Jessica Festa talks up Aruba’s #1 drop-knee bodyboarder.

AS WITH MOST surfers, bodyboarding for Jonathan Boekhoudt, Aruba’s top-ranked drop knee competitor, is a way of life. Now that he’s going for the Open Division title, Boekhoudt talked to me about the sport, what drives him, and how others can also become pro-boarders.

[JF]: What is the name and division of the bodyboarding team you’re a part of?

[JB]: The team is the Aruba Bodyboarding Association and the Drop Knee division.

When did you begin bodyboarding?

I began bodyboarding in 1992 at age 12. I was introduced into the bodyboarding world by some school mates. At first I wasn’t allowed to go bodyboarding because my parents thought that I would drown. I almost did drown a couple of times, by the way. I had my board and fins at my neighbors house who was also into the sport and together we used to sneak away and walk 45 minutes to get to our break and back. Nowadays, I just need to ask permission from my wife to go surfing.

What inspired you to take your love of bodyboarding to the next level and try out for a competitive team?
It has been 3 years now that I have been competing constantly in the local competitions. I consider myself to be a free surfer which is basically someone that surfs just for the love of the sport and is not interested in competitions.

You hold the title of #1 in Aruba’s Drop Knee Division for bodyboarding. What do you think helped you get to this point and what does it feel like to attain such a title?

Yeap. I feel truly inspired by my wife Kim and son Matthew. Also, my surfing buddies who are always pushing me to a higher level in bodyboarding using peer pressure! Like for example, if you’re at the right spot and for some reason you let the biggest wave of the set go unridden or you failed to hit the best section of the wave doing whatever kind of maneuver, they’ll be like “Come on dude! You can do better!”

How do you get yourself pumped up for a bodyboarding competition?

I try to be as calm as a bomb, awaiting to explode!

Have you held any other titles in bodyboarding? Are there any you are working to attain?

No, so far just the number 1 ranked in Drop Knee in Aruba. I would love to win the Open Division. I have proven myself in the drop knee division already and I think it is time for me to show that I am game in the Open, or Prone, Division as well.

Is there a team aspect to bodyboarding or is it solely a competition for the individual?

It is a very competitive and an individual sport. [However], Aruba Bodyboarding Association has in total 70 members. Whenever we go compete abroad or organize a local competition we come together as a team, supporting each other and working together for a successful event or competition.

What are the different divisions in bodyboarding and how do they differ?

Bodyboarding is broken down into two styles of riding. One is prone, which is riding the wave laying with your belly on the board and controlling it with both your hands.

[The second is] Drop knee, riding the wave with one knee on the board and one foot in front.

Here in Aruba, we know three to four divisions, Men’s Open Division, which is 18 years and up, the Junior Division, 17 years and below, and the Drop Knee Division, with no specific age. The fourth is the Women’s Division. Most of the time we skip that division due to lack of participants.

Photo: m.toyama

How do you train for a bodyboarding competition?

Jogging, strength exercises and breathing exercises. Strength training is basically just weightlifting exercises. Breathing exercises include sitting down very relaxed and going through these inhale and exhale exercises and being one with yourself.

What is the biggest challenge for you when bodyboarding?

I try to retain my composure in whatever situation the ocean throws at me. The scariest situation for me is going over the falls on a big wave and getting wiped out. This involves getting trashed around and being held under water for quite a long time.

What is your favorite part about bodyboarding?

My favorite part has to be getting barreled. Getting barreled, also known as tube riding, is one of the hardest things to do in bodyboarding. Typically only expert bodyboarders will ever see inside the “green room” deep in a barrel.

Typically you will want to make the drop as late as possible to allow the wave to barrel. If the barrel is forming behind you, try stalling the board so the tube catches up with you. The rest is just trying to make it out of the barrel before it catches up with you to deep inside and wipes you out.

Are there any professional bodyboarders in particular that you look up to?

My favorite pro riders are Mitch Rawlins, Pierre Louise Costes, Jeff Hubbard, Mike Stewart and the Drop knee King, Paul Roach. Here in Aruba, Jeremy Loefstok, Randolph Kock, Greggy Wouters and Joshua Kelly.

What are your favorite bodyboarding destinations?

So far, it has to be Playa Zicatela, Mexico and Arica, Chile. Playa Zicatela is better known as the Mexican Pipeline, like in Pipeline Hawaii. It is a heavy and dangerous beach break with constant morning offshore winds, making it one of the best barreling waves on the planet. In Arica, the spot is called “ El Gringo” or the Chilean Pipeline.

In comparison to Playa Zicatela, El Gringo is a reef break with no sandy bottom. The reef is packed with sea urchins and very sharp barnacles making it a very sketchy spot. Offshore winds makes the wave suck on the reef creating the best barreling wave in Chile.

What advice would you give someone just starting out bodyboarding?

Never panic, respect the ocean and most important, respect the locals at their home break. If you are visiting, paddle out with respect to the people already surfing there. Start your session on the inside section, work your way to the peak slowly. Never drop in on anyone!