Sure it’s closed-out, but if you spend enough time swimming around a womp, you find moments, instances, flashes of Cloudbreak, Pipeline perfection. A doubled-up right meets a tripled-up left as the backwash flares… and a single, fleeting section of mindbending beauty appears. Warping, slabbing, sandsucking dynamism. These are the waves that are most synonymous with bodysurfing and bodywomping and bodybashing.
Heavy shorebreak forms when there is an abrupt change from deep water to shallow directly on the beach. Without shallow reef or sandbars on the outside, all of a wave’s energy is focused without dissipating. The waves surge up the steep berm and plunge into increasingly shallow water. Sometimes, waves break on the outside and reform into a womp on the inside. Waimea Bay shorebreak is a prime example of the reform womp.
Coarse grained sand is common at many womps because the heavy wave action washes away the smaller grains. The large grains also stack higher than small grains, forming the steep, tall berms. Sand is a major factor in the world of womping as no other activity puts sand deeper into human orifices. If you crunch on sand during lunch on Wednesday, you probably had a good womp session on Tuesday.
Womps can be tide sensitive, with most preferring a higher tide to focus the energy over any outside bathymetry and onto the beach. But if the tide is too high, the waves energy will surge up the beach without the needed plunging, barreling action. The steep beach causes serious backwash as the previous wave’s water rushes down the berm and back out to sea. A true womp has the steep beach and coarse sand, but most beachbreaks can have days of wompy conditions.
The whole coast can be knee-high and gutless, but find a steep beach with the right tide and there is much fun to be had. Every single wave at a womp offers a barrel vision. A knee high barrel is better than no barrel at all! While surfers on the outside struggle and fight their way into meager waves, a bodysurfer gets barreled on the beach.
Riding in the pocket of an ankle high wave, chest an inch off the sand…sure it’s small but all the beautiful hydrodynamics are there. It’s fast and hollow, sucking sand off the bottom. A mini turbine. Whatever swell energy there is, is focused right here on the steep beach.
It’s the most dangerous place to bodysurf. The shallowness, unpredictability and power of a solid womp can damage egos and bodies. The human body exposed to such violence can be twisted and smashed: from sprains and concussions to broken bones and even paralysis. Waist-high womp waves can be much heavier than some overhead outside waves.
Every womp wave is different. There are many dynamic forces acting to create the turbulent shorebreak conditions. Sometimes, it quadruples up and closes out for a hundred yards. Other times, the backwash and various waves/reforms create a wedge that has a perfect pocket. It is up to the patience, skill and imagination of the rider to find themselves in these fleeting moments of perfection.