Most of us are handed a very direct and simple first lesson on navigating the impact zone, dodging waves hellbent on breaking right on top of us. The prevailing philosophy we enter the ocean with is relatable and summed up in one of surfing’s most ubiquitous movie quotes:
Of course, spend any amount of time in the water and we all quickly learn that the picture is much bigger than just that. Duck diving is a skill set as important as any other, with infinite intricacies and nuance. And then we get into heavier surf and all of a sudden there are reasonable discussions to have about when one should do the very thing we all know is an absolute last resort: ditching your board.
Nathan Florence is a good person to weigh in on this topic, especially since his ideas and philosophies on such things come with a handbag of legitimate techniques. Here, Florence offers a handful of pointers for us all to “take away and try it and hopefully get less worked.”
-Duck dives are preferred even when you’re looking at a 15-foot wall of white water because ditching your board here runs a high chance of breaking your leash.
-Bear hug your board and hang on for dear life. Your board is buoyant, so even though you’re getting thrashed around, having it in your arms will bring you right back to the surface every time.
-Hack: when getting rag-dolled and pushed deep, flip the board onto its side rather than lying flat on top of it. The board will naturally navigate through the boils in the water on its way back to the surface.
“While it does consume a lot of energy, hanging onto your board and bear-hugging it…it’s just better all around.”
A slabby beach break wave breaks in front of you:
-Time your duck dive under the wave’s natural “bounce.” This puts you in a pocket of water with less turbulence.
If it’s really shallow/ dry reef:
-Get off your board.
-Try to get back to the surface as soon as possible and away from the reef.
-Waves bigger than head high, ditch the knee-push and go foot to tail pad duck dive. “You get a bigger dunk.”
When to bail:
-When somebody bails in front of you, ditch your board and get out of the way.
-If the wave’s going to land directly on you, bail your board. Getting worked is inevitable.
This entire video is well worth a watch. Set some time aside, learn a thing or two, keep everybody else around you safer because of it, and hopefully, as Nate puts it, get less worked.