Duck diving is a technique used by surfers to sink their surfboards underwater to enable the 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.

The term duck diving came from surfers witnessing ducks pushing their bodies under the surface of the water.

Duck diving is an art and one which takes a great deal of practice and persistence. Once you master the correct technique, you will conserve more of your energy paddling out and spend more doing what you love…riding the time waves.

In this lesson, we go into detail on the two key factors, good duck diving technique relies on:

  • Timing
  • Speed


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 to the curling part of the wave as it dumps also known as the impact zone. This impact zone is where most of the power is and can really shake you about if you’ve missed time your duck dive.

Timing is everything.

Before we begin to teach you, how to duck dive, it’s important to know whether or not your board will allow you to duck dive.

If you’re riding a board that has a lot of volume and thickness, it will be impossible to sink your board because your board will have too much float.

Let’s take a look:

How to duck dive

1. Paddle hard to gain speed – the faster you paddle, the easier it is to duck dive

2. Paddle perpendicular to the wave as you approach the oncoming whitewater

3. When you are about 6 feet away from the wave, grab the rails on both sides of your board (near your pectorals)

4.Before the wave hits you, push yourself up to a prone cobra pose

5. 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

6. 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

7.Apply pressure to the tail by using either your foot or knee

8.Now drive the board down and forward underwater by keeping the pressure on the tail using your foot or knee

9. 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

10.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

11.Your other leg is lifted in the air, to help encourage your weight down

12. As the wave passes you overhead, you now need to bend your arms, bring your body close to your board

13.Angle your board back up to the surface and paddle towards the next wave

Common mistakes

X If you dive too early you are likely to pop up just before the impact zone

X If you dive too late you are likely to get smashed around by the force of the white water

X This is where a lot of injuries and accidents occur with your board knocking into you and pushing in forcibly to the floor

X 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


It’s impossible to duck dive a powerful whitewater wave without generating enough speed in the first place. The speed which we are 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 are off center 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.

Pro tip: You want to continue your paddle speed up until your a surfboard length away

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