The “turtle roll” is a technique used to go over breaking waves on the way to the lineup while surfing a big board that is not possible to “duck dive”. It’s a technique commonly used amongst 2 types of surfers, with the first group being advanced beginner surfers, that are using bigger boards and are starting to head to the lineup and will have to pass through the impact zone.
The second crew would be long boarders. Although when a long board surfer is experienced and surfing smaller waves they will tend to use the “prawn position” to pass over broken waves, on bigger days the “turtle roll” movement will be more effective to go through bigger and more powerful breaking waves and white washes.
Even though used by beginner surfers, the “turtle roll” requires of a good technique to make it effective. The goal of the roll is to get on a position where the whitewash or breaking wave will push us back as little as possible while we make our way to the outside.
Let’s break it down into a few steps:
- When a breaking wave or whitewash is approaching, paddle perpendicular towards it and get some speed.
- Once you’re around 6 feet from the wave, start to turn upside down with the bottom of your board facing upwards. To do that effectively, firmly grab the rails of the surfboard closer to the nose to avoid it being pushed backwards by the wave. Then keep the nose facing the wave and the board flat on the surface facing upside down. Meanwhile you will be under water keeping your body flat and as close as possible to the surfboard. Use your arm strength to keep your body close to the surfboard.
- As soon as the wave passes over you, in a fast pace you need to get back to your paddling position, as most likely you will have little time to gain some distance towards the line up before the next wave hits you. To get back up, again use your arm strength to turn the board around (it will be easier to do it from the middle of the board so slide your hands a bit to grab the rails at the center). Once the board is in the right position, make your way up the board by first sliding your chest on the board and then your legs, before adjusting your position.
- Start paddling again towards the next wave, and repeat.
The main drawback of this technique is that it is quiet time consuming when going back up the board after the turtle roll, practicing will make it much more fluid and faster. Depending on the timing of the waves it will not give you much time to get back into paddling once the next wave is coming. Also, it requires a bit of arm strength to be able to keep the nose of the board under the water whilst the wave goes over it.
Always be mindful of your surroundings and others around you. Avoid at all costs ditching your board as it can be very dangerous for you and surfers around you. Always check behind and next to you for other close by surfers. If its too big and you can’t control your own board stay away from the crowd and the lineup, practice in a safe zone until you get the technique properly.