Here is a break down of actions that make up the very fluid motion of duck diving. You will have no doubt seen experienced surfers duck diving their way past you, so you will be able to pick up on how simultaneous a lot of these actions are.
Unlike popping up, there is no way of practicing duck diving on dry land. You basically just have to get out there and do it.
Keep in mind that it is virtually impossible to duck dive a long board. Go here to find out how to get your longboard out the back.
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- Paddle with speed.
- Grip your rails next to your shoulders
- The next 3 steps happen simultaneously
- While maintaining forward momentum, put weight into your hands to sink the nose.
- Scrunch your body in tight and sink the tail of your board by kicking it down with one of your feet OR by pushing down with your knee.
- Whichever leg you don’t use shoots out behind you as you begin your descent.
- Aim to achieve a fluid ‘scooping down to up’ action with the nose of your board.
- Resurfacing happens quite naturally:
- When you feel yourself heading to the surface, arch your body and aim to have your head come out of the water first (style tip: not your feet!)
With practise you get better at timing all of these movements, duck diving deeper, reading when the wave or white has passed above you, and making graceful resurfaces. Opening your eyes can be helpful when you duck dive waves that are just about to break (not recommended in white wash).
So how do I get out the back on my longboard?
Firstly pick a day when the surf is small, mellow and predictable. Stormy conditions generally don’t allow little breaks for you to quickly time a power paddle out beyond the whitewash. Take time to watch and become attentive to the sets so that you are ready to paddle out while there is a lull. If you are lucky you can sneak out without having to negotiate any oncoming waves at all. It will be impossible to duck dive your longboard but there are options. I still love to go longboarding after years of surfing a shortboard. But I only ever take my longboard out on small, calm, predictable days, otherwise it’s just a mission.
If you are paddling out beyond the white water on a longboard it is a common instinct want to jump off, dive under oncoming waves, and to then retrieve your board by reeling it in with your legrope. This is an ok (although exhausting) approach and sometimes necessary. It is extremely important that you have an awareness of other surfers or swimmers around you.
Finding your own, uncrowded little spot in the water is always recommended. By doing this you will feel free to get on with your own surfing without the worry that you might be in somebodies way. Always keep your surfboard next to you (not in front of you) when you are negotiating oncoming waves. That way your board won’t come smashing back onto you. Grasping your legrope in your hand close to leash string as you bob under an oncoming wave (rather than bailing your board completely) is an effective way of getting past a couple of small oncoming waves. Eskimo rolling is a technique that you could try to get past small mushy whitewash. It takes some practise and can feel pretty unusual. Start with a firm grip on the rails and do a full 180 so that you are still in the paddling position but your board is now on top of you and you are underwater. You will feel quite a bit of turbulence as the wave washes over the top of you and your surfboard. Once the turbulance has passed and your still upside down, tilt your surfboard to either the left or right and this will encourage it to rotate. You and your surboard will naturally now roll back over to the start position. This sounds like a lot of steps (and a lot of time spent under water!) But it actually all happens pretty quickly and your instincts are a great at flipping you up and over again.
It can be an exhausting process when you’re beginning and you will see other surfers paddling past you and duck diving with ease. Don’t be disheartened. Despite the number of waves you do (or don’t!) catch, with every attempt to catch a wave, every effort made to paddle beyond the shore, you are improving on important aspects of your surfing, such as your strength and fitness. The face of a peeling wave has a smooth flow of movement as apposed to the turbulent nature of white water. You will be happy to know that surfing along the face is a lot easier than surfing white water. It also makes popping up to your feet a lot easier too.