How To Duck Dive and Turtle Roll A Surfboard

Sports & RecreationsSports

  • Author Rick Gamble
  • Published March 27, 2020
  • Word count 746

Here are the steps on how to do a duck dive

As the wave approaches, paddle hard towards the wave to give some momentum, then put your hands on the rails, around shoulder level, and push the nose of the board under the water.

Straighten your arms out, which will push your board further underwater.

At the same time push your body away from the board, so you have one knee on the board (your foot for big waves) applying pressure so you are more or less level under the water.

As the wave passes over you, start to push your surfboard forward, releasing the pressure from your arms will aim the board up and out behind the wave.

As you reach the surface you should be back in a paddling position.

You know when you have done a good duck dive when you go under the wave and feel very little pull from the wave

Other Duck Diving Points

  • Basically we are just lifting up from the surfboard from where we are laying, you don't need to move up or down the surfboard. Many times I see people trying to duck dive by moving up the surfboard, which causes them to lose balance and reduces the pressure on the back of the surfboard by the knee. Moving up the surfboard will never allow them to get deep enough to clear the bottom of the wave.

  • Start paddling as soon as you break the surface of the water. Not doing this, on bigger waves, could result in you and your board being sucked back into the breaking wave, not fun as entering a breaking wave from the back like this gives you a real pounding!! We've all been sucked backward over the falls before and it makes you all the more determined for it to not happen again!

  • Always Duck Dive before the wave reaches you so you have time to go under. A common mistake is to leave it too late and the whitewater will catch you and pull you back towards the beach.

Remember learning to duck dive takes a lot of practice to get it right. You should be able to duck dive in flat water once you get the hang of it - just like ducks do!!

The Turtle Roll


Duck diving a 7 feet or longer surfboard becomes quite difficult especially if the surfboard has a wide nose like a longboard.  A big surfboard floats very well and is difficult to push under the water. If you can't go deep enough duck diving to get under the wave the wave will push you back towards the shore.

In this case, don't be a a turtle dude!!!

Turtle rolls are not a fun thing to do, but they are essential, if you want to make you way out the back and get through those walls of whitewater.

Here's what you do...

As the wave approaches hold the rails of the surfboard, around where you would put your hands to stand up, or 1/4 to 1/3 of the way from the nose of the board, and lean to one side causing you and the surfboard to go upside down.

You are now under the water, under your surfboard. Best for your body to be in an upright position at this stage. That is at 90 degree angle to your board, not parallel, this will help to create resistance against the pull of the wave.

For small waves, hold your surfboard at least 2-3 feet from the nose on each rail and pull the nose of the board under the water. This will cause the wave to pass over the surfboard without catching it and pulling it back. With big waves a lot of force is required to pull the board far enough under the water and to counter the force of the wave, so the wave passes over.

The most important thing is to be upside down, under the water, before the wave gets to you.

Be careful not to hold the board too far back as it can make it easier for the wave to get under the board and wrench it out of your hands.

You should feel the surfboard push down and up from the wave going over, this is usually how you know you have done a good roll

Once the wave has passed, flip the board back over, and get back on.

There you have it! You're a Turtle Dude!


Rick has surfed extensively throughout Australia and Asia and has been surfing for over 40 years. Rick writes articles for Saltwater Dreaming and is the head surfing instructor

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