Surfing Lesson: How to Duck Dive

by Nick Krieger

Duck diving under a wave is an essential surfing technique for every surfer to learn. Successful duck dives will get you out to the lineup faster with less expense of energy, as well as reducing the risk of injury to yourself and other surfers by a loose board. Learning to duck dive can be as hard as learning to catch and ride waves. The key is having a board that doesn’t have too much float or foam. If you are riding a short board or a thinner fun board, you should be able to get under the waves unscathed.

When I duck dive, I paddle until the wave is about 5 to 10 feet away. Then, I extend my arms and grip the board’s rails and place a knee on my tail pad to sink the board. (Some people put their back foot on the tail of the board to avoid getting pressure dings). At this point my board and body are all under water. The nose of my board is a little lower than the tail. This helps me to achieve downward projection. As the wave passes over me, I push down with my knee and pull my arms up. If this is timed correctly, I pop to the surface on the back of the wave without getting pulled by the wave towards the beach.

When starting to learn this technique, I would suggest you try to keep the board parallel to the water’s surface when you sink it, as opposed to having the nose aiming down. This will make the whole process easier until you get the timing right.

If you are riding a longboard or large fun board, you probably aren’t going to be able to duck dive, especially in larger surf. You might have to resort to a turtle roll. This technique isn’t my favorite and I don’t have to turtle roll very often because I pretty much only longboard in Bolinas, where the waves are mellow. The basic idea is the same, but instead of pushing the board under the water, you flip the board over so that you’re under the board holding onto the rails. As the wave passes over you and starts to push you back, you flip the board back over while still holding on to the rails. If done correctly, you will pop up on the back of the wave, and you’ll be able to pull yourself back on the board and start paddling.

No matter what, even in the strong turbulence of white water, always try your hardest to hold onto your board and not let it go. A loose board risks injury to yourself and other surfers paddling near you.

Until our next lesson, surf smart and surf safe,


Nick Krieger is co-owner of 2 Mile Surf Shop in Bolinas, CA.

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