How to Duck Dive

Performing a solid duck dive is critical to paddling out through the surf. Your duck dive can mean the difference between making it to the lineup or watching from the beach. Worse yet, a failed duck dive or ditching your board could easily injure other surfers. These key points will help improve your duck dive.

Hand Position

It is much easier to sink the front of your board if you place your hands close to the nose. Grab your rails, hold tight and push down hard. Experiment with what grip location works best. Some boards are more buoyant, while others sink easily.


Don't wait too long to dive, and don't descend too early. There is an element of perfect timing that comes with practice. It takes between 2 to 4 seconds to get your board deep underwater and beneath the turbulence. So get in the habit of timing your dive with the approaching wave or whitewater. If you dive too late, you will get picked up by the turbulence. Dive too early and you will come up in the middle of the whitewater.


Dive as deep as possible. Press down with your upper body and drive the front of your board down. Keep your head down. Once you are well underwater, get all your body weight over the board and then press one foot on the tail to sink the entire board. This tail press angles the board upward, projecting you and your board to the surface.

Quick tips

  1. Practice your duck diving skills in small waves and then progress to larger surf.
  2. Get stronger by doing push ups with your hands on an exercise ball. The unstable ball surface mimics the feeling of pushing your board underwater.
  3. When the surf is too large to duck dive, you will have to ditch and swim under. Keep in mind that if you must bail your board, be absolutely sure there is nobody nearby. Check behind you before you bail and be prepared to go swimming if your leash breaks.

Get your duck dive dialed in. Doing so will make the session safer for others around you and will make you a more accomplished surfer.

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Scott Adams has been a fitness professional for 15 years. He holds a degree in Exercise Physiology and advanced certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCS) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (CES). He created the top-selling training video for surfers, Surf Stronger, The Surfer's Workout.

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