10 Tips for Duck-Diving

A surfer turning on a wave

Knowing how to duck dive your board is one of the most progressive skills you can learn as a surfer. Not only will it get you out back quicker, but it also retains your energy so you can catch more waves instead of wasting it on the paddle out.

One of the most significant advantages of duck diving is that it allows you to paddle out during bigger swells so that you can experience larger waves and progress even more!

What better time learning than this summer! Time to grab your women’s or men’s shorty wetsuit and start your education in duck diving:

A duck in the water

What is Duck Diving?

Instead of trying to paddle over or through waves, the surfing technique dives under the oncoming wave. It is pretty much the action of sinking your board under the water to miss turbulence as the wave passes over you, while still moving forward.

Inspired by (you guessed it) ducks, it should be a quick and smooth action … if you can learn it right!

Ready to give it a go? Take a look at our step by step guide below!

Practice Makes Perfect

Firstly, learning to duck dive is going to take time and lots of practice. It may be a few sessions before you really feel like you have the hang of it, but one day it will just click. And what a great day when it does!

You can Practice in Flat Water Too!

The promising thing is that you don’t have to only practice in the surf. An advantage of practising with waves is to perfect timing and speed


However, practising in flat water is also beneficial as it will get you familiar with the movement required and the strength needed to sink your board sufficiently.

This means any body of water would be perfect, whether a lake or a pool, anywhere you can experiment in the water with your board is ideal.

A female surfer paddling on a longboard

Your Board Needs to be Small

Too big a board can be impossible to sink under the water. If you do have a longboard, turtle rolling may be a more suitable paddle-out technique.

If you are considering a smaller board, take a look at our blog on how do you know if you’re ready for a different board?

What is Turtle Rolling?

Turtle rolling requires paddling into an oncoming wave and rolling your board over, so the fins are facing the sky, as you lie parallel with the surfboard underneath. Essentially, it is the transition from lying on the board's deck out of the water to flipping over and lying on the deck underwater.

A wave breaking

Know the Difference Between Broken and Unbroken Waves

As you learn to duck dive, you will become more familiar with the two different wave experiences; broken white water waves and unbroken waves.

Broken White Water Waves

Duck diving under these waves is slightly harder as you need to dive deeper to surpass the turbulent white water which extends below the water surface.

Unbroken Waves

On the other hand, unbroken waves are much easier to duck dive as you are naturally pulled and pushed out the wave.

Paddle with Power and Speed

Paddling fast and powerfully is necessary when duck diving white water waves, and without speed, it is unlikely you will make it smoothly under the wave. Momentum is crucial so you can push through the heavier waves.

There is no time for pausing when you go to duck dive, paddle straight ahead with power and confidence!

Timing is Key

Time the start of your duck dive about a ‘surfboards distanceaway, so roughly two metres.

If the duck dive is instigated too quickly, you will not have accumulated enough speed to direct you through the wave.

One which begins too slow will ultimately end with you getting sucked into the power of the oncoming wave, so it is essential to get the board parallel under the water before the wave hits you.

The nose of a white surfboard in the sea

Push the Board with Your Hands and Chest

Start by grabbing the front of the rails just under your chest.

Next, push down from your chest and extend your arms to sink the board under the water. Keep your arms straight to help keep the board down and deep.

The aim is to dig the nose of the board under the water as far as possible.

Tip for Submerging

If you struggle with sinking your board because of its size or weight in comparison to you, tilting it at an angle may help.

Instead of submerging it straight under, try pushing the left or right side in first, followed by the opposite side after.

Sink the Tail with Your Foot

Either using your foot or knee to push the tail of the surfboard, you need to submerge the board as deep as possible. Aim to place one foot/ knee on the tail pad and then push down hard to bring the surfboard in level with the nose of the board in the water.

 Lift Your Back Leg

To help force the board below the wave, lifting your unused leg behind can help to weigh the board down.

Make Sure the Tail is Parallel with the Nose

It is essential to get the board level because if the nose is down, but the tail isn’t, it is easy to get caught up in the turbulence of the wave.

With more practice, this should be a quick, fluid and forward movement.

Get Close to Board

Next, you need to move closer to the board underwater. And by this we mean, you have to go to the surfboard, don’t move the board closer to you! This is to ensure you are fully sinking the board.

Blue underwater ocean

Keep Your Eyes Open

Open eyes can help to spot heavy and aggressive areas of the wave as you pass through the water. More turbulent areas will look whiter.

If surfing a reef break, you may also be able to avoid any unnecessary damage by noticing protruding parts of reef and rocks as you dive.

Resurface Slowly

Once the wave has passed, you can begin to surface by pointing the nose of the board up.

This final step is relatively easy because the buoyancy of the board will naturally lift you as you re-direct your board up.

So that concludes our guide! Good luck and happy duck diving! Spread the support and share the hints and tips you learn along the way on our social media channels!