How to Duck Dive a Surfboard

When learning how to surf, one of the steps people want to learn quickly is the duck dive. This is because the maneuver makes getting through heavy whitewater or breaking waves much easier than "turning turtle", which is also known as the eskimo roll. In smaller waves it isn't necessary to turn turtle or duck dive, you can simply punch through the waves as you are paddling out.

What type of surfboard can you duck dive?

Before we begin the lesson on duck diving, I need to point out that the duck dive is really a surfing maneuver best performed on a shortboard. It can be done on a funboard (mini mal) and some surfers can even manage to duck dive a longboard. I wish I could, but when I'm out on a longboard, I have to turtle roll my surfboard to get through the heavier surf when I am paddling outside.  You can duck dive a funboard, but it takes a lot more force to get the surfboard down far enough to get under the wave.

There aren't that many steps involved in learning how to duck dive a surfboard. The hard part is getting the timing of it all just right. Start the duck dive too soon and you will come back up before the wave has passed. Duck diving a surfboard too late and you will get hit by the wave before you have fully submerged.  I know this is common sense, but it really does take quite a bit of practice to get the feel for when to start the duck dive and where to put the downward pressure on the surfboard with your body.

Steps to Duck Dive a Surfboard

  • Paddle hard as the wave is approaching.
  • A couple of yards before the wave is going to hit you, prepare for the duck dive by leaning forward and push the nose down forcefully with both of your arms. You should grasp the surfboard about a third of its length from the nose.
  • As you are pushing the nose of the surfboard under the water you now will push down the rear of the surfboard with one knee to submerge the rear of the surfboard. At the same time you are pushing down with one knee kick your other leg up in the air. This will provide more momentum to the knee that is pushing down on the board.
  • At this point, both you and your surfboard should be fully submerged, and the wave will passing overhead. As you pushed the tail down with your knee, join your body to the surfboard.  You won't be that far under the water, just about two feet. Try to keep the downward push on the surfboard while at the same time keeping your body as flat to the surfboard as possible. You want to be as deep in the water as possible so that the wave will pass over you without pushing you back.
  • Now that motion you used with your knee to push the tail of the surfboard down will cause the nose to start to lift. This is good, by now the wave should have passed overhead. Now, pull up with both arms and you "should" pop up on the other side of the wave.

Learn In Smaller Surf First

It is best to learn how to duck dive a surfboard in smaller surf so that if the wave does get you, you won't take too much of a beating. It takes a surprising amount of time to get all the motions and the timing just right.

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