April 25, 2014 - We are in the midst of a bodyboarding resurgence. Though the IBA (Int’l Bodyboarding Association) faltered this past year, the APB (Association of Professional Bodyboarders) has fully taken over. Backed by the likes of Jeff Hubbard and the iconic Mike Stewart, it promises to be the organization bodyboarding needs to re-establish its pro ranks and bring in the money . Additionally, groms are taking to the sport in greater numbers than ever before. But even more importantly, the bodyboard is finding its place among surfers’ quivers.
It was way back in 2005 when Clark Foam abruptly closed its doors, essentially cutting the knees out of every board maker in the industry. At first, chaos ensued and everyone thought life was over as we knew it. But time would prove just the opposite. New sources of foam grew from the depths and garage shapers rose up like they hadn’t been permitted to in decades. With the garage shapers came experimental designs that pushed the limits of length, number of skegs, rocker and concave. Overnight, there were no rules and ideas flowed like the Mississippi. As a result, quivers grew with boards that specialized in all types of conditions and styles. Single-fins got cool again, while quads became the go-to on the world tour. Look around the beach now on a good swell and you’ll notice that virtually anything goes, even $250 handplanes.
Jeff Hubbard launching.
The bodyboard has become the latest chapter in the quiver because it’s simply the one piece that’s missing in most. Don’t believe me? Try surfing a shallow overhead drainer that’s tough to outrun on a surfboard and see how much fun it is. Then take out a bodyboard. You’ll feel like a slice of butter in a frying pan, sliding in and out of sections that would be unnavigable on a 6ft strip of fiberglass. And that’s only the beginning. The open-minded start to see perfect windows for bodyboarding that don’t fly for surfing and the world opens up like never before imagined, which means more waves. And, in case you didn’t know, more waves are good.
Bodyboarding will gain more of a presence in our surfing lives and the person most responsible for the present resurgence is the already legendary, Jeff Hubbard. 3 World Titles, 4 Pipe Wins, 11 U.S. National wins, stereotypical California good looks, a massive air repertoire and balls the size of Kim Kardashian’s ass combine to make Hubbard the MAN right now. But that only hints at why he’s the guy in pole position. He’s a driven, accessible, wave freak that has a serious approach to wave riding and he’s channeling that energy towards his business () and a multitude of ways to further the sport he loves. For starters, he launched BBR Mag (in ’05) with the late Eddie Solomon, took on the daunting task of launching the APB and keeps the world guessing what sick air-thingy he’ll pull off next.
Jeff Hubbard in the winner's circle.
But drive and talent ain’t always enough, no matter who you are. There’s a million brilliant wave riders out there (just look at the WQS ranks). There’s got to be that X factor that makes the difference. Jeff’s revolves around the fact that he’s one smart bugger. Asked what a grom can do to improve his chances to make a career out of bodyboarding, Jeff replied with “Go to school to learn as much as you can so you can translate that into all aspects of your career. Everyone has talent these days. It’s going to be those that can differentiate themselves from the pack that will be the most successful.” Read that again. He didn’t say, “a killer air game” or “more water time.” He said school with all its lessons, inspirations and perspectives. The desire and ability to constantly learn has set great athletes apart from the pack since the beginning of time. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Slater, Cal Ripken Jr all relied on the power of endlessly learning to further their careers and constantly rise above the rest. If I was Jeff’s competitor, that quote alone would keep me up at night.
I’d be remiss to also mention that he’s the most conscientious athlete I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. I’ve never had someone so responsive, so on it with regards to setting up our interview and supplying supplemental materials. Here’s a guy in great demand and yet he responded to our request within 24 hours. No ego. No pomp and circumstance. Just action. And speaking of action, he’s definitely the kind of guy that let’s ‘em speak louder than words. Watch him in the water and every notion you ever had about riding waves shatters like a dropped glass.
Below is a few minutes with Jeff. Enjoy!
Jeff threading through a pit.
After all these years, 3 world titles, 4 Pipe titles, etc, what does bodyboarding mean to you? What spoke to you about it when you first started?
Bodyboarding has been my life and passion for close to 25 years now. The fun that I had riding with my friends at the beach when I first started and watching all the older kids doing these crazy moves really hooked me.
What/Who inspires you?
Getting to ride great waves with only a few friends--whether it’s in a contest or free surfing. Also, watching great athletes perform is always inspiring.
What's the state of bodyboarding today and where do you want to see it go?
The state of bodyboarding is strong, as I see it. The amount of young kids [getting into] bodyboarding is really high worldwide. The level of riding for all ages is higher than ever. The amount of professional riders is high but the amount of professionals making a living solely from wave riding is relatively low. I would like to see it continue to grow so the young kids coming up can enjoy the experiences that I have been fortunate enough to have.
Given the typical bend towards the "NOW" in sports, why the nod to legends like Severson, Sasaki, Stewart etc in BBR Mag?
We need to give the new bodyboarders some history, as bodyboarding is such a young sport. It’s important to solidify our roots. With print magazines being so slow with new information it seems prudent to focus on the past as well.
What's next for you and Dave w/ your careers and businesses?
I am just focusing on growing our brand Hubboards at the moment, chasing epic swells with my brother Dave and competing at the highest level possible.
Thanks for your time, Jeff, and all the best with all your endeavors!