Inside the lives of competitive female bodyboarders

“We won’t ever become as big as standup surfing, but I’m not sure we want to,” explains competitive Australian bodyboarder Emma Cobb, 28. Lauren Frost, 29, chimes in: “We have the most amazing lives on and off the tour doing what we do, and we want to show girls around the world that they, too, could be doing this.” They’re talking about the generalization of bodyboarding as an “unfashionable” and amusing activity—less appealing to the general public than glossier water sports like surfing and SUPing. And it’s the type of generalization they’re aiming to eradicate with their new blog, As We Lay, a study in the lives of Australia’s most formidable competitive bodyboarders. We caught up with the women to find out more about “boogying,” the competitive circuit, and gnarly injuries.

Emma Cobb underwater. Photo courtesy of As We Lay
Emma Cobb underwater. Photo courtesy of As We Lay

Why did you start your blog?

Lauren: It’s about portraying our lives in and out of the water. We want to keep the public up to date with the lifestyles of Australian female bodyboarders; it’s something I’m pretty passionate about on all levels.

Emma: The page is an insight to the lives of women in a sport that doesn’t get a lot of recognition. It’s a sport that has a huge following to a larger number of people but not to a wider community.

How is each of you in terms of rank right now?

Lauren: This was supposed to be my big comeback year, after having the last three off, but so far it’s been a bit of a write-off for me for the World Tour due to injury. I’ve been selected to attend National Titles after finishing second overall in the state. I would like to walk away with a National Title this year, so that is my main focus at the moment. I think I’m sitting fourth on the Aussie Tour, which is OK, but I would like to be a little closer to the top! I am so proud of Emma. This year she has absolutely killed it!

Emma: At the moment I’m only doing the World Tour and focusing on completing the whole thing. I’m sitting first on the rankings at the moment with a first in Chile and a fifth at Pipe, but I have a huge target on my back and there’s a long year ahead. But it’s nice to be at the top considering I’ve only done seven World Tour events in my career.

In the States, bodyboarding is more commonly known as a hobby than a competitive sport—can you tell us about the competitive circuit?

Lauren: I have had some of the best times of my life on the Australian and World Tour. From being second on the world amateur tour to sleeping on a beach in Spain, not knowing where to go next, it’s a life I wouldn’t trade from the world. The girls are like my extended family. Emma and I first met 10 years ago; we have traveled and competed together during that time, and we’ve traveled all over Australia competing and have also traveled together internationally on the World Tour. The number of competitors has gone up and down over the years, but whenever we are all together it’s always a good time.

Emma: So many sports are considered a hobby, which is a shame. The comp scene is interesting—like all sports you have a variety of different competitors: the veterans, the ones who are always in the finals, the groms, the ones who are just happy to be there, and then you have the underdogs. My competitive side has eased as I’ve gotten older; I’m more patient and accepting of circumstances and outcomes, which makes things easier. But no matter what the result I’m just stoked to being able to live the life I do.

How do you train as a bodyboarder?

Emma: I’m a little human, and if I’m not training I lose loads of weight, which when it comes to duck diving I end up a rag doll. I do a lot of surfing, weight training, stretching, and cardio leading up to a competition. In the offseason I still try to maintain a high level of fitness. I have a few injuries that require a lot of support, so I’ve had to make sure I’m always strong to keep them managed and under control.

Lauren: I’m the opposite; I’m naturally a solid build, so for me I need to be quite strict especially if I have an event coming up and my motivation levels haven’t been there in the offseason! That means a low calorie, clean diet. I love doing plyometrics, running, swimming, and interval training. Obviously the more water time the better. Before a competition I will be in the water every day and do lots of core work, too. Flexibility is a big one for bodyboarding, so yoga is quite beneficial, too.

Emma, Lauren and Frankie enjoy the beach. Photo courtesy of As We Lay
Emma, Lauren, and Frankie enjoy the beach. Photo courtesy of As We Lay

Have you ever had a gnarly boogie accident or injury?

Lauren: Not in the water, but in 2008 when we were training in the Philippines prior to the Canary Islands event, I had a motorbike accident. I had to fly back to Australia and got pretty sick with cellulitis (a bacterial skin infection) through the injury. At one stage they were thinking they might have to amputate my leg. That was pretty gnarly! This was the reason I’ve stopped competing for the last three years.

Emma: I had a pretty bad beat down in the Canary Islands. Both my fins were ripped off and my leash made a figure of eight around my ankles making it impossible to go up or down. I came up seeing stars and had feet full of sea urchins. I didn’t think I was going to survive that one! Out of the water, I got kicked playing soccer and dislocated my ankle, which led to two of three ligaments completely rupturing, causing an avulsion fracture. That took a huge toll on life in general. I didn’t surf for almost eight months, lost my job, and had to spend a month on crutches and in an air cast.

You say that there has been a strong generalization of Aussie women in bodyboarding. What is that generalization and how are you helping to clear things up?

Lauren: I think in general, since the “Blue Crush” era, when riding a stick became cool, bodyboarding started to become the daggy alternative to standup surfing. We have some very talented, beautiful, fit, and stylish female bodyboarders in Australia. We are helping to change the perception by using our site to showcase the Australian girls and what we do in and out of the water.

Emma: We have our own little community that we want to share with the world. We’re all doing it for the love, not the money, and that’s what we want to share with people.

For those of us who’ve never tried, what gear do you need to start bodyboarding?

Lauren: A board—as a general rule aim for it to come to your belly button—fins, and a leash! I love riding anything by shaper Jarod Gibson. I ride PP boards with stringer and crescent tails. I’m a huge fan of Dunes Wetsuits. Greg from Dunes helps keep me warm in the cold months and is working on some cool designs for girls. Limited-edition fins for me are the most comfortable!

Emma: A good quality leash, and if you live somewhere were you have to battle the cold water, you’ll need a toasty steamer. I’d have to say my favorite boards at the moment are from my sponsor Nomad. I’m wearing Churchill fins, as they are small enough for my baby feet and for wetties; I’ve been blessed with some sweet suits from Billabong. Currently wearing a 4/3 XERO. Warmest suit I’ve had on!

Lauren Frost surfing a local reef break. Photo courtesy of As We Lay
Lauren Frost surfing a local reef break. Photo courtesy of As We Lay

What is it about bodyboarding that draws you to it?

Lauren: For me, it’s that moment of freedom, when you’re sitting in a barrel and being so close to the energy of the wave. On a whole, I find bodyboarding to be such a grass roots sport; there are no egos and it’s just one big extended family.

Emma: I can’t really pinpoint one thing that draws me to the sport. I’ve tried surfing and it doesn’t click; I like to surf when it’s smaller, but I have this need for speed and flight. I love to draw quick, smooth lines, and if there’s a ramp about I’ll do anything to get amongst it.

So we sound like we know what we’re talking about if we ever get to Australia, what’s some bodyboarding lingo we should know?

Emma: “Frothing” and “sick”!

Lauren: [Laughs] I probably use “frothing” way too much!

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