Bodysurfing with new twist

By David Higgins

Hand plane surfer Bryan Dean Amicone enjoys a ride.

A new trend to enjoy waves has reached Okinawa that is much different from surfboarding or bodyboarding.  It’s called hand plane surfing and it’s done with a small one-foot long board that is fastened to your hand.  It’s very similar to body surfing; however, because your body usually hits the bottom at the end of a ride, body surfing is safe only in areas where there are soft, sandy beaches like Hawaii.

The hand plane is very simple.

On Okinawa all waves that can be surfed break along very hard sharp reefs.  Fortunately, the invention of the hand plane surfboard came along which finally makes it possible to body surf the waves on Okinawa.  Although children in the Polynesian islands have been surfing using pieces of driftwood since the 1970s, hand plane surfing has morphed into a surfing sensation over the last five years in Australia and Hawaii.

There is only one small piece of equipment for hand plane surfing.  An approximately one-foot long mini surfboard made of wood or glassed foam that is held in one hand allowing the surfer to glide across the wave with ease.  To get to the waves themselves, flippers are worn on the feet in order to kick to the waves.  The arm holding the hand plane board is extended and the wave’s force allows you to surf on top of the wave just as a surfer does using a surfboard. In other words, you assume a superman pose with the hand board strapped to your hand and get ready to slide down the wave. Use your flippers to slow down, and your free hand not holding the plane board as a rudder, just like a boat.

Avid Okinawan hand plane surfer Bryan Dean Amicone says, “Surfing is extremely fun, especially when the waves peel and offer long rides.  However, there are often times when conditions for surfing aren’t that fun, for example, when waves close out (meaning, the whole wave breaks at once).  There’s not much to do when it’s like that. Hand plane surfing was made for close-outs.  Pretty much every wave that you ride turns into a barrel. Most of them close out, but they’re still barrels, and there’s nothing sweeter than looking into a barrel. Believe me. Nothing sweeter.”

A hand plane board company located in California named “Enjoy Hand Planes” started making hand planes to support their goal to keep broken surfboards and wetsuits out of landfills, and create a product that is fun to use and environmentally responsible.  All of their hand planes are made with the old foam of a broken surfboard and neoprene leftovers from a wetsuit manufacturer.  This provides new life to a once-loved surfboard otherwise doomed to the landfill.

Whether the surfing conditions are not to your liking or you just want to try something different, hand plane surfing is a wonderful alternative to surfboard riding for all the ocean lovers on Okinawa.  Getting in touch with Okinawa’s beautiful ocean allows you to appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature while having fun.