Meet Lucy Hutley

“I want to prove to myself, my children and anyone, that you can go for challenges in life and push yourself to the limits! It is not often this type of challenge comes along when you're 43!”

An ocean-lover since birth, Lucy Hutley discovered bodysurfing 15 years ago after a lifetime of swimming, surfing and bodyboarding. Lucy began competing in the UK bodysurfing championships for fun, but scooped first place in 2023. She went on to make the open semi-finals in the European/ Africa stage of the International Bodysurfing Association World Tour Qualifying Series in Anglet, France, and winning the Ondine Masters at the Euro Bodysurf event. 

After kickstarting her bodysurfing career so successfully, Lucy has now been given the opportunity to compete in the IBSA World Finals 2024 in Hawaii. Taking place at Point Panic, Honolulu, Oahu, the Cornish-local is raising funds to cover her transport and accommodation, to make her dream come true. 

Click here to read more and support her Crowdfunder. 


What Is Body Surfing?

Whilst the invention of bodysurfing is often incorrectly accredited to Captain James Cook in 1769, it is simply the case that he was the first European recorded to have tried it. Polynesian islanders had in fact been bodysurfing long before European contact, and inspired by the Polynesians he encountered on his Pacific voyages Cook and his men took to the water to imitate their bodysurfing. Undocumented but undeniably, island nations across the world will have been bodysurfing since the dawn of civilisation, before the invention of surf crafts. From pre-contact Polynesia to now, the sport of bodysurfing has hardly needed to evolve. Fins and hand planes have been introduced to aid in wave catching, speed and buoyancy, but the primal nature of wave riding using only your body has lived on through the centuries. Arguably more intense than board sports, bodysurfers rely on their ocean capabilities and ability to read the water and waves, plus fitness and strength, to keep them safe and surfing without a craft. 


The International Bodysurfing Association 

“The promotion and development of the sport of bodysurfing and the values of sharing, awareness, the vision of the sport and the fellowship between bodysurfers at a local, a national and an international level.” - The IBSA Purpose

The International Bodysurfing Association hosts the IBSA BodySurfing World Tour across North America, Latin America, Polynesia, Europe/ Africa and Australia/ Asia. Open to men and women globally, the event is held in two stages, the Qualifying Series followed by the World Tour finals. The finals brings together the top ranked 48 men and 24 women from around the world, this year in Hawaii at Point Panic, Honolulu. 


Below you'll learn more about the inspiring story of mother, Surf Life Saving Club volunteer, Polzeath-local and waterwoman Lucy Hutley, who is soon to be competing on a world level against international athletes. Stoked to be supporting Lucy in her mission to get to Hawaii, we spoke to her about bodysurfing, her local break and wave riding around the world. 


What led you to first try bodysurfing, and then to focus on it to the point that you’re competing on the Bodysurfing World Tour and going to the finals in Hawaii?

I’ve grown up in a very ocean-orientated family, especially on my mum’s side, which goes back generations, including competitive swimming, diving and sailing. We grew up in Bermuda until I was 6, then moved to the south coast of England just a stones throw from the water. My mum, apart from being a dance teacher, was a swimming teacher for many years, and my brother and sister both swam competitively. The water has always been massively a part of who I am. Before moving to Cornwall I dabbled with surfing and bodyboarding. I love bodyboarding and I’ve traveled around the world doing it. 

To my recollection I never saw anyone bodysurfing until one day in Polzeath in the late winter. I saw two people (who I now know) walking down from The Valley Caravan Park with handplanes. I was like, ‘What is that tiny mini surfboard they are holding?!’ I didn’t get one myself until 2008, when my husband bought me one from eBay. It was a foam version of a handplane. It was awesome, I still have it. Bodysurfing to me felt like bodyboarding, but much more freer. You can dive beneath the wave and I love being out back when the swell is huge without having the hinderance of a board. I’m definitely not a great stand up surfer and wouldn't be able to make it out back on a big day with a surfboard. 

I got into bodysurfing around 2008, but having kids put my new found sport on the back burner. When I was pregnant I did bodysurf quite a lot because there was nothing constricting my tummy, however when my children were born they took up a major part of my life, and this coupled with work and life commitments meant I only got back into bodysurfing in 2019. By then I had another hand plane, a little plastic blue one, from Hydro. Together with my friend Sam Gill (a great surfer and all-round ocean enthusiast), we entered a bodysurfing competition at Fistral, as we thought it would be fun and we’d never seen anyone else bodysurfing before except in videos online! I remember that whilst I was driving there Sam was Googling tricks on YouTube and looking up the judging criteria - we had no idea! He won both the Open and the hand plane event, and I came 2nd in the Women’s handplane event (there was no Open at the time). It was my first time competing and it was awesome. We met so many people and the community was really welcoming. Everyone was just stoked to be out seeing other people having a great time. That’s what got me into the competitive side of things. 

I’ve taken part in a couple more competitions since then in this country and last year I won the Open and came second in the handplane. The Open is just fins. I love being able to swim out back and be amongst the waves, taking the drop and that feeling of complete freedom. 

Regarding the competitive side of things, I think I have been slightly inspired by my children and my surf lifesaving team. I am a volunteer coach with Polzeath SLSC and I love watching the kids do so well at pool and beach events. They have so much fun even if they don’t win. It doesn’t matter because they just love the adrenaline. I was inspired by them and everyone else getting involved. 

Also, it’s just such an inclusive sport. Age isn’t a barrier as long as you’ve got the skill and wits about you to have a go, and everyone is welcome. I love that. I am 43 this year and I am aware of that, but the age ranges of the people going to Hawaii are massive, and it’s awesome that everyone can be invited (if you qualified)! 



What does bodysurfing offer you above and beyond other waveriding activities?

The freedom! I also love to swim out back, even if I sometimes find it a bit scary! My friend Sam will always try and take me to places on bigger days that I wouldn’t necessarily want to go, and it pushes me to my limit. I enjoy conquering my fears and bodysurfing does that for me. 


Bodysurfing can be physically intense and intimidating. How do you train for it, and for the different types of waves you’ll be riding at events?

Polzeath, my local beach, is great for swim training. Sometimes the paddle out can be quite full on!

I came second in the Women's Masters at Mehdia, Morocco in November. The wave in Morocco was incredible - an extremely fast, hollow left hand point break with a reef bottom. It took place at Charatan, nicknamed Shipwrecks, in the Sebou River, as at the beach it was closing out 10 foot waves. To train, I’ve been practicing my takeoffs, because I think that’s what may have held me back in Morocco as I was a little intimidated by the wave. It was a left and I’m way more confident going right. Luckily Point Panic in Hawaii is a right, so that’s a massive bonus!


Your local surf spot, Polzeath, isn’t exactly an ideal wave for bodysurfing. Has that been a help or hindrance in your development, and how have you got to the point where you’re up there with the best in the world?

Admittedly Polzeath isn’t the ideal bodysurfing wave. It often closes out, plus there’s normally people in the line up and as a bodysurfer you have to sit a little more on the inside. Therefore you have to be really aware of who’s coming for you! Polzeath attracts a lot of intermediate surfers who might not be able to avoid you, so you have to make sure you are getting out of their way and diving deep. 

However, I love going out at Polzeath on a big day and there are also a few nearby spots (that I will not name) that are really good for bodysurfing. Sometimes its just me and my friend out. My husband is on the Coastguard so I warn him that if he gets any shout about that particular spot that he can reply and say, “It’s alright, it’s my wife, she knows what she’s doing!” 

When we went to France last year I saw how amazing the waves were in Anglet. Then I understood how all these French people were brilliant at bodysurfing. It made a lot of sense. If we had perfect peeling waves here I think I’d have a lot of world class surfers and bodysurfers to contend with!

It is a niche sport, and there aren’t many people from the UK who competitively bodysurf. Last year I was lucky enough to go to France and Morocco which were the qualifying stages of the International Bodysurfing Association World Tour Series. I accumulated points by doing so which has led me to be invited to Hawaii for the World Tour Final! It’s a really inclusive sport, and they are trying to grow the tour, particularly on the women’s side of things. I’m in the wildcard event, where there are 8 women from Tahiti, Hawaii, Australia, Brazil and the UK, who are going for 4 wildcard positions - it’s a bit like the semifinals. I have fallen down a rabbit hole looking up how brilliant everyone else is which is quite scary! 



You compete with fins but without a handplane. To those who have never bodysurfed or used a handplane, what does the handplane do and what are the differences?

The IBSA World Tour Final is a fins only event. When using a handplane, which is like a small surfboard with a strap that you hold onto to increase the surface area of your hand (the same way a snow shoe works), you tend to be able to dig into the wave and give yourself a bit more lift, more control of the wave, and a bit more speed too. However, when you’re bodysurfing without a handplane, your body can create a bit of drag, so you really need to arch yourself and use your body in a way that picks up speed. When you’re riding the wave you want to be in the green part of the wave. In competitions the judges won’t count anything that happens in the white water, so everything needs to be ahead of the peak of the wave. The scoring criteria is for your best or biggest wave, how much control you have riding the wave, how many tricks and the difficulty of the tricks, and if you can carry on riding the wave after landing a trick. Tricks can include the takeoff, for example a dolphin takeoff is when you start under the water, pick up the speed and then shoot out. You can also do spins, somersaults, go upside down, lie on your back looking up, hands behind your head, the list goes on! If you can pull off multiple tricks along the wave you’ll score big. All of these tricks you could do with a handplane too, but the purest form is without, which is why we compete that way. 


Do your kids understand how unique and amazing all this is? What’s their take on Mum going to Hawaii to compete in a World Finals event?

My family have been extremely encouraging and supportive of all of this. I think my kids are excited for me, as much as anything. I really believe you just have to go for things in life. Don’t be afraid of the failure - just enjoy taking part. That’s always our message to them when they are competing in sports. We always push the message to just enjoy taking part. It’s not about the winning, it’s about having a great time, hopefully excelling but definitely enjoying it.

Even though I’m really nervous and intimidated about who I’m going to be up against and the wave, I’m hoping that them seeing me take on this challenge encourages them to face their fears and never let anything hold them back. 

My daughter, who is 12, is entered into the 12-14 age category. Point Panic is a world famous bodysurfing wave that stand up surfing isn’t even allowed at. It’s an excellent wave and the organises are encouraging younger people to get into the sport and they’ve organised a couple of younger categories, so my daughter is joining me out there. She has been practicing her little socks off and she’s doing really well! I’m scared she’s going to be better than me!


What’s the atmosphere and camaraderie like at these events?

I’ve met amazing people from France and Morocco at previous events and everyone is just so pleased for you when you come out and have done well. Even when you haven’t had a good heat it’s such a lovely environment. People from all walks of life and all ages. It’s been a great experience. I can’t say it enough.   

It’s a growing sport, particularly in this country, but if you look at the likes of France and Australia they have bodysurfing clubs. Most are spinoffs of surf lifesaving clubs, so hopefully we’ll be able to grow on my experience and might be able to do something here at Polzeath!



You’ve said yourself that it’s not often that opportunities like this present themselves to mums in their early 40s. Grasping it with both hands is no mean feat. What and why has motivated you to go after this?

I want to prove to myself and others that you should just go for things in life. If I didn’t go, I’d be forever kicking myself. The fear of regret is huge. The fear of actually competing is massively huge too! But in a good way - the adrenaline rush, I love it. I just want to see how well I can do. This time last year I was recovering from an infection in my arm that was scary, pretty life threatening. I remember lying in the hospital bed Googling para-surfing! In recent years I have discovered that I am quite a competitive person. I just want to push myself, see what I can achieve and hopefully inspire others to do the same.

I am also super excited to surf a world class wave and meet and watch other incredible bodysurfers from around the world!


Bodysurfing, whilst arguably waveriding in its purest form, is a niche within a niche and so as a competitive sport there’s very little funding available.  What does it mean to you to have such amazing community support to get you to Hawaii?

Oh my goodness the support I’ve had has been extremely overwhelming! I am incredibly grateful. I didn’t realise the power of social media and crowdfunding. Up until recently I had been working at the local primary school for the last 10 years and one of my colleagues said, “You’ve got to go for it Lucy, you’ve got to go to Hawaii, you would be an inspiration.” I’m not someone that likes to put myself out there in this respect, but they encouraged me to start a Crowdfunder, saying, “People will support you, they want to be a part of your journey!” I hate asking for stuff, but eventually I caved and I put a Crowdfunder out. I didn’t think I’d even make a third of the amount of the goal I’d asked for, but I shared it on my social media accounts and friends, plus people I went to school with who I haven’t seen or spoken to since I was 19, have given me massive support and encouraging messages and it’s awesome. People I’ve never even met before have backed me! The kindness is overwhelming. I am so grateful. It has blown myself and my family away. I’d also like to thank local businesses like you guys at C-Skins, and our friends at Surfs Up! Surf School, as they, and other local businesses, have massively supported me. It’s truly been incredible.

Click here to support Lucy’s Crowdfunder.