October 25th, 2011
Before leashes and short boards, the problem of getting outside was even more challenging than today.
During a severe push down while getting rolled by a brutish North Shore set, U.S. National Champion Corky Carroll slammed into something hard, which he thought was the bottom.
Looking down he realized he’d hit a big sea turtle who was also getting pummeled by the wave. I was thinking, ‘Look at that dude grovelling around, he’s in trouble.’ recalls Corky. ‘Then, with my lightning-quick mind, I realized that if he was in trouble then I must be in bigger trouble. He’s a turtle.’
So, doing the manly thing, Corky grabbed on and pulled himself up, launching for the surface from the top of his shell. Of course this stuffed the turtle even deeper.
‘When the turtle surfaced some seconds later he was just glaring at me,’ Corky remembers. ‘All I could do is look back sheepishly. He was one pissed-off tortoise.’
DUCK DIVING DONE DEFTLY
You see a massive wall of white water rumbling towards you, and there’s only one place to go – under it all. If you have ever watched ducks or other water birds navigate a wave you will know where the term comes from. Using their beaks first they simply drive their necks under the breaking wave follow with their bodies and pop out the back with the most natural and elegant motion. The object of the surfer’s duck dive is to do exactly the same. Getting this wired is not that easy, but mastering the duck dive will save endless battering and reduce the number of waves you have to roll substantially.
1. GETTING STARTED
The best way to get a feel for the proper way to really duck dive is to first practice on flat water. Paddle quickly up to speed and prepare to grab the rails about even with the center of your chest. Push off the board, just as if you were taking off, and with your hands wrapped around the rails, shift your body weight, position forward and bury the nose as deep as possible. Aim for a 45-degree angle of penetration. Deeper usually is better, but in most small waves just getting in well under the surface will generally work. Timing is the key element to this maneuver, and without a doubt the hardest part of the sequence, says longtime big-wave expert and Santa Cruz local Richard Schmidt. Getting yourself and the board underwater, away from the falling lip or incoming whitewater is the main objective. The whole sequence needs to be one precise sweep, to escape the lip’s impact and the turbulence just below the surface. Here is the key to the perfect duck dive: it’s a saber arc, down, under and up through the surface again.
2. PUSH IT REAL GOOD
Push all your upper body weight onto your hands and arms until you feel the nose begin to go under. Point your head down and let your body follow. As the nose submerges, slip your dominant leg forward, arching onto your toes. This will pull your butt into the air as high as possible. Just as your board begins to reach the bottom of the pendulum swing, bend your dominant leg and use that knee – or better yet, the ball of your foot – to push the tail under the water also.
3. LEAN INTO IT
To maximize your leverage, throw your other leg into a frog-kick behind you. Continue to push down against the tail with the toes of your leading or dominant foot. At this point you should be in a crab-like position over your board. The board is completely underwater, one leg arched above you. Timing is critical here. Each wave will configure the components differently: speed, thickness of lip, depth of the bottom, and you need to time it so you get your body under before the lip hits you. Remember to take a quick breath before going under.
4. THAT’S USING YOUR HEAD
Lead with your head (just like a duck) and pull your body underwater, pulling the board towards you. Simultaneously pull your arched back leg forward to add to the downward momentum. Maintain the momentum gained from driving the nose down under, thrusting forward and kicking with your back foot, while still pushing down on the tail with your dominant foot. Get the feel of where the sweet spot is to get maximum leverage from the foot and toes.
5. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Practice this until you can do the whole sequence in a singular flowing motion. The perfect duck dive uses your board and body as a pendulum, swinging under the wave in one fluid swooping movement. It takes time, and it’s a pain in the ass, says Joel Parkinson. But when you get it wired, and you’re trying to get out on a big day, it can be so rewarding.
6. KEEP IN MIND
As you move into the big stuff, remember to build up as much forward paddling speed as possible. Avoid where the lip is directly throwing out; try to paddle toward the part of the wave that has already broken or a spot on the wave wall that is steep but not right where the lip is landing. As the wave goes over you, push down on the tail with either your knee or foot. Your board should now be horizontal, a couple of feet underwater and powering through the bottom of its arc.
7. EYES WIDE OPEN
Whenever you can, if the water is clear enough, open your eyes to look for an area that has less turbulence and aim to pop up there. This point should be timed so that the bulk of the turbulence is above you. The energy of the wave should now be pushing you back towards the surface. Maintain momentum and arch upwards using the buoyant property of your board and body to complete the swing of pendulum, and break the surface behind the wave.
This post was taken from Surfing The Manual: Advanced by Jim Kempton.