Duck diving: an essential skill that allows surfers 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 to get 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 imaginary pendulum or arc that swings from air to water and air again while suffering the slightest interruption.

Surfers are often confronted with massive walls of white water rumbling toward the beach, and their only option is to go under the chaos.

Inspired by ducks and birds, the surfer's duck diving technique mixes timing and body skills.

Occasionally, 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. In those cases, bailing out is the most reasonable alternative.

First, you first need to 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 make a basic move.

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

The Duck Diving Technique

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 vigorously 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 near the tail;
  10. Continue to push your body forward until the board is entirely underwater;
  11. Kick your back foot to propel you 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 on 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.

Getting Past Big Waves

Have you ever felt like a small animal in front of a giant mountain of water, ready to fall on you? Well, duck-diving might be the antidote to that feeling when you experience it for real out in the water.

But how can we perform the perfect duck dive for a 10-foot-breaking wave?

The secret lies in practice and momentum, knowing when to start your emergency procedure.

First of all, make sure you paddle toward the oncoming wave. Yes, you should gain speed and not wait for it to come.

Push the rails downwards with both hands, sinking the nose of your surfboard as deeply as possible.

Take a deep and calm breath and submerge. As soon as you enter the water, press your board with your knee or foot to make the surfboard flow under the rolling wave.

At the same time, try to redirect the nose of your surfboard to the surface where you think it's safe to emerge.

As soon as possible, start paddling out as fast as you can so you don't get "sucked" by the opposite energy carried by the wave.

Duck-diving is harder for the lightest bodies because skinny surfers tend to find keeping stability underwater with a buoyant board harder than average-sized and heavy athletes do.

Nevertheless, training can improve anyone's duck-diving skills against the scariest water foam monsters.

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