Southern Nicaragua Bodyboarding Light Show


By Matt Davies

If Disney built bodyboards…

…Well they kind of already do, and do them very well. However, it was neither at Magic Kingdom nor Epcot Centre where I first tried an illuminated Back to the Future style bodyboard, but on the hot sandy beaches of Southern Nicaragua.

On our bodyboard coaching holiday there in January, I had the great pleasure of meeting the contagiously enthusiastic Mikey Arana, a show programmer for Walt Disney Imagineering and the brains behind the first LED bodyboard. Both Mikey and his lovely wife Asia are keen bodyboarders, hugely passionate about living, keen to try anything new, and so it was with his engineering geekery and her avid motivation the LED rocket ship to be born. Two months on and we caught up with Mikey to find out more about his psychedelic bodyboarding creation and what other projects lay ahead.

So Mikey, where are you from and what is it exactly you do?

I live in Encino, California and my role for Walt Disney involves going to all the different Disney parks around the world and helping program elements and figures that are used in our theme park attractions. It’s a pretty cool job as I get to travel heaps and work in these parks.

Your LED board was an amazing addition to the Nicaragua trip, such an awesome idea! Can you tell us how the idea came about, how you created it, and what’s next?

The LED bodyboard was a fun and challenging project.  My wife originally planted the seed of the idea by posting a YouTube link of people surfing on LED surfboards with her statement saying, “We should get these for Nicaragua! LOL!” While I was well aware that they had been doing that for years, I had started researching LED bodyboards and could not find a single one.

Fortunately for me, I had a friend who runs an LED company called Cushlight. They do LED lighting for TV shows all over Los Angeles as well as special events like the Academy Awards.  He gave me a complete rundown of the materials I needed, factors to consider for a prolonged underwater exposure, obstacles to expect during construction, battery choices that won’t explode while travelling. You know, all the important things that I would have never thought of.

Once I got the lights, I needed a board.  So I contacted Custom X bodyboards in Oceanside, Ca and got in touch with CEO Debbie Colwell.  For those of you that don’t know, Debbie Colwell is recognized as the only professional female bodyboard shaper in history.  She started working in the ‘70s with Tom Morey.  She then went to Scott Hawaii, and afterwards started her own company Custom X.  She was kind enough to sell me some discounted boards for my little science project.  Once I got my board, I dove right into construction completing it 5 weeks later.

So after the successful maiden voyage of my first LED bodyboard in Southern Nicaragua, I am now currently in the middle of my second build. I am using a different type of LED strand, as well as making improvements to the battery/controller setup.  The maiden voyage for this board will be at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon at a private night surf session next month.

If building a first and second LED board wasn’t enough, Mikey also brought a mini bodyboard and a bodyboard with raised video camera mount he’d fashioned, to Nicaragua. Though we didn’t get chance to test the latter, the mini was an instant success, and so much fun for bodysurfing, we had some epic shorey sessions pulling in on the Honey I Shrunk The Boogie as it was affectionately known.

With Mikey’s feverish enthusiasm and electrical know how, and his wife’s imagination and motivation, I’m sure this is not the last invention we’ll see. Watch this space for Disney’s latest bodyboarding creation!

Do you like the idea of bodyboarding in perfect southern Nicaraguan waves? Whether you plan to be riding a board that looks like Knight Rider or a standard boog we have the trip for you. Take a look here for further info and then join us for some perfect barrels.

Take a look at the video that Mike put together from his Bodyboarding-holiday to Southern Nicaragua.

Are you interested to learn more about Mikey’s trip to Southern Nicaragua? Read the full report here.