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Boogie Board vs Bodyboard

   August 15th, 2023   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

Boogie board vs bodyboard… what’s the difference? I get this question a lot because I am both an avid bodyboarder and boogie boarder. How can that be? It’s because they are pretty much the same thing. Both mean riding a foam board on your stomach on waves at the beach. The truth is, either term works. But I am going to point out some facts about the terminology and why the two words even exist.

The Quick Explanation

Boogie board vs bodyboard can be quickly explained by examining the names ‘scotch tape’ or ‘kleenex’. Both are names of brands but they commonly get used to describe the same product from other brands. It might be called ‘invisible tape’ or ‘facial tissue’ on the label of another brand but you still call it ‘scotch tape’ or ‘kleenex.’

It’s the same in this case as well. Boogie Board is a brand name and once it was trademarked other companies were forced to market their versions as ‘bodyboards.’ So to most of us, who don’t really care about legal trademarks, we can call them boogie boards or bodyboards. But there is more to the story.

The History

Debating over boogie board vs bodyboard starts with the story of the brand name. The ‘Boogie Board’ dates back to 1971 when Tom Morey Invented it in Hawaii. It started gaining so much popularity that a toy company in California bought the name, trademarked it, and started mass-producing the boards. Boogie boarding got so popular by the late ’70s that other companies started making the same boards. But the only way they could legally sell them is by calling them bodyboards. 

Since then, there has been a lot of confusion. Most everyone in the surfing community knows that there is no big difference in the terms boogie boards vs bodyboards. However, when people who are not very familiar with watersports ask what I am doing I always say boogie boarding over bodyboarding.

The reason is, the brand Boogie Board was pushed so well by some genius marketers that 50 years later the name still comes to mind to millions of people. You can see some of the marketing strategies in this Morey Boogie commercial from the ‘80s.

Something Else That Causes Confusion

In the debate over boogie boards vs bodyboards, we should note that surfing is actually the most popular of all the sports that involve riding waves. Surfing obviously is a person standing on a longer board with a fin.

There is also ‘bodysurfing’ which often gets confused with ‘bodyboarding.’ They are two different things. Bodysurfing is riding a wave with no board or maybe a small paddle-like board that is no more than a foot and a half long. 

When I tell some people that I am going bodyboarding they automatically assume I am bodysurfing and not using a board. That is why it is just easier to tell people that I am going to go boogie boarding. Thanks to those genius marketers everyone knows what I mean. To keep things simple, I just tell people I am going surfing so I can get to the waves sooner and avoid a history lesson on terminology.

Time Has Created Differences

Decades tend to have an impact on everything in life and that is certainly true in the debate between boogie boards vs bodyboards. Since its inception, the sport has evolved to include everyone from 5-year-olds riding the white water on a boogie board they bought at Walgreens, to professionals who are riding ultra-light $400 bodyboards that allow them to catch air off the lips of 10-foot waves.

The reality is, the term boogie board is now much more associated with a play-like feel. It’s a beach toy. It’s made for people of all ages who just want to paddle around casually in the surf. Boogie boarding is more widespread because cheap boogie boards can cost as little as $10 dollars. That makes it easy for people to buy them even if they might only use them once or twice a year. Higher-end bodyboards, on the other hand, will cost between $150 to $450.

Let’s Get Serious

Say this out loud, “boogie board vs bodyboard”. Don’t you hear that the term bodyboarding just sounds much more serious and intense? That is because it is. Bodyboarding should be considered the serious version of boogie boarding. Pros or enthusiasts who are doing tricks or catching larger waves all call themselves bodyboarders. All contests in the sport are labeled bodyboarding contests. There are no boogie boarding magazines just bodyboarding magazines. You go to a week-long camp to learn how to bodyboard not boogie board.


The bottom line is, anytime you are looking at the sport in a serious nature you should call it bodyboarding. The truth is though, that the debate over boogie boarding vs bodyboarding will never go away because not everyone lives by the beach and is immersed in surf culture like some of us lucky ones are. But at least now you will know the differences and feel more confident in whether you are either a boogie boarder or a bodyboarder, or both! Happy shredding!

Editor’s Note

This post was originally published in 2021 and has since been reviewed and updated. (8/23)

Wes Severson is a fitness enthusiast and bodyboarder from San Francisco, CA who is always at Ocean Beach hitting the waves. He is also an Emmy Award-winning broadcast news writer and producer and a recording artist who goes by the name Wes Magic.

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