How to Surf- Duck-Dive
So you’ve put in the hard work and can now consistently and swiftly get to your feet in the white water (if you haven’t already, first learn how to surf broken waves). Your paddling should now be of reasonable quality and you’re eagerly awaiting the perfect conditions for your first surf out back with the big boys. Problem is, you’ve got to get there first!
When faced with the daunting task of having to get out to the back through battering wave after wave of foamy white water, it’s handy to know a few little tips that’ll help you hold your ground when trying to make it through each wave. Duck diving is a technique that can be employed for paddling short to medium boards, underneath the waves using their cyclic energy, and out to the back.
1- Timing is key to your paddle out. Waves tend to aggregate according to size meaning that there will be short periods of large waves (sets) in between periods of small waves (lulls). Keep an eye on the ocean and start to enter the water as a set is breaking so that by the time you’ll start paddling, you’ll be making your way through a lull and therefor smaller waves.
2- Paddle out in the right place. Try and paddle out in a rip (only use this technique if you are confident with the conditions) so that you are aided through the waves by the outflowing current. If a rip is not obvious, either watch where the more experienced surfers paddle out, or plan a path around where the waves are usually breaking.
3- Having jumped over the white water in the shallows and reached belly button deep water, jump onto your board and begin to paddle out. This can often prove to be an unexpected marathon, so pace yourself in order to conserve energy.
4- Timing is everything! The plan is to utilise the wave’s cyclic energy to push you under and then out of the back of the wave. To do this, your timing has to be perfect. As the wave approaches, you are aiming to begin your duck dive so that your whole body passes underneath the wave as close to the white water as possible without actually touching it.
5- Push downwards. Imagine the opposite action of a high jumper i.e. you’re trying to curve your entire body and board underneath a horizontal bar that is travelling towards you. Start by firmly gripping the rails of your board where you’d usually push down when standing up. As the wave approaches, take a deep breath and push down on the front of the board, pushing your head down with it as you do so.
6- Arch your back. Arch your back with your bum in the air to encourage the wave to push downwards onto the pack of the board as it passes over you.
7- Push down on the back of the board. Once the top half of you and your board has passed under the front of the wave, it’s time to encourage the back half to do the same. Essentially you will be using one leg to push the board downwards (placing either your knee or your foot on the centre of the board towards the back), and the other to point upwards into the air in order to encourage your back to arch and to help you keep your balance.
8- By this point the nose of your surfboard should be facing towards the surface. Flatten out your body and perhaps even lightly kick your legs in order to speed up your surfacing.
9- Once surfaced and balanced over the centre of your board, release the grip on your board and immediately begin to paddle again.
10- Repeat this process until you reach the back of the waves. Do not give up! You’ll get there, it just takes effort. Save your resting until you are well and truly at the back of the waves.
If the board is washed out of your hands and you are being tumbled, try your best to relax. Relaxing will conserve your oxygen and will keep you in good spirits. You will always surface in good time before you run out of air!
If a large, hollow wave looks like it will break directly on your head, it is often a good idea for both safety’s sake and the protection of your equipment, to ditch your board and free dive under the water. Be sure to push your board away sideways so to minimise the area of the board that the lip of the wave may land on causing it to break. Be sure to check behind you before ditching your board to ensure that nobody that’s paddling out will end up with your board wrapped around their face!