If you're ready to migrate past the whitewater and out to the broken waves then there's one skill above all other that you're going to need.
And that's being able to duck-dive.
Sure, you want to focus on manoeuvres and all that fun stuff, but if you can't even make it out the back, what's the point?
No one want's to learn how to duck-dive necessarily, but it's just one of those skills that's worth it's weight in gold.
The ability to duck-dive well will:
...duck-diving is an invaluable skill to learn as a surfer, and as luck would have it, we've covered EVERYTHING you need to know on the top below
Are you ready?
WHAT IS A DUCK DIVE?
Duck diving in surfing is a technique used by surfers to sink their boards underwater to duck under the breaking wave, allowing it to roll over them - without getting smashed.
This process enables a surfer to push their board underneath the power of the wave - avoiding the turbulence of the white water - continuing all the while to make ground out past the broken waves.
Much in the same way that a duck dives with its nose first underwater and pops up nose first too, surfers have imitated this exact movement to negotiate breaking waves.
It's a potent technique, one that simply can't be overlooked.
IS DUCK DIVING HARD?
I hate to break it to you but, yup, duck-diving is kinda hard.
Granted, it’s not as difficult as a cutback or a floater, but it does present its own challenges.
The good news however, once you get this skill dialled, you'll conserve your energy and spend way more time doing what you love...actually surfing waves.
Duck-diving well relies on two main things: Timing & Speed.
Below we break down both.
TIMING WHEN TO DUCK-DIVE
Having a good understanding of how waves break will give you a significant advantage when it comes to timing your duck dive.
To time a duck-dive effectively you must allow enough time to push your board under the water before the wave breaks hits you.
Not too early as you'll lose your momentum, fail to penetrate the water properly, and likely wobble off you board before the wave even hits.
And not too late, or you'll get a face full of whitewater or worse still a lip landing on your head.
Funny to watch, granted, but not so funny if the one being watched is you
As duck-dives are best performed in one fluid motion the best time to start your duck-dive is roughly one to two meters before the wave hits (this varies depending on the size of the wave: bigger waves require more time to penetrate deeper underwater).
The best way to figure out the timing is - like everything - a bit of trial and error, but the above approximations should help you along for now.
DUCK-DIVING WITH SPEED
It's almost impossible to duck dive a powerful whitewater wave without generating enough forward momentum to battle against the oncoming turbulence.
This momentum I'm referring to is your paddle speed towards the approaching wave.
This momentum helps to keep you and your surfboard driving forward reducing the impact and turbulence of the oncoming wave - an object in motion, stays in motion, right?
Whereas without any paddle speed and momentum you and your surfboard are like a feather in the wind, with little to no control.
SHOULD I DUCK DIVE WITH MY KNEE OR FOOT?
One of the most common questions about the duck dive is whether or not to use your knee or your foot.
And the answer is...
...there is no answer
It all comes down to personal preference, however, some people (myself included) use both techniques in different circumstances.
In small waves I use my knee to duck-dive as it requires less energy, and I don't need to penetrate the water so deeply.
And in larger waves I'll use my foot to get as deep as possible.
Whether you use your knee or your foot to duck-dive makes no odds really, just give each a go and choose the most effective solution that works for you.
HOW DO YOU PRACTICE DUCK DIVING?
The more you practice duck diving the better you’re going to get, and let's face it, there's LOTS of time to get the practice in.
However, it can take years to really perfect the correct technique so try not to get too discouraged if you're not crushing it straight away.
The best way to practice how to duck-dive is the real thing - time in the water, getting smashed, learning, iterating, and perfecting.
But, if you've got access to a pool or a lake close by these can be good controlled environments to hone in your skills too.
As with everything though, the more you practice the better you'll become.
CAN YOU DUCK DIVE A LONGBOARD?
Duck diving a longboard is virtually impossible, unless of course you're built like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Because of all that extra length and volume it makes duck-diving a longboard virtually impossible.
Longboarders instead use a few different methods: The Push Through Technique, the Turtle Roll, and the Clubby Method (we cover all of these in our online programs here).
So, is it possible to duck-dive a longboard?
Hmm, yeah I guess.
Will you be able to duck-dive a longboard?
Probably not, so stick to one of the other three methods above.
CAN YOU DUCK DIVE A FOAMBOARD?
For sure you can duck-dive a longboard, but it depends on a couple of factors:
Length, and volume.
Surfboards with a lot of volume are almost impossible to push under water.
And Foamboards are notoriously more buoyant to help beginner surfers catch waves more easily, and make the whole pop up process more forgiving.
So as a rule of thumb, any foamboard between five and seven feet can be duck-dived (just about), but anything above that will be almost impossible.
WHAT ARE TWO TYPES OF WAVES TO DUCK DIVE?
When it comes to duck diving, there’s two types of waves you need to navigate.
Broken waves (or white water), and unbroken waves (or green waves).
Although similar, you’ll need to take a slightly different approach to each.
HOW TO DUCK-DIVE WHITE WATER
Once a wave has broken, the wave turns into what’s called “white water”.
The energy of a white water wave carries a forward momentum towards the beach, and this makes it a little different when approaching it to duck dive.
Firstly, you’ll want to make sure that you have enough forward momentum paddling towards the white water (so that you don’t get pushed back too far).
Secondly, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re penetrating the water as deep as possible to get under the energy of the broken wave.
If your paddling through small soft white water I would recommend using your knee.
However, if you're paddling out through big, gnarly white water it’s recommended to duck dive using your foot instead of your knee to get as deep as possible.
Oh and remember, it's vital that you attack the whitewater in question perpendicular to the way it's travelling, if not, you'll get dragged off your board and rag-dolled every time.
HOW TO DUCK-DIVE A GREEN WAVE
An unbroken or green wave is - you guessed it - a wave that hasn’t broken yet.
In general (unless it’s 20ft) these waves are much easier to duck dive than their broken counterparts.
As the energy of a green wave is moving in a circular motion, usually the knee technique is adequate to penetrate the wave enough to make it through the wave successfully.
One thing to bear in mind here though is not to do the duck-dive too late as what can happen is you'll end up going over the falls, and nobody wants that.
So be sure to go under the unbroken wave, not through and over...
HOW TO DUCK DIVE - STEP BY STEP
STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO DUCK DVING CORRECTLY
PRO TIP: Keeping your arms straight will help you get more of the board under the water
HOW TO DUCK DIVE COMMON MISTAKES
If you want to surf green waves (which lets face it, everyone does), then you need to know how to duck dive.
It might take a while, but once you learn how to master the duck dive you will conserve a tonne of energy, all of which will keep you in the water for longer and help you catch way more waves in the process.
An under appreciated skill that definitely goes under the radar, but quite simply someone that can duck dive well will be able to surf in more conditions and for longer than someone that can't.
Ex WQS warrior, and all-round frother - Loz is the technical coaching queen at the House of Surf.
She is also a mindset and life coach and has a habit of living in her van way too much.