Once you’ve progressed past the stage of being pushed into whitewater belly-ins and embraced your first shortboard, the trusty old duck dive is arguably the first real surf manoeuvre you’ll need to get to grips with if you’re seriously hoping to turn your newly-found wave riding hobby into a long-term deal. Here long-time experienced surf coach Didier Piter breaks it down for you in to 5 simple phases.
1) Build momentum towards the wave
The aim is for you to duck under the on-coming force of the wave, so as not to be carried away back to shore. The more momentum you can build up as the wave approaches the easier it will be for you to sink the weight of your board and subsequently sneak under the wave’s energy.
This is the point where you need to accelerate your paddle speed.
2) Wait for the right moment to duck your board
Like with so many things, timing is everything. Continue to accelerate towards the wave until you’re about 3 metres away from the on-coming whitewater. The most efficient angle of penetration into the water is 45°. The idea is to use your board as an inflatable safety device: the further you can immerse your board under water the faster the board will pop you back up to the surface. That’s right, with every action in buoyant force there’s a reaction! But the true skill lies in executing your duck dive at the right moment: if you duck too early you’ll pop up into the wave’s vortex and be sent flying. Get it right and you should emerge unscathed out the back of the wave.
3) Mastering your board’s buoyancy:
Focus on firmly duck diving your surfboard so that it travels deep enough to pass under the wave’s underwater turbulence, while using Archimedes’ buoyancy principle to boost you back up to the surface and out the back of the wave.
4) Direct your underwater upward buoyant force
The key to the duck dive is to direct your surfboard’s upward buoyant force at a 45° angle towards the surface at the moment the wave passes over you.
By pushing down on the tail of your board with your foot (or knee) you’re able to sink the board deeper below the surface and generate a stronger upward force back up to the surface.
All that’s left is for you to guide your board back to the surface using your arms, the board angled at 45° to the surface. Look up to see when exactly you’re going to re-surface, and breathe!
Duck diving the more powerful variety of angry water:
– Keep your eyes open while under water, the underwater turbulences are not necessarily spread out evenly and you might be able to use pockets of calmer water to escape the full force of the wave.
– Tilt your board onto a rail to accelerate the board’s return to the surface.
Finally, remember to keep practising, the better you can master the duck dive the more energy you’ll have left to catch waves.