All Photos by Adam Kobayashi.
Belinda Baggs or Bindy, as friends call her is a cerebral waverider. She studies swell charts and knows the channels and rip currents around her local surf spots. She takes pleasure in learning about the Ocean, how the energy moves and the water reacts. Belinda speaks of swimming along a reef in the Maldives, mesmerized by the dynamics of water flowing in and out of the lagoon.
Bindy grew up in the working-class community of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Her father is a lifelong surfer and she spent extensive time at the beach and in the water growing up. He showed her how to read weather maps and instilled a deep passion for Ocean knowledge. She started competitive swimming around age 12. The 200m freestyle was her strongest event.
Around this same time, she began surfing more seriously. As swimming and surfing became more competitive, she was forced to make a decision. Either dedicate fully to swimming or surfing. The Ocean connection was too powerful. Belinda quit competitive swimming at age 16 and shortly after became a professional surfer. Belinda continues to represent the best of elegance and grace on a longboard. Her strength as a swimmer will forever benefit her as a waverider.
She met the Malloy brothers in 2006 through their mutual ambassadorship with Patagonia. While on the North Shore of Oahu, Belinda checked out the Patagonia Pipeline Bodysurfing Championships. Dan, Keith and Jeff Johnson headed to Ehukai for a swim and invited her to join. They told her, “You know how to swim and hold your breath and ride waves. You’ll love bodysurfing!” Belinda says, “I immediately felt the vibe and fed off their stoke.”
When asked how bodysurfing relates to her surfing, she says, “Bodysurfing has helped increase my understanding of the Ocean: how waves break and the way water draws off a reef. Bodysurfing has helped my surfing and the two definitely feed off each other. Bodysurfing is refreshing for me because it is anti-competitive…I don’t care if I suck. It simply takes me back to my roots of enjoying the Ocean and riding waves.” She goes on to note, “I feel much safer bodysurfing some waves. It’s easier to navigate through the bright spots in the underwater clouds without a board.”
When not traveling, Belinda is often found riding waves around her home of Torquay, Victoria, Australia. Either gracefully cross-stepping and hanging on the nose of her log or riding her longboard tandem with her 4-year-old son piggybacking for long rides across local point breaks. Or jumping into a messy shorey for a quick bodybash…or bodysurfing nooks of heavy reef with her close friend Jarrah Lynch.
Jarrah is the son of Australian surf legend Wayne Lynch. He enjoys riding alternative surf craft but frequently resorts to bodysurfing the local, off-the-beaten-path, heaviest waves. Belinda says, “Jarrah’s threshold for fear is greater than mine and he pushes me take off bigger and deeper. He has a deep knowledge of the Ocean.”
Belinda now takes swim fins on all of her surf trips, having bodysurfed in Japan, Indonesia, the Maldives and California. Recently, she’s been trying different fins because she frequently feels undergunned wearing her tiny, size XS DaFins, but she keeps coming back to them.
Belinda cherishes her relationship with her sponsor and employer Patagonia. They are more interested in their athlete’s passion for the Ocean and the environment than contest results. Patagonia embraces bodysurfing and they give Belinda the freedom to enjoy the Ocean on her terms.
She has witnessed an increase of bodysurfers in Australian lineups since the 2011 release of Keith Malloy’s seminal bodysurf film “Come Hell or High Water,” in which she makes an elegant cameo. She also notes that swim fins and handplanes are more readily available in surf shops. There is little doubt she is inspiring the next generation of young women waveriders to try on a pair of fins, go bodysurfing and learn about the Ocean on a whole new level.