A Bodyboarder's Guide to Duck Diving
If it’s your first time bodyboarding, you may think your goal is to stay above water the whole time, but in certain situations, it's quite the opposite. You are probably wondering, “Why would my goal as a bodyboarder ever be to go underwater?”. Duck diving is an essential skill for all bodyboarders to know and you most likely have already been doing it without realizing!
No, we are not talking about wiping out.
In fact, you weren’t even using a board.
When you go swimming in the ocean, it’s all fun and games until you get crashed on by a wave. To avoid this, swimmers do either one of two things:
- Float over the wave
- Dive and swim beneath the wave
The second method is what we are going for! Just like you can avoid waves by swimming underneath them, you can do the same with a bodyboard. This process is known as duck diving.
Duck diving is not only a way of evasion, but it is also a safety measure.
In a perfect scenario, there is only one wave to catch. Only after you are finished with that one wave will another form. The reality, unfortunately, is that the ocean is a dangerous environment with waves coming in all directions and sizes.
This can ruin your experience if you keep getting crashed on, and tire you out quicker while searching for the best wave.
Don’t worry, we will take you through the steps so that you can effortlessly power through and catch more waves.
You never want to wait on the waves to come to you. Always paddle towards them! The quicker you paddle, the easier it will be to dive under. You can speed up your paddling by using swim fins.
Not sure what type of swim fins to get? This guide will help.
To start the dive, you want to grab both side rails of your board with your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, while waiting for the impact of the wave.
Once the wave is close, prepare yourself by putting a downward pressure on the board, lowering your head and shoulders. The nose should be going underwater before the tail.
Using either your foot or knee, whichever is more comfortable, put pressure on the tail end so that the entire board is submerged. If any part of the board is sticking above the water at this point, it will slow you down as you are trying to dive.
Bring yourself to the board closely and point your body downwards so that you can get some depth under the wave. Once the wave has passed, tilt the nose upward. Doing so should naturally bring the tail up as well.
One trick experienced bodyboarders do is immediately start paddling after they submerge. Since the buoyancy of the board does a lot of the work pulling you up, you can get some immediate momentum after you surface.
We highly recommend knowing the ins and outs of your board. Make sure you know how it feels in the water, how to position yourself properly, and how easily you can get your board to go underwater.
Practice makes perfect, and by no means do you have to experiment on waves to try this method. You can just as easily apply this method in still water. This should be one natural, fluid motion that you shouldn’t have to think about when the time comes!
And of course, it's always good to take advice from the best! World champion surfer Kelly Slater goes into some detail about duck diving here. It's worth a read.
WHAT IF MY BOARD IS TOO BIG TO DUCK DIVE WITH?
If your board is too buoyant to duck dive with, we have another method for you to try out - the turtle roll! This method is a bit more technical, so be 100% sure you can’t duck dive before trying the turtle roll!
To pull off the roll:
- Start perpendicular to the incoming wave.
- Keeping your elbows bent, grabbing the rails of the board.
- Keep an eye out for the wave. You want to flip yourself underwater just before it hits you.
- Once the wave passes by, roll back upwards and reposition yourself to the center of the board.
- Continue to paddle and repeat the process until you find the next wave you want to ride!
No wave is going to be perfect and it might take dozens of waves to pass before finding the one right for you. Don’t tire yourself out by fighting the waves and master the duck dive or turtle roll. Take control of the ocean and evade those pesky broken waves!
Don't want to read? This video will show you the basics!
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