how to duck dive

Learn How to Duck Dive Properly – Complete Guide

Every beginner surfer who strives to become a competent surfer must master the art of duck diving. This article will help you to paddle out even faster when joining the line-up, and avoid being washed back towards the shore. Mastering the duck dive saves on the number of broken leashes and surfboards being swept away through the white water.

Duck-diving helps to keep you and your fellow surfers, safe when pushing out through the waves. Here’s our World Surfers guide to duck diving.

Learn How to Duck Dive (Step by Step)

In this article, we will look at the mechanics of the duck dive, and all the steps involved to successfully master the art of executing the perfect duck-dive when paddling out to join your fellow surfers in the line-up behind the breakers.

The art of perfecting your duck dive technique by doing certain exercises, both on dry land and in the water will be discussed. This will help you memorize the movements needed to perfectly execute duck diving like a seasoned surfer.

What is Duck Diving

Duck-diving refers to the technique used by surfers to push the nose of their surfboard into the water when they approach a large wave to go underneath the breaking wave with their surfboard. This movement is similar to that of a swimmer who dives under a wave in the sea. They enter first with their head and shoulders before the wave breaks on them with their bodies as close to the bottom while the wave passes over them, gliding along to resurface with their head and shoulders first. They execute their dive in a circular movement, the only difference is that you have your surfboard underneath you.

Understand Waves

Make sure that you understand the mechanics of waves and the energy and movements they create under the surface. You must use the circular motion created by the wave to move along in the right direction. It is essential to watch the waves to time your dive, to coincide with the upward swell movement of the wave to ensure that you glide through the pocket created underneath.

how to duckdive
Surfer with surf board dive underwater with under big ocean wave

Know Your Surfboard

Ensure that you are able to submerge your surfboard with your bodyweight, the type of surfboard you use will determine if you will be able to do the duck-dive by sinking your board under the water deep enough. Shortboards are the easiest boards to do the duck dive with.

Momentum is Key

Remember to start your duck dive early by paddling as fast and hard as you can towards the wave, you must really attack the wave to build up sufficient momentum to easily slip underneath the wave in a gliding motion. This will help to avoid going too deep, it is generally recommended that you start paddling about 2 metres away from the wave to ensure enough momentum and speed. Be careful not to start too early with your dive as this will leave you without sufficient forward momentum to pass underneath the wave and will leave you exposed to the force of the wave.

Push The Nose Down

When you are about a surfboard length away from the wave, stop paddling and grab both rails with both hands and extended arms. Make use of your upper body and straightened arms to create as much downward push and force possible to submerge your body into the water. Try and keep your eyes open underwater to be able to see what is going on around you, use surfer goggles to protect your eyes.

Down with the Tail

To ensure that the surfboard is fully submerged into the water, you must press your foot hard onto the traction pad at the tail of your board, some surfers prefer to use their knees but it is less damaging to your board if you use your foot. This movement is necessary to level the board under the water in a position parallel to the bottom while the wave moves over you. Many surfers use the technique of lifting their other leg upwards thereby shifting more weight onto the foot pressing down.

Angle the Nose Upwards

When the wave has passed over you, pull the nose upwards with your hands with your body pressed onto the board. This movement will angle the nose upwards and allow you to resurface behind the wave. During the duckdive, you will experience the rushing of the water over you. Be prepared to start paddling immediately to avoid being sucked backwards, and lookout for the next wave rushing in.

Practice to Perfection

Like in any other sports practice creates perfection, when you perform it correctly it seems to be effortless and with perfect timing. The key to perfect your duck diving is to practice it until your body memorizes every step in one smooth movement. The best way to start it is by practising it first on dry land following the different sequences of the duck dive while on your board. Once you feel comfortable to start practising it in a pool or any other calm water, ask a friend to assist you if you struggle with the different movements. A good tip is to ask your friend to record a video clip of you practising and executing the duckdive. After you feel confident enough with your technique go and practice it on a calm day with small waves. Thereafter you can tackle larger waves to perfect your technique. The key to success is not to give up and constantly practice your duck dives.

General Tips

The following tips will help you to perfect your duck dive technique:

  • Remember to start your duck dive by going as deep as possible underwater, to counter the board’s buoyancy before you start your duckdiving.
  • Use your arms to push the nose down and your foot or knee to push the tail down.
  • Always take a deep breath before you duck the wave.
  • Watch training videos on how to duck dive by great surfers while performing the duck dive.
  • Don’t try to do duckdiving too close to a reef, submerged sandbanks or other dangerous areas.
  • Always wade your board in and don’t start in the white surf before riding on your board.
  • Take some time to study the waves, rips and channels and use that to your benefit when paddling out to surf.
  • Always ask other surfers when you struggle or don’t understand something to improve your surf technique. The only stupid question is the one that we never ask about how to duckdive.
  • Don’t try and duck dive or roll every wave, follow the most efficient way to get into the line-up.
how to duck dive surfing
Surfer woman with surf board dive underwater with under big ocean wave


How do you avoid being smashed by waves?

Surfers have one of two options to avoid being smashed by waves and the chosen method will depend on your surfboard and your body weight. Shortboard surfers on find it easier to use the duck dive to go underneath the waves slipping through the pocket created under the breaking wave, while skinnier and longboard surfers find it easier to do the turtle roll to avoid being smashed by the waves. The other options are to paddle in a channel around the wave or wait for a lull in the waves before paddling out.

How do you surf under a wave?

The key is to paddle towards the wave with enough momentum and then to push downwards while leaning forward, with outstretched arms using both hands on the rails. This will push the nose of the board under the water, push back hard with your leg on the traction board keeping the tail down. This movement will enable you to go down under the wave, slipping through the pocket created by the motion of the wave and to emerge behind the wave. Take a deep breath before you dive and keep your eyes open.

Do you need a traction pad for surfing?

Traction pads are stuck on the tail of surfboards to help prevent your back foot from sliding off the board. This help to provide grip and traction when surfers push back with their foot on the board when surfing or doing duck dives. Many surfers use surfboard wax instead of traction pads but in the end, it is a personal choice. The purpose of both is to ensure that you stay on your board while diving.

Wrap Up

There is a quicker way to join the line-up, than waiting for a lull in the waves or paddling around in a channel, no need to be hammered in the shore break anymore while struggling to paddle out when you use the tips and exercises in this article, on how to duckdive. Practice your duck dives regularly and it will become second nature to pass beneath the oncoming waves, effortlessly paddling out to join the line-up, after surfing that magnificent wave that you have just dreamed about in the past.