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What Size Surfboard Can You Duck Dive?

What Size Surfboard Can You Duck Dive?

Duck diving allows you to get past breaking waves, but the bigger the board, the more difficult it is to duck dive. If you’re looking for a new surfboard, you’re likely wondering what size board you can duck dive.

How large a surfboard you can duck dive depends on your weight, strength, and the efficiency of your technique. The more you weigh, the stronger you are, the more efficient your technique is, the bigger the board you can duck dive.

An average surfer can generally duck dive easily on surfboards with length 5′ to 6’3. However, volume and thickness are also important. Thicker surfboards e.g. over 30L require more effort to duck dive. Heavier and bigger riders, or those with better technique, can often dive larger surfboards.

Beginner surfers often use longer, wider, and thicker boards to make paddling and balance easier. However, these boards make duck diving more challenging.

So, if you’re looking to purchase a bigger style of board and want to know if it will be possible to duck dive with it, read on to find out the duck diving details for different types of boards.

See also this post about the best sunglasses I’ve found you can actually surf (and duck dive) with – as opposed to just hanging out on the beach.

Before we look at specific surfboard types and sizes, I’ll briefly go over the duck dive technique.

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to duck dive on a surfboard?

Duck diving is a crucial skills in surfing, arguably the most important one besides paddling effectively – both generally go hand in hand. Here is a step by step guide for duck diving, with key tips based on my long personal experience.

1. Paddle hard toward the incoming wave

Your goal will be to get under the wave when it reaches you, so you want to meet the wave with maximum speed. It’s like digging into the water with momentum and catching an underwater rip that will pop you out of the water behind the wave.

2. Start pushing the surfboard nose under water

When you’re about 20 – 30 feet away from the incoming wave, while still paddling start shifting your body weight towards the board nose. Place your hands on the rails at about chest level and push the nose downward like you’re trying to do a push up. Make sure to allow enough time for the whole process before the wave reaches you.

3. Push the rest of your surfboard into the water

Once your board nose (and your own) is sunk under water, bring one knee (your leading one) against the surfboard and press it down to help the rear part of your board sink as well.

If you’re new to this it can be a bitt challenging at first to maintain balance, as your upper body is off the board in a push up position, and you have one knee bent and pushing downward onto the surfboard.

4. Let yourself roll under the wave

This is where you let the wave go by above you. If you’ve done the previous steps right, you’re now 2-3 feet underwater in a prone position, with your hands still grabbing the rails and possibly one foot maintaining the rear of your surfboard down.

Since you came into the wave with some speed from paddling, you should still have momentum under the wave to help you reach the upward current trailing the wave.

5. Pull back up to the water surface

The last step is to help your surfboard get back up by pulling on the rails with your hands. The board will go up anyway due to buoyancy, but pulling the rails upward will make it faster, giving you more time to setup for a takeoff or another duck dive.

The main characteristics of a good effective duck dive include speed, strength, and timing:

  • Speed: the faster you’re paddling before pushing down the surfboard, the faster you get down under the wave
  • Strength: the more upper body strength you have, the deeper the downward push will get you under the wave. Likewise, a strong upward pull will get you back up behind the wave faster
  • Timing: a tricky part of duck diving a surfboard is to dive early but not too early so as to catch that underwater rolling stream created by the wave – you’ll feel it when you catch it!

Note that duck diving in can be hard if the incoming wave hits you right after breaking as the wave still has a lot of energy and there’s strong turbulence under the wave, which can really shake you up. How well you can cope with it depends on your technique but also on your surfboard size.

Can you duck dive a 7′ surfboard?

It’s certainly possible to duck dive a board between 7 feet and 7 feet 6 inches, however, it will require a bit extra skills and some strength to pull it off compared to a smaller board.

Of course, it also depends on the surfboard’s width and overall volume. I can easily duck dive my 7.0 x 19.75″ Randy French Egg Tuflite surfboard – albeit not as deep as my smaller boards.

One way to accomplish a duck dive on a bigger 7′ surfboard is to push the board’s rail sideways into the water with your hands. The more volume and your surfboard has, the more sideways you need to push it in.

After you’ve managed to sink the front of the board as deep as possible, use your feet and lower body to push the rear of the board down.

The most efficient way to accomplish this part is by essentially standing on the back of the board, placing as much pressure on the tail as possible while grabbing the already submerged rails.

Once you sink the board’s nose and tail and push the board down deep enough sideways, hold on tight to the board as the wave rolls over you, and then pull hard on the nose to get on the upward stream of the underwater wave. If all goes well, you’ll exit the back of the wave.

Can you duck dive a funboard surfboard?

Can you duck dive a funboard?

A funboard can be challenging to duck dive because they have a lot of volume in the nose and tail, making it tough to sink the board. It is still possible to duck dive a funboard, though with the right technique.

The technique is similar to the one explained in the previous section on duck diving a 7ft board. Grabbing the board by the rails, place as much pressure on the front of the board as you can to sink the nose. Then, put pressure on the back of the board to sink your tail.

Hold onto the board as the wave rolls over you and try to find an upward stream within the wave that will pop you out the back.

Can you duck dive on a foam surfboard (foamie)?

Foam boards are tough to duck dive because the foam buoyancy makes it difficult to sink the board. This is also true for Wavestorms which are also made of high buoyancy foam.

What you can do is try to sink the nose as the wave rolls towards you in an attempt to minimize the distance you get pushed back.

While pushing the wide nose down (it won’t sink very deep), try to keep the rest of the board as flat as possible to offer the least resistance to the wave as it rolls over you.

This can be an effective technique in light whitewater or smaller, unbroken waves, however, it won’t work very well in larger, more powerful waves.

Beginners who are still learning how to duck dive should think of this as good practice. For sure, it will be hard to duck dive a foam board, but when you eventually switch to a fiberglass or epoxy board, it will feel much more manageable.

Can you duck dive a fish surfboard?

A fish will generally be easier to duck dive than a funboard or foam board, although the difficulty level depends on the board’s volume and your duck diving skills.

The nose of a fish is narrower than other high-volume boards, making it easier to push under the water. Once you sink the board past the nose, though, it requires a bit more strength to sink the board’s widest part.

Once the front of the board is underwater, you need to push down with your feet for a deeper duck dive, especially in larger waves. This can be harder with a shorter fish because you have less leverage for pushing with your feet, unless you’re very short or very flexible.

Generally speaking, though, a surfer who is past the beginner stage should be able to duck dive a fish to get past medium sized or head-high waves.

Can you duck dive a mini-mal surfboard?

Can you duck dive a mini-mal?

Mini-mals are typically 7’+ to 8′ in length with a very wide nose, wide outline, and thicker rails compared to funboards. As a result, mini-mals are quite floaty, which makes them easy to paddle and requires minimal (no pun intended) effort to catch waves on.

Duck diving on a mini-mal, especially larger ones, is generally challenging due to the volume and floatability. While it requires good technique, the “sideways duck dive” I mentioned earlier can be used effectively on a mini-mal in small to medium waves.

A caveat of using this technique on a mini-mal surfboard is that, in stronger waves, if your duck diving technique is not up to speed and you can’t push the board deep enough and early enough, the wave will typically hit your board hard (due to the sheer volume) and send you backward 20-30 feet.

If you’re not confident about sinking the min-mal deep enough before a larger wave, your best bet may be to let go with the board – first making sure no other surfer is downstream from you.

Can you duck dive on a longboard surfboard?

Most surfers are unable to duck dive a longboard because it is just too much volume for even strong and skilled surfers to push underwater. Instead of duck diving, most longboarders do the turtle roll.

As the wave is rolling towards you, hold onto your rails and keep your body flat against your board. Lean your body weight to one side of the board, causing the rail to sink and the board to flip. Stay close to the board to flip with it.

You should now be in the same position as you are when lying prone on the board, only underneath the water with the board upside down.

As the wave rolls over the bottom of your board, which is now face up above the water with you underneath it, pull on the rails as if trying to pull the board down underwater. This will sink the rails a bit deeper and anchor the longboard into the water as the wave rolls over it.

The turbulence can sometimes make the board move erratically, so be sure you keep your face away from the board while you’re underwater.

After the wave has gone past, you can flip the board over and hop back on to start paddling.

The turtle roll isn’t an easy technique to master. At first, the wave may rip the board from your hands or send you and the board dancing underwater.

The secret is in the right placement of your body underwater alongside the longboard, and in the timing and strength of the downward rail pulling.

Start practicing in whitewater and smaller waves and progressively move on to bigger ones. Over time, you’ll get more and more effective and lose a lot less ground with each wave you pass.

How much volume can you duck dive on a surfboard?

How much volume can you duck dive?

Can you duck dive a 40L board? 50L?

The more you weigh, the stronger you are, the more efficient your technique is, the narrower the nose and tail are, and the weaker the wave, the higher the volume you’ll be able to duck dive.

The shape of the board also plays a factor. For instance, boards that are narrower in the nose and tail will be easier to duck dive.

There is no exact science to determine how much volume a specific surfer can duck dive. The individual variables mentioned above are dynamic and unique to each surfer and wave type.

However, there’s a roundabout equation that can give you a general idea. The principle is that you should be able to duck dive around 1 liter for every 4 to 4.5 pounds of your weight, depending on your skill level. 

  1. If you’re a beginner, divide your weight by 4.5 pounds.
  2. If you’re an intermediate, divide your weight by 4.25 pounds
  3. If you’re an expert, divide your weight by 4 pounds 

For example, if you’re an intermediate surfer that weighs 175 pounds, you can reasonably duck dive a board that is around 41.18 liters. You may be able to duck dive a bit more than that, but it is a good baseline to establish where duck diving will start to become more difficult.

Don’t forget that the shape of the board will also play a factor. If we take the above example of an intermediate surfer who can duck dive around 41.18 liters we can then adjust for board shape. 

If that surfer is looking at a big guy shortboard, which has a narrower nose and tail, we might be able to add a few liters onto that estimation because that shape is easier to duck dive.

On the other hand, if that same surfer was looking at a minimal or egg shape board, we might want to keep the estimate the same or even subtract a couple of liters because the additional width and volume within the nose and the tail of those boards make it more difficult to duck dive.

Additionally we need to take the size and strength of the waves into account. 

The board in our example that is 41.18 will be more difficult to duck dive in bigger, more powerful waves, and will be easier in smaller, weaker waves.

In general though, duck diving a 50 liter board will require a heavier, stronger surfer with an effective technique.

Biggest surfboard you can duck dive?

It’s tough to say the biggest board you can duck dive because the limit depends on the surfer’s unique qualities.

However, we can pretty confidently assume that a board over 8’6” and 60 liters will be impossible to duck dive for most surfers. It may be possible to duck dive a slightly smaller board if the surfer is strong, heavy, and skilled.

Board size vs wave state when duck diving

We discussed how board size influences how easily you can duck dive. Another factor also comes into account, however, which is the state of the wave.

If the wave hasn’t yet broken (green wave), duck diving across the wave is a lot easier, including with a larger or wider board.

The reason is the wave is still clean and unaffected by turbulences from the impact, giving you the stability and smooth surface you need to push your surfboard down under the wave. Deep diving is generally not necessary at this stage.

On the other hand, a wave that has just broken will be the hardest to duck dive under. There is a strong whirling of water in all directions, both above and under the waterline.

The larger your surfboard, the stronger the impact these disturbances will have on this board, making it a lot harder for you to perform your duck dive.

If the wave breaks some distance before you (e.g. 20-30 feet), then the effect of the impact will have faded out somewhat by the time it reaches you. Duck diving in whitewater gets easier the longer the time since the wave breaks.

That being said, some waves retain a lot of power in their whitewater, and duck diving with a larger board can be challenging even at a distance from the impact zone.

Can you duck dive under a big wave?

Duck diving under a 6-foot wave or bigger can get scary. If the wave is still green, that is it hasn’t yet broken, it’s usually not hard to duck drive across the wave – assuming your surfboard isn’t too wide or fat, i.e. not a longboard or really wide minimal or funboard.

If a big wave breaks right in front of you, however, duck diving can get a lot harder depending on the type of wave. Bigger waves create a big explosion when breaking, so you need to really dive deep to avoid getting caught in the “washing machine” above the water line.

Also, the bigger and the hollower the wave, the deeper its impact underwater when breaking. This means you need to go even deeper to avoid the turbulences and be able to roll under the wave and get back out behind it.

So yes, if you have solid technique and a relatively thin board, you may be able to duck dive under a really big wave (say 8-10 feet) breaking in front of you. This is generally reserved to surfers who are really fit and well trained.

Not-so-fit or experienced surfers who still dare to paddle out in 10’+ surf will likely let go of their surfboard and dive deep instead of attempting a duck dive in such a situation. This may avoid them being pulled under and shaken up for long seconds.

Just make sure your leash is sturdy enough to withstand the traction from the surfboard when that big wave hits it. You may notice your leash is one foot longer after the wave passes!


Choosing a surfboard always involves a tradeoff between ease of paddling and catching waves (more volume), and ease of duck diving (less volume).

Of course there are many other factors at play, such as board shape as relates to your size, riding style, and the size/type of the waves you ride.

Your ability to duck dive, just like your paddling technique, is a major factor in your surf progression. With solid technique, you will greatly expand the range of surfboards you can effectively duck dive on including in bigger and faster waves.

Friday 17th of February 2023

helpful, thanks


Thursday 13th of January 2022