wave. However, as time goes by, you can try surfing the wave to the right or left, as this will lengthen your ride.

Alternatively, you can wait for the moment when the wave just reaches you. Then turn towards the beach and jump into the wave by simply pushing yourself off the ground. The rest of the steps remain the same.

What dangers do you need to be aware of when hand surfing?

If you know what you are doing, handsurfing is not one of the particularly dangerous sports . Therefore, you should consider a few things before you jump into the waves.

It's important that you know the spot where you want to go hand surfing well beforehand. Make sure that there are no rocks or other dangerous objects under the water that you could collide with while surfing.

In addition, you should know about currents at your spot, because they can also be dangerous if you are not careful. When you are in the water, you should look for a fixed point on land. This way you can see immediately if you are drifting and can react quickly. Therefore, it is best not to go hand surfing alone, especially if it is your first attempt. When doing ocean activities, it is always good to have a partner with you or at least swim in a guarded swimming zone.

However, the most common danger is collisions with surfboards or other people in the waves. Therefore, before your ride, judge whether you have a clear path. If you are surfing towards an obstacle, you can try to get out of the wave.

Are there suitable spots in Europe?

The most famous spots for body and hand surfing are in California, Australia, Brazil and Hawaii. At "Point Panic" in Hawaii it is even forbidden to surf with a surfboard, it is a pure bodysurf beach. However, since hand surfing does not require particularly large and clean waves, it is actually possible everywhere where there are waves.

In general, beaches where you can learn surfing are also great spots for bodysurfing. And luckily there are plenty of them in Europe. Here is a small selection:

  • San Sebastian in Spain
  • Hossegor and Lancanau on the French Atlantic Coast
  • Ericeira and Caravelos in Portugal
  • the Canary Islands

There are, of course, many more places where you can go handsurfing. On the south-west coast of England, for example, there is a surf school in Cornwall that offers a special handsurfing course. On the German North Sea coast there are also small surf communities, for example on Sylt or the East Frisian Islands. Also here you are in good hands as a handsurfer.

So, are you ready for hand surfing? Go for it and take a look at our online shop. 

January 14, 2022
Tags: Sports