Duck Diving for the Short Surfboard Surfer.

April 17, 2009 1 Comment

If you are ever going to get out to the line up (where the good waves are breaking), then you need to be able to duck dive. This is the technique for going under any wave bigger than 2 foot and is used by surfers on shorter surfboards. If you ride a longboard you should read our article on the turtle roll--you can't duck dive a longboard surfboard. Too floaty.


The duck dive is a crucial surfing life skill for several reasons.

  1. You will not lose your momentum in getting out the back to where the action is.
  2. You will still be in control of your surfboard. This is very important so as to not injure yourself or anyone around you.
  3. When the waves are very big your surfboard will float to the surface so you can always follow your surfboard leash back up to the surface.
  4. Without your surfboard you are just another a swimmer. :)
So the aim of the exercise is to get out past the white water to the back where the waves are, as fast as possible while still in possession of your surfboard, obviously. How to Duck Dive.
  1. Paddle as fast as you can. The more speed you have, the less control the wave will have over you and your surfboard.
  2. If you can, head for where the white water has less impact.
  3. About 2 feet before the wave breaks, or before impact, start pushing the front of the surfboard down. To do this properly, you need to grab the rails on each side of the board, about halfway between the front and middle of the surfboard. Keeping your arms straight, start to push all your weight down onto your arms. You should feel the surfboard start to go down under the water. A 45 degree angle going down is perfect.
  4. Remember to take a big breath in! Most of your surfboard should be under the water as the wave is about to break over you. Remember to keep your head down.
  5. Once you are under the water use your dominant leg with a bent knee, or your foot, to push the back end of the surfboard under as well. This is especially useful if the waves are bigger and you need to dive deeper.
  6. Once you are under the water you should start to straighten out. Start angling the front of your surfboard back up to the surface of the water. By the time the wave has passed over you and your surfboard, you will be ready to start paddling again.
In Summary.
  • The faster you paddle into the white water the better control you will have. You should only be under the wave for a short time.
  • A duck dive is like an upside down ollie...underwater. What you want is to keep your board deep enough underwater that the wave passes over you instead of dragging you back from where you came.
  • Duck diving done properly will get you out the back to the line up (where the surf-able waves are) in the shortest possible time, without being washed back in with every set. ( A set is a group of waves.)
  • Duck diving is the safest way to maintain control of your surfboard. Never, ever get rid of your surfboard. This is only socially acceptable if the wave is enormous and you are going to die. You will not die in a 3 or 4 foot wave.
  • Any wave over 2 foot should be duck dived.
  • Duck diving can only be used with short surfboards.
  • Some beginner surfboards may be too buoyant for successful duck diving.
  • Duck diving is an essential skill if you want to surf in crowded locations.
  • Duck diving will save a lot of your energy for the actual surfing.
  • Small days are great for practicing your duck dive.

1 Response


August 04, 2014

Hi, very nice article indeed! I’ve a 5’8’’ shortboard, but very thick, it’s volume is 35 liters… my weight is 68 kg, is it too buoyant to be duckdived or i just need to try, try and try again?
Thank you very much

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