12 of the best in no particular order.
Above: Yamba native turned West Oz hellman Dan Ryan on his second ever tow wave, South Oz. From our profile on the man in Riptide #195. Yeah, it’s not dropknee but it’s pretty damn versatile. Photo: Nick Bannehr
Ah, the always controversial list post! Such debate! The last one of these we pumped out was on bodyboarding brothers and the Facebook feed lit up with all the ones we forgot to include – The Ormerods? Rigbys? Showells? You guys are fucking tripping?! It was epic. Y’see the great thing about these posts is we’re not actually ranking the riders in order, we’re just collating our select fave few in a list, and the feedback and debate about who should and shouldn’t have been included is the wonderful byproduct. We love to hear your views and arguments about what makes good bodyboarding and we’re certain the rest of our readers want to read ’em (and debate ’em with their picks) too. Before we get into the Top 10 let’s run with another disclaimer – the riders we nearly included in the list.
Timely shout-outs are due to the riders (and there are too many to list) who ride a bodyboard and a surfboard well. Just a few days ago we saw one of the best images of the year taken by a soft-top riding Jase Finlay in a South Coast tube, and having seen Jase soul jiving on a stick in the Mentwais during Riptide’s Experiment 7 with our own eyes we can vouch that he’s a natural on the longer craft too. You could chuck in guys like madman Dan Ryan (pictured above) and multi-craft lovers/shredders such as Heydon “Da Boogie Man” Bunting and the UK’s Jack Johns. Then you’ve also got the prone bigwigs who are just annoyingly talented on the knee too, such as Ryan Hardy, Amaury Lavernhe and Joe Clarke. Other shout-out’s must go to other multi-disciplined riders such Mike Stewart, Chris Won and Jake Stone. Mike, of course, has a similar standing in the sport of bodysurfing as he does with booging (and with about a dozen world titles to boot), Chris Won was and is a hellman – you might say largely in the stand-up booging and dropknee realms rather than prone – while Jake Stone’s game on four wheels (and Chris White’s for that matter) speaks of his versatility, for sure. But in this list let us look squarely at the riders of foam, with a longing in our hearts about the days when seemingly every rider was both a prone and DK junkie. Special mentions also to all the guys and gals we’re bound to have missed – Tyson Williams, Ben Holland, Kira Llewellyn, etc. – let us know your fave missing versatile riders!
Well, you just knew this guy was gonna be on the list, huh? While the spotlight was firmly on the Kauaian in his younger years purely for his fluent and powerful DK skills, in recent years Dave’s upped his prone level to a point where his air game’s looking pretty damn similar to that of his bro Jeff. Want proof? Go give Hubboards (The Movie) another spin and tell us he’s not one of the most versatile ever. Alongside winning a swag of DK World Titles and Riptide Dropkneer of the Year awards in recent years, Dave’s managed to threaten the pointy end of many contests in the prone world tour (taking his first prone win at Sintra this year) and just recently edged his way into the Top 25 of the Riptide Bodyboarder of the Year prone list. On top of all that he’s one of the few guys in the world committed to the art of stand-up bodyboarding.
Above: Kyle Maligro, standard. Photo: Bodyboard Museum
Part of the iconic (and versatile) Kauai Classic team in the late 80s and early 90s before blowing up in earnest for the next decade, Kyle is one of the most creative and unpredictable riders to have ever picked up a bodyboard. Armed with a vast aerial repetoire, a vicious and diverse dropknee attack and insane stand-up booging skills, the great thing about Kyle (aside from his op shop clothing ethic and multi-coloured hairstyles) was the fact you never knew what the hell he was gonna do when he took off on a wave – something that some might argue can be lacking in this age of cregs and perfect style. We also challenge you to find a rider who looks like they have more fun in the water than Maligro.
Above: Sacha Specker in flight. Photo: Nick Bannehr (from Riptide #194)
Casting our eyes once again towards the current generation of riders flying the flag for both prone and the knee it’s hard to go past South Africa’s Sacha Specker. The 2012 Dropknee World Champ is consistently singled out as one of the top three or four guys riding Jack-stance on Earth, and also signalled to the boog community that he’s a world-class prone performer that year too by qualifying for the 2013 IBA World Tour Top 24 (after an impressive showing in the 2012 Fronton contest). Unfortunately for Spex, the IBA walls crumbled throughout 2013, which didn’t give us a proper chance to see how he would’ve fared in a full year on tour, but we’d like to think he would’ve ruffled a few feathers.
The three-time World Champ (2 x prone, 1 x dropknee) from Port Macquarie is another gimme on this list and his 2011 Dropknee World Title made him the first ever rider to capture the crown in both prone and DK – icing on the cake for a stellar career you might say. Kingy’s reportedly riding a stand-up more often now (in between boogs when the waves are pumping), plus he’s busy with his new role as a real estate agent so we don’t get to see as much of The King as we used to, but turn on any old Kingy section and it’s easy to get just as amped when he swings the leg over as he does jamming out his patented style of delicious prone pocket surfing.
Above: Fred Booth and a classic Off The Wall carve from an old Riptide Shooting Gallery. Photo: Joseph Libby
Hawaii’s Fred Booth is an interesting, somewhat quiet cat whose formidable skills prone and both sides dropknee were a product of the heavy reefs the islands have to offer. Any content featuring Fred during the 90s – largely on his signature Custom X “Quest” boards – typically featured him doing something MASSIVE or steezy or both, and he was an early guy to eschew the contest route – preferring instead to just surf perfect waves on the North Shore while cameras documented every air, tube and slash (which was epic for us).
Above: Winny in the Mentawais for Riptide’s Experiment 7. Photo: Nick Bannehr
Another obvious inclusion on the list, Winny’s prone riding skills are too obvious to delve into here, but it’s his dropknee that perhaps needs some mention. Riptide saw firsthand the man’s DK nous during the 2012 Riptide Experiment in the Mentawai islands and we can vouch for the fact the man simply doesn’t fall off, such is his control (not to mention style) when busting moves Jack-stance. It only takes a few appearances of Winny on the knee each year – think his Dbah Pro win over Matt Lackey in April or last month’s Spitfire clip – to remind everyone that he’s one of the most versatile guys on the planet.
Above: The one and only Bullet. Photo: Mike Searle
Steve “Bullet” MacKenzie
When Maroubra’s Bullet started out on the bodyboard it was his dropknee skills that were winning him contests (remember those days when both were judged accordingly in heats?). But, according to Chris Stroh’s Bodyboard Museum, it was a wrenched knee during a wipeout in West Oz that led MacKenzie to take up prone again too, having to learn to spin and roll once more en route to becoming one of the world’s best tuberiders. There was a period there where any issue of Riptide you picked up would feature Macca both prone and DK, such was his command of each of bodyboarding’s two major styles.
Above: Canary Islands’ Ardiel Jimenez. Photo: Matt Catalano
With the amount of Hawaiians and Australians filling this list (and Riptide’s history) you’d be forgiven for thinking there weren’t many versatile riders flying the flag around the world, but as Sacha Specker noted in his photo essay from the Canaries in our 198th issue “Jack-stance seems alive and well in the Canaries”. Spex said the local guys in the islands – whose excellent prone skills have been forged in some of the heaviest waves on the planet – seem to “enjoy the challenge of [dropknee], rather than trying to prove a point” and one of the guys who’s been doing it the longest is Ardiel Jiminez. No stranger to an international podium, give Ardiel’s name a Google and you’re bound to be impressed with the versatility shown by the Canarian stalwart, who likely spurred some of the younger generation into swinging a leg over today.
Above: A young star on the rise in Todd de Graaf gets his tweak on in an early Riptide ad. Photo: Bosko
Todd de Graaf
Eppo reportedly once said Port Macquarie prodigy Todd de Graaf was the most naturally talented bodyboarder he’d ever seen and it’s not hard to see why. The guy had a bag of tricks – prone and dropknee – so big from such a young age that it seemed he was destined to be one of the sport’s enduring greats. His star eventually faded, however, as he turned his attention to other pursuits, but the blueprint he forged in ripping with equal skill and flair in dropknee and prone can be seen clearly if you give the Damian King biopic The Joker another spin (some of the two guys’ early ripping is hard to pick apart).
Above: Jay Reale, stylish rev. Photo: Chris Stroh
One of the first riders from mainland USA to make a big mark in the sport of bodyboarding, Jay Reale was the consumate professional – always going out of his way to attract positive media for the sport of bodyboarding. He was also pretty damn handy lying down or dropkneeing – finishing as high as fifth and sixth on the prone and DK world tours respectively during the 90s.
Above: Kainoa McGee – a familiar scene. Photo: Bodyboard Museum
While the powerfully-built Hawaiian’s dropknee exploits in heavy waves (which have arguably never been eclipsed) might have potentially overshadowed the man’s prone skills slightly over the years, Kainoa’s no slouch when it comes to lying down either. In fact for a big portion of Mike Stewart’s huge competitive reign in the 90s it was McGee pushing Mike to the limits – utilising both prone and DK skills in the heaviest of Pipe pits to finish runner-up to Stewart in the World Champs three times (1991, 92 and 94) as well as solidifying his reputation as one of the world’s finest bodyboarders. McGee later had success on a surfboard – making the semifinals of his first pro stand-up contest – as well as adding the SUP to his arsenal in heavy waves, further cementing his true waterman status.
Above: Booging royalty Dave Ballard made a return to Riptide’s pages this year during our 200 Hours project – taming Shark Island on the knee like he’s done for decades. Photo: Mitch Fong
Jumping to stardom by landing Riptide’s first ever cover in 1989 (doing a prone air at Suckrock), Cronulla’s Dave Ballard was soon counted among the ranks of the world’s top dropkneers – spoken with in the same breath as contemporaries Paul Roach and Aka Lyman – all before the age of 20. He was one of the Oz’s most prominent and, reportedly, highest-paid riders in the 90s and despite his DK getting a lot of this attention Ballard’s upbringing at the country’s most famous slab, Shark Island, meant he could ride a prone barrel like few others too.