SURF GUIDE CHAPTER SEVEN

Paddling Out, Turtle Rolls & Duck Diving

In this guide to surfing and self coaching we cover surfing best practices, how to’s & tips for new & developing surfers. Learn techniques used by surf coaches, discover common errors and clear up misconceptions.

Each chapter of the guide highlights different key areas that enable surfers to develop From how to catch more waves to understanding how to judge wave height or how to duck dive, each chapter is crammed with actionable detail to help you understand and improve your surfing.

Ariel view of surfer paddling out to to sea

How to push up over a wave

As a new or developing surfer progresses the call to paddle ‘outback’ will lead to be able to either push up over small waves, turtle roll or duck dive through oncoming waves in order to reach the ‘line up’. 

Pushing up over a wave is the easiest and most convenient method for getting past small to medium sized waves.

Step 1. Make sure you have good board speed. The faster that you are paddling towards the wave the harder it will be for the wave to push you back towards the beach. 

Step 2. Ensure that your board is facing straight out to sea and is head on into the on coming wave (a slight angle will tip your board sideways).

Step 3. When the wave is 1-2 ft away, grip the rails of your board near your chest and push your body up using your arms. At the same time use your toes or one knee to lift up your mid section and to help you keep balance.

*The idea is to let water pass between you and your board. If you simply lean back, this will just pronounce your chest giving the wave a larger area to hit and force you backwards. 

Once over the crest of the wave, lie back on your board and resume your paddling

The turtle roll

The Turtle roll is an action predominantly used by surfers with large volume surfboards that are not suited to duck diving beneath the waves or for those that have not yet mastered the art of duck diving. 

Preforming a turtle roll correctly is a key skill in progressing ‘outback’ behind the breaking waves.

The purpose of a turtle roll is shield your body from the brunt of the on coming wave, by turtle rolling your body underneath your surfboard the wave then breaks and rolls over the underside of your board causing less drag on you and your board.

When to turtle roll 

Turtle rolling can be a very effective method of minimising the impact that a oncoming wave, surfers should use this technique when faced with a large pile of white water or wave that is too big to push up over. 

How to turtle roll

Step 1. As a wave approaches build up as much paddle speed as you can.

Step 2. Ensure your board is facing straight out to sea and head on to the on coming wave.

Step 3. When the wave is 2-3ft away grip the rails of the board, take a depth breath of air and roll over on to you back holding on to your board so that the underside of the board is now facing the sky.

*Once the wave has rolled over the underside of your board, speed is key to ensuring the effectiveness of this manoeuvre.

Step 1. Roll the board over so that one rail is in the water and the other in the air. 

Step 2. Scissor kick with your legs and simultaneously scoop yourself onto the board by pulling down with your hand on the rail that isn't in the water, tense your stomach muscles for a quicker result.

Step 3. Position yourself on your board and start paddling towards the next wave. 

*Speed is key for the second half of the turtle roll. Much time can be wasted when getting back onto your board, so make sure you focus on developing an efficient technique for getting back onto your board. 

Duck diving

The duck dive technique is used for getting underneath oncoming waves. By ducking beneath the waves, surfers make use of the curl of the wave to help them avoid the turbulent whitewater, allowing them to paddle out effectively and efficiently behind the breaking waves with minimal resistance.

How to duck dive

Make sure that you have plenty of speed as you paddle toward the oncoming wave. Commence the following steps when the wave is one board length away:

Step one. Just before you place your hands by your chest and start to sink the nose - press down onto your board through your chest to help the sinking process.

Start to take a deep breath...

Step two. Grip the rails of your board by your chest (elbows inwards) and completely submerge the front third of the board. 

*You will need to be hunched over with your bum in the air and your body weight being forced down between your hands at this point.

Step three. Place one knee or foot onto the board towards the back third and apply downward pressure to assist in sinking the board. (It is a matter of preference whether you use a knee or foot.)

At this point most of your body weight should be hunched over between your hands, driving the board down and forwards.  

The aim this stage is to get the board and your body to sink to its maximum depth possible (different volume sizes of boards will react differently).

Resurfacing

The trick is timing your upwards ascent just as you reach your maximum depth.

As you start to feel that you cannot sink any further, this is the time to switch the direction of your board. 

Step one. Push forwards with your knee or foot and at the same time recoil your arms bringing the board close to your chest. This will change the momentum and direction of your board so the nose of your board is now being pointing back up towards the surface of the water.

Step two. Your chest should now be close to the board with your back arched and head tilted back looking up to the surface. If the tail is above the nose at this point you wont surface properly. 

Step three. Keeping your eyes open for judgement and using the curl or recirculating motion of the wave will to help rotate or suck you and your board up and out of the back of the wave.

You should come out of a duck dive with speed.

Mastering the duck dive involves a lot of technique - a common misconception is that bigger surfboards cannot be duck dived. More often than not this comes down to the surfers poor technique and body / weight placement. 

How to duck dive a big surfboard - slicing a rail

Larger or more rounded nose boards will be harder to initially force under the surface of the water due to holding more volume or buoyancy.

Instead of pushing the nose of the board down equally with both hands, slice one of the rails into the water by applying extra pressure to one side of the board and force the board down and sideways. 

The result is that one rail will dip in to the water first, as this starts to happen continue with applying equal pressure to both the rails - as the nose of the board takes on more water the added pressure helps you to force the rest of the board down to complete a duck dive.