May 18, 2020 4 min read

We have been stoked to have the support and enthusiasm of Brazil's most genial bodysurfer over the last year or so.
Leticia Parada is as enthusiastic about bodysurfing as pretty much anyone we've ever known. Not only is she in the ocean in every available moment, she also creates videos and blogs to share the skills, equipment reviews and sheer joy of the kaha nalu.
In Leticia's first guest blog, she shares her thoughts on the history, pleasure and art of bodysurfing:

Surely you have tried, or at least seen someone, riding the wave with his own body? Popularly known by many here in Brazil as “alligator” or “chest surfing”, bodysurfing is one of the oldest water sports in humanity. It is the most fundamental way to surf, using your own bodyto catch waves and have fun in the sea.

Undoubtedly, bodysurfing is one of the most basic ways to surf, but interestingly it is difficult to find reliable documents that are able to report with accuracy when people started practicing this sport. What is known is that traditional surfing, according to anthropologists at the University of Hawaii, would have appeared at least around 2,000 BC, and that Hawaiians certainly practiced bodysurfing before creating surfboards.

There are reports that British captain James Cook, first European to have contact with the Polynesian islands. He arrived in Tahiti in 1777 and witnessed the natives gliding on the waves, with planes, canoes and the body itself.

Cook then went on his journey in search of a new route from the North Pacific to the Atlantic. After almost a year without success, the captain decided to return and make the first European visit registered to the Hawaiian Islands. He and his crew arrived in Hawaii in 1778, and the records made show how deeply rooted all manner of surfing was in the culture of this people, being much more than a sports practice, sliding over the waves was associated with royalty and  religious practices.

According to these records, the bodysurf started as a reflection or mimicry of the movements that some animals did in the sea. People stayed in the sand and in the water observing the behavior mainly of dolphins, but also of seals and then they tried to reproduce some movements.

Since that time, shipping and trade routes meant that people both shared their own cultures and learned about different ones. Quickly bodysurfing started to be practiced in several places in the world. What also facilitated this spread of the sport was the fact that it was so simple and it did not need equipment.

Then, of course, the duck foot [fin or flipper] was invented and bodysurfers started using this equipment. Over the years, bodysurfing developed, in 1931 a guide book for bodysurfing was published, followed in the coming decades by films and documentaries have also been released, as well as bodysurfing championships were held in California and in its likely birthplace, Hawaii - or more specifically, at Pipeline.

There are still no professional bodysurf athletes, but some have embraced the sport completely, expanding it beyond the ocean and cultivating a lifestyle and career around bodysurfing. This is the case of the Brazilian bodysurfer Henrique Pistilli, the Fish Man, who impressed the world by surfing the five most dangerous waves in the world with only fins. In fact, last year I was able to meet the Homem Peixe in person and interviewed him for the Ela No Mar TV channel.

Pistilli spends much of his day in Praia da Cacimba do Padre, in Fernando de Noronha, same place where he recorded some episodes of the “Homem Peixe” program of Canal OFF. No wonder the number of Brazilian fans of bodysurfing grew so rapidly! Henrique's skill and reputation reverbarated throughout Brazil's surfing community.

On the other hand, a young and notorious exponent has attracted the eyes of the world, even beyond bodysurfing. Kalani Lattanzi was born in Hawaii, more precisely on the island of Maui, but it was in the waves of Itacoatiara, in Rio de Janeiro, where he grew up and became an excellent waterman - bodysurfing, bodyboarding and surfing. It was not enough to face the heavy waves of Itacoatiara. Kalani challenged wave of giant swells in Puerto Escondido, Mexico,
before venturing to Portugal and taming the immense waves of Nazaré.

When it comes to bodysurfing, it’s impossible not to mention the legends Mark Cunningham and Mike Stewart, who contributed - and continue to contribute - to the expansion of bodysurfing worldwide. Two fantastic, well-known bodysurfers for the countless tubes that they have already surfed on Pipeline, as well as many other famous peaks.

Another legend is none other than Mel Thoman, one of the longest-standing locals at The Wedge in Newport Beach, a dangerous wave that requires a lot of reading and ... courage! After all, surfing a wave of 35 to 40 feet with nothing but your body is not for everyone, but Mel has done it a thousand times or more.

Brazilian Briguitte Linn is a strong name amongst the female bodysurfers of the world who has been active on the scene for many years. She has competed several times in the Oceanside Bodysurfing Championships, reaching the finals, as well as in Pipeline in Hawaii.At home in Brazil, she has dominated competitive events, as well as competing together with her daughter Alice Latuf, a talented bodysurfer in her own right.

Briguitte is a courageous woman who has has traveled the world looking for the best waves and has inspired the younger generations, including men.

Speaking of the younger generations, it is impossible not to mention Gabriella Matos who, at the age of 14, won the 2019 Kpaloa Brazilian Bodysurf Circuit.

In the international scenario, Makena Magro from Oceanside has already been crowned three times world champion and [Garage Handplanes ambassador] Meredith Rose four times in her category, outstanding deeds. Little by little, women are gaining great respect and renown in this wonderful sport.

Bodysurfing is becoming more popular by the day and has spread to all corners of the world. After all, traveling carrying only a pair of fins is fantastic, isn't it? It is simple to practice bodysurfing by yourself and enjoy the sea in a more intimate and simplistic way.

That's the spirit. Aloha, see you next time!

Text written by: Leticia Parada |

First published: Aloha Spirit Club |