|Pictures taken in Fiji in 2008|
Duck-diving is a maneuver shortboard surfers use to sink their boards and bodies under waves to get out into the line-up quickly.
I remember the summer I first learned to duck-dive. I had been surfing Salt Creek, this photogenic, punchy little beach and point break by my parent’s house. I felt like I was the only person out there who couldn’t get out to the line-up using the simple duck-dive, and in hindsight, I probably was.
I had read about seven duck-dive tutorials in detail, but transferring what I read to the water hadn’t happened until one glassy little peeler rolled towards me and I finally did everything those books said and pushed my board successfully underneath it, allowing the wave to glide over the top of me and my board without pulling me back. After that, I never forgot.
All of this is to say that duck-diving can be tricky to learn, but easy to master once you get the hang of it. So don’t get discouraged if you haven’t figured it out yet. Getting in rhythm with the ocean is an art that takes time and dedication.
Here are some tips to help get you started with duck-diving. I find this maneuver can sometimes be as awesome and magical as riding a wave because it’s kind of like what the ocean animals do.
Step One: Paddle hard towards the wave. This is important and will give you the momentum you need to penetrate it.
Step Two: Timing is key! If you dive too early, you will get caught by the wave and get pulled back. If you dive too late, you will get taken out by the front of the wave before you have the chance to get deep enough to go under it. Usually you will begin the dive a few feet before a wave that is approaching you. If you are dealing with white wash (a wave that has already broken), you will need to dive sooner.
Step Three: Place your hands right under your shoulders onto the rails of your board, about two feet from its nose, and submerge the nose of your board under the water. It kind of looks and feels like a push-up. Shift your weight forward to help this motion. At the same time that you are doing this, place your back knee on the deck of the board to help you sink the board under.
Step Four: Once you are under the wave, you will feel it begin to pass over you. If you are in clear, sand-free, water you can even open your eyes and look around! As you feel the wave go by, use that knee (or *back foot) that you already have placed on the deck of the board to push on the tail. Kick your other leg straight to balance the maneuver and give you an extra boost. This motion will point the nose of the surfboard towards the surface.
Step Five: Bring your legs together again and hang on to your rails as you rise to the surface.
*You can use your back leg or knee to complete this maneuver. I usually use my knee in waves of less consequence and my leg when I really need to dive deep.
All of this may sound a little complicated, but just remember, all you are really doing is sinking yourself and your board under a broken or breaking wave with a scooping motion so that you don’t get taken out by it or taken further back. Have fun practicing! These are especially fun in bigger waves and clear, tropical water!
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