9 Ways To Get Past Waves On A Longboard/Mini-Mal.

We’ve all experienced it: battling wave after wave, feeling like progress is an uphill struggle with every push forward, only to be pulled back twice as far. Sometimes, we wish for a smaller board to execute a smoother duck dive.

Navigating the impact zone with a longboard can be challenging, especially with powerful waves. Let’s explore solutions to make this journey smoother and more enjoyable for you.

1. Use the rip.

Rip currents occur when water moves from the shore out to the sea. Ocean waves typically flow from the ocean toward the shore, necessitating the movement of water. Generally, water flows from shallow to deep areas.

Waves break in shallow regions but not in deeper waters where they do not make contact with the ocean floor. The easiest way to spot a rip, therefore, is where waves are not breaking. Rips often appear darker in colour.

In crowded surf lineups, you will easily spot a rip because that’s where all the surfers will paddle out.

Pro-tip: When paddling out, actively relax your shoulder muscles. You want to conserve energy for wave catching. Generally, in the water, expending 50 percent or more effort does not result in a 50 per cent increase in speed due to water resistance.

Therefore, imagine you are doing long-distance running and need to conserve energy for travelling long distances.

2. Turtle Roll / Eskimo Roll.

On a longboard or minimal/fun board, duck diving can be done but it is difficult. Therefore, there is a technique called the turtle roll to get past the waves.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform a turtle roll.

1. Paddle towards the wave. You must paddle hard towards the wave. The more forward momentum you have, the less distance you would be taken backward by the wave.

2. As the wave approaches, hold onto the side of the rail ready to flip the board. It does not matter which side you roll. As a right-hander, I found it more natural to roll to the left because I can pull with my dominant hand.

3. Once you roll over, make sure the nose of the board is slightly lower and submerged compared to the rest of the board. This is important because the wave needs to pass on top of the board.

4. To avoid getting a hit from the board, straighten the elbow and keep the maximum distance between you and the board.

5. As the wave passes between you and the board, make yourself vertical compared to the surfboard. This makes your body act like an anchor, minimizing the pull from the wave.

6. Once the wave passes you, pop back onto the board and start paddling again!

As you can see, the main difference from the usual turtle roll is the fact that you need to make yourself vertical and keep the distance between you and the board.

To succeed at the turtle roll, timing is crucial. Rolling the board too early results in loss of momentum and being dragged towards the beach by the wave. Conversely, rolling too late may result in getting hit while rolling.

Therefore, just like anything else in surfing, you have to keep practising turtle roll and improve your technique and timing.

It’s important to note that you cannot turtle roll big-size waves. Everyone has a limit, but in my experience, I cannot turtle roll on a wave bigger than 2 feet. This is because the waves are simply too big to pass between the board and me.

Performing a turtle roll on a bigger wave can be dangerous because it’s difficult to hold onto a board while the wave is tossing you and the board around.

3. Time the set waves.

The best part of riding a longboard is its paddle speed, making it easy to move around and catch waves. However, longboard paddling is like moving a train. It takes great effort initially, but once the momentum is achieved, it goes smoothly.

This is because longboards are heavy and wide, making it challenging to move from a complete stationary position.

Therefore, after an each turtle roll, it takes quite a bit of effort to get it going again.

When you are paddling out and if you need to perform the turtle roll 4-5 times it consumes a lot of energy and can leave you exhausted. It’s much better to rely on continuous momentum and speed.

Hence, if you find yourself in the middle of a set of waves and nowhere to go, it’s often better to wait for the set of waves to pass.

Once you have a clear path out to the back, paddle slowly for the first 5-10 strokes and then increase your effort to get out to the back as quickly as possible.

Please note that the number of waves in a set varies, generally ranging from 3-5 waves.

4. Duck Dive

Duck diving with a longboard requires both skill and power. While similar to the shortboard technique, the longboard’s buoyancy demands a specific approach.

There isn’t a textbook way to perform a duck dive on a longboard, and this is how I found working the best.

1. As I approach the wave, I shift my weight towards the nose, causing it to submerge partially. I then press down on the right side, followed by the left, to cut through the water smoothly.

2. Once the front part is mostly submerged, I push down with both hands and keep my head low to slip underneath the wave. This brief moment of submerge helps me avoid the wave’s force.

Some prefer angling the board at 45 degrees for better submersion. However, I find it easier to go straight at the wave, avoiding the need for constant directional adjustments.

6. Push Up On A Board

This is one of the easiest ways to get past a broken wave when the wave is about to break. So the timing of this technique is important. Please note that this technique is only for small waves, 1-2 feet.

  1. Accelerate towards the incoming wave, and you need to be at the tip of the wave as it breaks.
  2. When you do a push-up, you create a space between you and the board. The aim is to get the whitewash to pass between you and the board.
  3. Because you are pushing the board down, the board will be placed under the whitewash while you are above the whitewash or at the same level.
  4. You may feel some nudge from the wave, and if you do this in larger and more powerful waves, you may get pushed over.

7. Cork technique.

When riding a longboard or large foam board, It’s possible to go over the whitewash using its increased buoyancy.

As the wave approaches you, sit on the board, towards the back of the board lifting the nose of the board.

about 1-2 seconds before the wave hits you, sink the back of the board as deep as possible and let the shoot upwards. With this, add a breaststroke kick to increase upward thrust. This will allow the board to go quite vertical and more than 2/3 of the board about of the water.

Make sure you angle your board, so the wave does not hit the board and flip it over.

As the wave hit the board, increase weight forward so you can be on the top of the wave while allowing the wave to pass under you and the board.

I found this technique is great for small waves 1-1.5 ft, but a bit risky for larger waves.

8. Ditch the board.

Letting the board go is known to be a bad idea because it may hit the fellow surfer behind. While I do not encourage bailing the board all the time, bailing at the appropriate time can be a safe option and help you save energy.

When you surf 1-2 feet wave, you can always hold on to your board if you are not directly in the impact zone. Therefore, make the habit of holding on the board in the small waves.

However, when the waves get heavier, it’s safer to get go of the board and dive under the wave. I usually push the board to the side, so the wave hits the side of the board. This is to save the board.

If you leave the surfboard in the same direction as with the wave, the tail end of the board gets pushed down under the wave because of the leash. Then the wave hit the deck of the board. This may break the board.

When diving under the wave, put your hands forward to make sure you are not diving in shallow water. Put the head down and go as deep as possible to avoid whitewash.

Once the wave hits the board, it will drag you towards the beach. Then I tend to make myself as big by spreading my arms and legs to increase resistance.

9. Dive with the board.

This can only be done in a shallow end where your feet touch the floor. When you are about waist to chest height deep, it can get quite awkward to go over the waves, especially when the wave is big.

In this case, I grab a leash where it get attached to the board, then push it down under the water and I dive under the wave with it. This is a convenient technique especially for beginners as it helps them to save paddling energy, by walking into the deeper end as far as possible without paddling.

When should you go over and under the wave?

Typically, if the wave’s strength is sufficient to take the board off you, it’s safer to release the board and dive beneath the wave as long as no one is behind you.

Otherwise, alternative techniques like the turtle roll, cork technique, or utilizing forward momentum to push through can be employed to navigate past the wave.

There are various methods for traversing waves, each contingent on individual skill levels and strength. Timing is crucial for the success of most techniques, highlighting the importance of regular practice and mastery of each maneuver.


My name is James, the person behind SurifngHeadquaters.com. With 15 years of experience in surfing, I am excited to help you on the journey to becoming a competent surfer.

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