Duck diving: an essential surfing skill to get past the breaking waves | Photo: Shutterstock

Learn how to avoid obliteration in the waves. Master the duck diving technique, and get out-the-back faster and effortlessly.

When the waves are small is relatively easy getting outside. All you need is to get the nose of your surfboard over the crumbling wave.

But when the surf gets rough, you must know how to survive the impact zone. Duck diving is the most efficient way of not getting pummeled and pushed back by a crashing wave.

The duck dive is teamwork between body and board. The goal is to form a kind of an imaginary pendulum or arc that swings from air to water and air again while suffering the least interruption.

Many times, surfers are confronted with massive walls of white water rumbling towards the beach, and their only opting is to go under the chaos.

Inspired by ducks and birds, the surfer's duck diving technique is a mix of timing, and body skills. There will be occasions when you are challenged by falling lips, semi-broken waves, thunderous closeouts, or gentle-breaking rollers.

It is important to stress that, in some situations, duck diving might not be an option. It those cases, bailing out is the most reasonable alternative.

The first thing you need to do is practice on flat water - a pool, a lake, or a flat sea. It will take a lot of time to perform the perfect duck dive, but only a dozen waves to do a basic move.

Duck Dive: use your body weight to penetrate deep underwater | Photo: Shutterstock

The trick is to penetrate deep underwater and use your knee and foot to get yourself below the breaking or incoming wave. Because your biggest enemy is always the board's buoyancy.

Let's break the duck dive down:

1. Paddle strongly toward the incoming wave;
2. Before the wave reaches you (five-to-ten feet), grab the surfboard's rails with both hands about even with the center of your chest;
3. Push off the board and extend your arms;
4. Take a deep breath;
5. With your hands on the rails, move your body weight slightly forward;
6. Bury the nose of the board as deep as possible in the water;
7. Point your head down;
8. Bend and move your dominant leg forward (deck) and use that knee to push the board underwater;
9. At the same time, use your other foot and toes to apply more downward pressure on the surfboard and skin the tail;
10. Continue to push your body forward until the board is entirely underwater;
11. Kick your back foot to propel your down under;
12. If you can, open your eyes underwater to see the wave pass by;
13. Slide your hands up the board creating an upward trajectory;
14. Whenever you feel that the turbulence is gone, arch upwards;
15. Resurface and begin to paddle to avoid being dragged backward;

An efficient duck dive will save you a lot of energy and will get you out in the lineup in no time, even in big wave surfing days.

Some surfers prefer to use both knees; others combine knee and foot, or knee or foot only to push through waves. The more volume your shortboard has, the more difficult the duck dive will be - a Malibu will necessarily be harder to duck diver than a standard shortboard.

Are you on a longboard? Learn to perform the turtle roll.