Duck diving is one of those essential skills every surfer should have in their tool kit. Not only is it a great tool to help you get out the back faster, it is also a necessary skill to have if you want to participate safely in most ocean conditions. Here are 5 tips to help you execute deeper, more consistent duck dives.
It's all about momentum.
Ever tried duck diving from a stand still? Let's just say - its a challenge. The more paddling you can get going into the wave, the better. Having some momentum when heading up to the breaking wave makes it easier to slice our rails through the water, making it easier to sink our boards.
When a wave is about to break, there is a lot of water that is being pulled into the wave, both on surface level and below. The more momentum we can get, the easier it is for us to get sucked into the force, and pulled through and under the wave. Think jumping on a treadmill at speed 10 from standing, verses from a jog.
Ok, it's not all about momentum - it's also about timing.
Just like every thing in surfing, precise timing is key to a successful duck dive. If you duck dive too late, its obvious what happens - a face full of whitewater, and a long and embarrassing shove back towards the shore. If you duck dive too early, you inevitably end up floating back up to the surface, just in time for the whitewater to surround you in its wrath and shake you like a ragdoll.
The knee or the foot?
This often comes down to personal preference but personally I would say that using your foot is far more effective due to both the force, and leverage you can gain from it. Of course, some situations you can get away with a slight push of the knee, such as a small, slopey wave that has yet to crash down and explode, but if a big dumpy wave is about to break on your face, I would vote for the foot, every time.
Don't come up prematurely, learn to love being underwater.
The more you duck dive, the more confident you get, but to build up your base level of confidence, you need to be ok with being underwater. It is inevitable that you will get thrown around a few times before you master this skill (and even after years of surfing.)
One thing that is essential to understand is that the ocean will let you up when it wants to let you up, and if you can (almost) enjoy the weightless feeling of being thrown around underwater then you are going to have a much more enjoyable and valuable time learning this skill.
Practice, practice, practice
Eventually duck diving becomes like second nature, like walking, and you wont have to think about how to time it, or how to position your body - it will just be a reaction. Until then, it is really important that you try out and experiment with what FEELS like the best duck dive.
Be objective with it - paddle into waves again and again, get rolled, use you knee, then use your foot, practice different times to start your duck dive, try and figure out what feels like the best time to rise to the surface, even it it doesn't always work.
This is a skill that will naturally come with practice and time, and it may take a few beatings to get it right, but eventually you will get there.
Good luck everyone! If you don't have a shortboard that you can duck dive, but still want to make it out past the waves, you can watch a video all about that, here.