Revealed: How To Duck Dive (And Everything In Between)
You’re white water warrior days are over. Thank F*#k!
And, now you’re wondering what’s next for you?
It’s now time for you to tackle the real waves, the waves which only break 'out the back'. These waves are known as the unbroken green waves.
If you wondering how to you get yourself and your board safely out to these perfect peelers without losing the will to live.
Then there is one technique you must learn and master properly.
It’s called the Duck Dive.
Once you’ve learned how to duck dive correctly, you’ll be hitting every surf break with a new found confidence and eagerness like never before.
In this ultimate guide to duck diving you will learn EVERYTHING you need to know about how to duck dive the right way.
Are you ready?
What is duck diving in surfing?
Duck diving in surfing is a technique used by surfers to sink their boards underwater to enable the breaking wave to roll over them.
This process enables you to push your board underneath the power of the wave, avoiding the white water and continuing out to your take off spot.
Have you ever been at a lake and watched how ducks push their bodies under water?
Surfers imitated this exact movement to help negotiate breaking waves.
This later became known as the Duck Dive.
Is duck diving hard?
Duck diving is hard and takes a great deal of practice and persistence for Level 1 and 2 surfers.
Granted, it’s not as difficult as a cutback or a floater, but it does present its own challenges.
The good news however, once you master the correct technique, you will conserve your energy and spend more time doing what you love...riding the waves.
The two key factors good duck diving relies upon are timing and speed.
Let’s look at each of these areas separately:
Duck diving & timing
Reading and understanding how the waves break will give you a significant advantage when it comes to timing your duck dive.
You want to allow enough time to push your board under the water before the wave breaks onto you in a continuous and fluid motion, simultaneously with your board.
The key aspect of your timing is the curling part of the wave as it dumps. This is known as the impact zone.
If your duck dive is mis timed you're going to have either a scary thick lip landing in front of you or on top of you.
In other words you’re going to eat shit!
Neither of these situations are ideal.
So remember, timing is everything.
Duck diving & speed
It's impossible to duck dive a powerful whitewater wave without generating enough speed in the first place.
The speed which I’m referring too, is your paddling speed when approaching the oncoming wave.
The paddle speed is similar to the speed you use for taking off. Using the right speed and generating enough momentum you're able to ‘attack’ the wave correctly.
Make sure your board is pointed directly at the oncoming wave. If you're a little off centre, the waves power will easily be enough to shake you around and you are likely to come up with your body half on and half off the board.
It’s important to remember; you want to continue your paddle speed right up until your a surfboard length away from the breaking wave.
Duck diving knee or foot?
One of the most common questions about the duck dive is weather or not to use your knee or your foot.
The answer to this depends on a few different scenarios. From the type of surf break to the wave height, these factors will help you determine the best technique to use and why.
Let’s break it down a little….
Anything over head high it’s recommended using your foot to grip pad. Using your foot helps you to project your board further and deeper underneath the breaking wave.
If you're strong enough, you can do a secondary duck dive and scoop water and pull yourself to your board. If you do this right, you can do a double duck dive and get even deeper.
On smaller, more mellow waves or when your trying to push through an unbroken green wave, it’s recommended to use your knee. This will keep your board on a better trajectory so your pushing forward and not deeper.
When your surfing a reef break, it’s going to be best to use your knee so you can keep your duck dive shallow to avoid hitting the reef.
Duck diving knee or foot is ultimately a preference so go with which one feels the most comfortable for you.
How do you practice duck diving?
The more you practice duck diving the better you’re going to get. It can take years to perfect the correct technique so try not to get too discouraged.
One of the benefits of duck diving is the ability to practice and perfect your technique in different environments such as a pool, a lake and when it’s flat.
You can also practice the duck dive on dry land, this will help you to develop better muscle memory.
Grab your board and place it on the sand or on the floor and follow through the how to duck dive step by step guide.
Can you duck dive a longboard?
Duck diving a longboard is virtually impossible, unless of course your built like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And, because I've never seen any body in the water resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger I going to make the bold statement and say unless you're a Level 3 surfer or above then I wouldn't recommended duck diving a longboard.
A longboard has more volume, thickness and length than a shortboard.
This is great for popping up and avoiding common pop up mistakes. It's also much easier to catch waves but a can be a real hindrance when it comes to duck diving.
The extra float makes it impossible to sink your board. Even if you can get the nose under, it’s a real challenge to get the whole board under.
What will happen instead is, your left hanging mid air with half your body and board in the water and the other half in mid air.
A preferred way to navigate broken waves on a longboard, especially in the beginning is to use what is known as The Turtle Roll or Eskimo Roll.
If you confident as a Level 3 surfer or above then duck diving a longboard is doable..
One of the main tips for duck diving a longboard is to slice the water with the nose of the board sideways.
This technique will help you to get under the wave so you can continue to the take off zone.
Can you duck dive a foamboard?
You can duck diving a foam board if it’s not to long and thick, but it really does depends on the volume. Surfboards with a lot of volume are almost impossible to push under water.
Foamboards are notoriously more buoyant to help beginner surfers catch waves easier and so they can practise their pop up.
These boards are built for the purpose of assisting Level 1 surfers advance their surfing skills and not for anything more advanced, like duck diving.
A level 3 or 4 surfer could use the same technique as a longboard and slice the water with the nose of the board sideways.
Usually speaking, however, the duck dive is usually done with shortboards, hybrid boards or small “fish” type surfboards.
It’s usually better to turtle roll when trying to pass the break with a bigger surfboard.
What are two types of waves to duck dive?
When it comes to duck diving, there’s two types of waves you need to navigate. Broken waves (or white water), and unbroken waves (or green waves).
Although similar, you’ll need to take a slightly different approach to each.
White water - Broken
Once a wave has broken, the wave turns into what’s called “white water”.
The energy of a white water wave carries a forward momentum towards the beach, and this makes it a little different when approaching it to duck dive.
Firstly, you’ll want to make sure that you have enough forward momentum paddling towards the white water (so that you don’t get pushed back too far).
Secondly, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re penetrating the water as deep as possible to get under the energy of the broken wave.
If your paddling through small soft white water I would recommend using your knee. However, if your paddling out through big, gnarly white water it’s recommended to duck dive using your foot instead of your knee to get as deep as possible.
Green wave - Unbroken
An unbroken or green wave is -- you guessed it -- a wave that hasn’t broken yet. In general (unless it’s 20ft) these waves are much easier to duck dive than their broken counterparts.
As the energy of a green wave is moving in a circular motion, usually the knee technique is adequate to penetrate the wave enough make it through the wave successfully.
How to duck dive -- Step by step
Step by step guide to duck diving correctly.
- Paddle hard to gain speed - the faster you paddle, the easier it is to duck dive
- Paddle perpendicular to the wave as you approach the oncoming whitewater
- When you are about 6 feet away from the wave, grab the rails on both sides of your board (near your pectorals)
- Before the wave hits you, push yourself up to a prone cobra pose
- Put pressure on your board and lean your upper body over the front part of the board and use your shoulder’s strength to dig the nose underwater
- You want to bring your board deep and forward, using the speed you have gained from paddling intensely prior the duck dive
Pro tip: Keeping your arms straight will help you get more of the board under the water
- Apply pressure to the tail by using either your foot or knee
- Now drive the board down and forward underwater by keeping the pressure on the tail using your foot or knee
- Push your board as far down as you can simultaneously with your hands and feet. Ideally, you want the surfboard to be parallel to the bottom
- Pushing the tail down comes quickly after sinking the nose, and together they look like one single motion. Do this quickly to keep moving forward underwater
- Your other leg is lifted in the air, to help encourage your weight down
- As the wave passes you overhead, you now need to bend your arms, bring your body close to your board
- Angle your board back up to the surface and paddle towards the next wave
How to duck dive common mistakes
- If you dive too early you are likely to pop up just before the impact zone
- If you dive too late you are likely to get smashed around by the force of the white water
- This is where a lot of injuries and accidents occur with your board knocking into you and pushing in forcibly to the floor
- If you simply don't have the strength to push the board underwater, choose Turtle Rolling instead
- Don't panic and rush up to the surface. The buoyancy of your board as well as with the assistance from the wave will naturally give you the buoyancy that you need to pop up to the surface and out the back of the wave
- If you don't generate enough speed to begin, you won't have enough momentum to be able to get underneath the wave
- Not pushing down far enough, you will not clear the wave
- Not raising your leg - making it more difficult to push the board under the water
- If you use your foot, be careful your foot does not slip off the tail
- Bad timing
- If your board is thicker (and therefore more buoyant) it will be way harder to duck dive
If you want to surf green waves, then you need to know how to duck dive.
Duck diving is the most efficient way to get you and your surfboard out the back ready to catch the green waves.
Once you learn how to master the duck dive you will conserve more of your energy so you can keep your paddle power to catch more waves.
This is a complete game changer for your surfing. This will allow you to spend more time up and riding and less time battling it out in the white water.
And for that reason we all need to amen to duck diving.
Let me know in the comments below how these tips have helped you with your duck dive.
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