Turtle roll for surf beginners: perfect form and typical mistakes

Don’t get washed back to the shore in the “washing machine” while you are learning to surf

As a beginner surfer, when you are paddling out, there are big walls of white wash coming at you.

Many advanced surfers use a shortboard and have the luxury to go under water like a duck with their boards and let the wave roll over them (called the duck dive).

If you ride a longboard this will not be possible , so you need to learn from your slow and steady friend — the turtle. He will teach you how to get past the broken waves.

Quick analysis — why your wave is washing you back to the shore

  • When you get hit by the white wash with your board and you don’t try to go under water, it will move in every direction imaginable and the wave would like to tear out the board from your arms.
  • If you have a big board (very likely a foam board if you are a beginner), you can’t push your board below the wave. It’s surface is simply too big and it will float right back up.
  • If you flip over your board and you have your arms fully extended holding the board , then the wave will likely pull the board away from you. The result will be you entering the “washing machine” and tumbling under the water back to the beach.

How to do the turtle roll the right way

These tips below will help you not to lose your board in the waves while you are paddling out:

  • 1: You want to be exactly perpendicular (at a 90 degrees angle) to the wave.
  • 2: As you are flipping/rolling over you want to keep your elbows bent. In this case you will have room for your arms to move, when the wave is rolling above the board. It will be easier to absorb the shock.
  • 3: Grab the rails of the board. Try to grab close to your chest pretty much underneath your shoulders. When the wave comes you must flip the board and go underwater right before the face of the wave reaches you.
  • Keep your elbows bent and pull the board towards your body as close as you can until the wave passes over.
  • 4: Roll back up on the top of your board and paddle until the next one comes, or you arrive behind the break point of the wave.
  • 5: Quickly climb back on your board
  • 6: keep paddling until the next wave arrives and repeat from step 1, or take a rest when you are finally behind the breaking point

How to practice turtle roll at home

To drill this in, you can do this simple exercise at home. Get a food serving tray, or something similar to substitute for your surfboard.

This exercise will teach you how to keep your arms bent during a nicely executed turtle roll in the white wash:

1, Put the tray on the floor and lie above it while holding on to its two sides, with your hands in the “chicken wing” position.

2, Look up, imagine the wave coming and roll on your back. Notice your elbows. Keep them elbows bent and imagine the wave going over you while you hold on to your “board”.

3, As the imagined wave passes you, roll back, still with your elbows bent. Do it by using your core muscles, keep your core stable, don’t just use your arms. If you use your elbows to push yourself over.

4, Repeat 10 times to commit to your muscle memory. Remember next time the wave is coming towards what the turtle would do!

Using this simple drill, you will have a chance to ride a lot more waves and have more fun surfing. And that is what matters.

Because fun in surfing = catching the most waves during your session.

Let me know if this helped you, or what you want me to cover next by emailing me at [email protected], or sign up below.

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