The longboard is considered to be the go-to board for those who are just starting out in the sport of surfing. Alternatively, you may just want a board that is easy enough to maneuver when moving over the water.
But here is the problem: the longboard is not exactly the best board out there when it comes to recovery from each and every wave you encounter. The design of the board is just too large and unwieldy to break through a wave while keeping most of your original orientation.
As such, when it comes to surfing, how to Turtle Roll properly has become one of the most essential lessons that any surfer should go through. In order to learn the skill, there are a few things that you have to understand first.
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What is the Turtle Roll?
If you have seen surfers using short boards, you might have noticed that they can pull their entire board under water, let the wave pass through, and come out of the water relatively unfrazzled.
This is what is called a Duck Dive and it’s a maneuver that easy to pull of if you have a short board and mastered the basics.
But, with the longboard, doing the Duck Dive is next to impossible. The design of the board means that it would take up a larger area of the water’s surface. And things with bigger surfaces tend to be more buoyant in the water.
This means that you would have to be abnormally strong to pull all of the board’s surface underneath the water to do the Duck Dive. As such, for novices in surfing, how to turtle roll has become the next best thing to learn in order to navigate through the water and pass through each wave easily.
The premise of the turtle roll is rather quite simple: instead of diving underneath the water to pass through a wave, you would use the board to “hide” from it. To do this, you would be effectively flipping yourself upside down as a wave is about to pass through.
It is similar to a turtle going belly up, with you being the turtle and the board your belly. This way, the wave would crash through without tossing and turning you over.
Why Do It, Anyway?
The next question that you may ask is why, in surfing, how to turtle roll has become important for novices? The reason is rather simple: waves can be deceptively hard obstacles to pass through when learning how to surf.
Think of the wave as a large, rolling wall of water. And like all walls, the wave is going to push everything that tries to stand up to it as far back as possible. If you are not careful, you’d be back nearest to shore if a wave were to hit you or, worse, on rocky outcroppings.
But, even for those that master surfing, there is no assurance that the wave is going to be lenient on them. If you pull a dive or a roll wrong, the wave will make it its mission to pull the board away from you while also thrashing you underwater.
This is what is called as a “Washing Machine” effect and it can be a rather dangerous position to be in. The effect could leave you disoriented for a few seconds which is always not good when you are in a constantly moving body of water like the sea.
And if you do get thrown off your board, you will waste a lot of energy trying to swim back to where your board was thrown to and resuming whatever you were attempting to do. By the time you are in the surf zone, you won’t have enough energy to enjoy the big waves.
This is why, for those that are new or even experts in surfing, how to turtle roll properly is essential in recovering quickly from each wave while saving energy.
Before you go about learning how to do the turtle roll, you must place yourself in the best position to do it. This is where paddling out comes into play and it can help you save a lot of time and energy when out in the water.
To properly paddle out into a surf, you should remember three tips.
Watch for Channels
If waves are water crashing to the shore, channels are the same water going back to the sea. If you are new to surfing, how to turtle roll properly is all easier if you know where channels are being formed.
The reason for this is that channels take you to the place right before waves start rolling to the shore. They are easy to spot as channels tend to be the calmer areas of the sea. This should tell you that they are the paths of least resistance to meet those waves as they start rolling.
Time the Sets
Even if you have mastered how to dive and roll, that wave is still going to push you back though at a far reduced degree. The best that a wave can push you back is at least 5 feet from where you were hit with it. However, waves always come in sets of 3 to 5 so each set is going to throw you back by approximately 15 to 30 feet.
By timing your sets, you can time your rolls properly so the distance you are pushed back in each wave is greatly reduced. This works great if you find yourself in the breaking zone, that stretch of water between the bay and the sea where small waves form the most.
Paddle for a Purpose
Aside from making you get to riding those big waves as soon as possible when surfing, how to turtle roll is only valuable if you can recover quickly from each wave set that passed you.
Once a wave has passed, you have to paddle hard and push yourself a good 10 to 20 feet before the next waves hit. If you don’t paddle hard when recovering, you are more likely to encounter more waves. The more waves you encounter, the farther back you will get pushed.
How to Do the Turtle Roll Properly
Now that we have done away with those other concerns in of surfing, how to turtle roll should be easy to learn now. To do this, there are a few tips that you have to remember.
- Face the Wave – You have to face the wave that you are bracing yourself for straight on. Being at an angle increases the chances of the wave throwing you off your board as it tumbles.
- Grab On and Flip – As soon as the wave approaches, you must hold the board firmly at the side rails. When that wave gets the closest to you, push yourself up from the board and give yourself one powerful lean to the side.
To flip yourself properly, you should slightly raise your torso up as you lean. This will give your flip the momentum it needs and the weight to roll yourself upside down and into the water below.
Also, if the wave happens to be a powerful one, hold the board as closely to your chest. This closes the gap between you and the board which lessens the chances of you parting with it mid-tumble.
- Relax – In surfing, how to turtle roll properly also includes maintaining a calm state of mind as you hide underneath the water. It is natural for the brain to panic when surrounded by water but giving in to that impulse could compromise you underwater.
Remain focused on holding your breath and never attempt to out-muscle the wave. Also, don’t grab to the board with your legs. So as long as your grip on the rails are strong and your body is pressed closely to the longboard, you should never part with it.
To maintain your current orientation, you can also do some small frog kicks if you feel that the wave is trying to toss and throw you over. This should help you save on energy which you will need to recover and paddle forward later on.
- Recover – Once you have felt that the last wave has passed, you must get yourself back to the surface. Do this by kicking with your legs, pushing with one side (where you are strongest) and pulling at the opposite.
You must do this in one move so you do not waste energy trying to pull yourself up. Once you have recovered, you must then paddle to get out of the breaking zone.
Even if you are a master or relatively new to surfing, how to turtle roll properly is a skill that you must master. If you are not that comfortable hitting the big waves yet, you can always practice this skill at small whitewater zones.
But if you do master the process of tucking yourself underwater and timing your rolls, you should be able to get to the surf zone where those big waves that you can ride on will most definitely form.