take off surfing


If you have just booked your surf vacation or surf camp and are a novice or beginner surfer, it’s a little daunting knowing what you need to bring along, especially if you have never surfed before. Even if you already have surf experience, this can act as a good surf holiday checklist to make sure you’ve got everything covered before leaving home.

Some surf destinations will have a lot or some of the items we’ve listed below to save you lugging them from home, but often, especially if you are travelling to an island destination for your surf trip, some things can be quite costly on location so you will save some money if you include them in your surf camp packing list. How annoying it would be to wait to get to your surf camp only to find that an essential item you require on your surf vacation is not actually available or costs 3x more than at home!

Let’s start with the basics: What’s the weather like where you are going on your surf holiday?

Always check the water and air temperature where you are headed. If you are someone who feels the cold anyway (like, you’re always the one shivering when everyone else thinks it’s still quite warm out) be extra-prepared. The general advice is that if the water temperature is above 75ºF (24ºC) you won’t need a neoprene wetsuit, but if the temps are hovering between 70ºF (21ºC) and 75ºF (24ºC), you might feel more comfortable in what we call a ‘shorty’ (a neoprene wetsuit with short legs rather than a full wetsuit). Anything below 70ºF (21ºC) you definitely need a full wetsuit.

If you are coming to Swell between December and April and you do tend to feel the cold more, bring a shorty, a 1mm (or 2mm if you are extra-shivery) neoprene body suit as our water temperatures hover around 23/24ºC during those months. You definitely don’t need one between May and November when water temps are more like 28ºC/29ºC.

What do you need to wear when surfing?

This is one of those most common questions we get in our inbox at Swell. As a beginner surfer, your experience of surfers so far is probably only in magazines or movies; bronzed dudes in surf shorts and gorgeous tanned chicks in bikinis. Well, (and hopefully this news won’t disappoint you), lots of surfers don’t look at all like that. In fact, now we know so much more about the damage the sun does to our skin, most surfers over 30 are choosing to cover up.

TIP: It’s a good idea when packing your hand luggage to pack some essential items should your larger bags be delayed. Toothbrush and paste, travel-sized sunscreen, a spare T-shirt or two, underwear and something to swim in the ocean will all help you get through the first 24 hours should your bags not arrive with you.

Here’s what we recommend bringing to wear in the water during your surf vacation:

A surf cap: I wear an FCS surf cap with straps that come around your ears and fasten beneath the chin. Mine has an all-around brim like the one shown in the photo below and offers me excellent sun protection on my face.

surf hat

One of the reasons why we recommend a hat is because however well you put sunscreen on your face, you inevitably wipe your eyes and cheeks each time you fall off the surfboard and the protection your sunscreen offers inevitably wanes


Long leggings.surf packing list destination Surf leggings will protect you from rashes that the rough surface beginner surfboards have for grip. They will also protect your legs from being burned by the sun. I wear ones from Speedo, but they are also available from many other brands.


A one-piece swimsuit, or a bikini?

It’s really your preference. We get it that you probably want to get a tan on your surf holiday and do feel free to wear just a bikini and sunscreen whilst you are surfing if you are not having lessons with us. We do recommend a one-piece suit to avoid losing one or more essential parts of a bikini during a wipeout. As someone who once lost the bottom part of a bikini entirely once during a shore break wipeout in Barbados (you know, the ones we regularly see on Kookslams’ Instagram feed) a one-piece is a much safer bet. We don’t have any shore break in the Dominican Republic where we surf by the way.

A ‘Rashguard’ or ‘Lycra’

surf lycra

This is a top that you wear over your bikini or one-piece to protect you from the sun (and from rashes on your arms whilst paddling). The best ones are made with a fabric that is already Factor-50 sun-protection guaranteed, i.e. when you wear one, you don’t need sunscreen beneath. We strongly recommend the use of them whilst you surf and at Swell they are compulsory during lessons (but we provide them for you!). If you are not coming to us for your surf camp vacation, then check with your host whether they provide them for you, or if you have to buy your own. Ideally, they are tight-fitting as it’s easier to paddle without ‘flapping’ fabric around you. Our advice is to buy genuine ones from good, recognised brands like Quicksilver, Ripcurl, ONeill etc. as they will last much longer and offer genuine sun protection. The cheaper ones tend to be faked brands and the fabric stretches quickly, breaking up the surface and destroying the sun protection offered.


Surf or reef booties

Surf or reef booties are not necessary if you are surfing on sand (a beach break for example), but as most waves occur when a wave that has travelled across the ocean hits a reef protecting the shore, reef booties will help protect your feet from either sharper edges of rock or corals, or from things like sea urchins that have a nasty spine. We recommend a split-toe bootie like the one below from Quicksliver. 2mm is ideal. 1mm is not quite thick enough to repel the urchin’s spine and 3mm booties will then be a bit too stiff to surf in easily; that’s why we say 2mm is ideal.Sunscreen/Zinc.

Apart from your surfwear, the next item to bring on your surf vacation should be good quality sunscreen (assuming you are going to surf somewhere warm and sunny, like the Dominican Republic).

Sunscreens come in all levels of protection and whilst many purport to be waterproof, they often are not. Check the reviews of sunscreens and try and buy one that is manufactured for watersports rather than for someone who wants to tan and wade or swim gently in the sea. There’s a big difference (note our earlier comments about rubbing your eyes). We really like the Ambre Solaire Kids Factor 50 – not the spray, but the cream. I also use (on my face) Sunzapper Ultra because I find it can last me a full 2 to 3 hours in the water whilst surfing. Best of all, neither of these brands contains oxybenzone, a chemical that is known to damage coral reefs. A little pot of reef-friendly Zinc cream is also a good addition to pop in your bag – Zinc stays on even better than suncreams and is great for extra protection from sunburned lips.

A travel towel. The best ones are super lightweight travel towels made of microfiber, perfect for chucking into a backpack. And they dry quickly, usually just a few minutes in the sun is enough, so your bag won’t get soggy and heavy. They’re also great to sit on if your driver wants to keep the seats of their vehicle dry and as sand free as possible whilst you are driving back and forth to the beach. I always use mine to sit on, on my little scooter when I’ve finished surfing. It prevents me from sliding around on the seat whilst driving in wet clothes.

A changing poncho. These are towelling ‘mini-tents’ that you can put over your body whilst you change beneath, away from prying eyes. They are great, if not essential if you plan to change into ‘normal’ clothes straight after surfing and there is no changing room to hand.

An essentials medical kit. Whilst of course, we hope that you won’t have any injuries (thankfully it’s rare for people to get injured whilst surfing), inevitably at some stage during your surfing journey, you will have a scrape or a bump, so be prepared. We have our own medical kit at Swell, but nevertheless, travelling with your own little medical kit is smart. It can be small and really practical and should contain the following:

    • Iodine solution (for cleaning up a cut or scratch)
    • Cotton wool buds and cotton wool balls
    • Lint for dressing
    • Quality waterproof plasters
    • Emergency wound closures, like Micromend or Sterostrip
    • A sharp needle for removing foreign objects from your feet or other parts of the body.
    • Paracetamol, Ibuprofen and also a small tube (or tablets) of a product containing Aclovir. Aclovir is a cold sore remedy essential if you are unlucky enough to get those from too much sun exposure (it’s very common). Quick use of Aclovir can stop a cold sore before it breaks out.
    • An antibiotic powder or cream (for putting directly onto wounds).

That’s it, a small but really useful medical kit for surfers.

Surfing essentials

For beginner surfers, if you are travelling to a surf camp like Swell, usually, all the things listed below are automatically provided by your host teaching you to surf so you don’t need to bring any on your surf holiday. But, if you are not attending a surf camp, your host does not provide them, or you are surfing independently, here’s the list of surfboard/surfing-related items you would need to bring or buy at your destination:

A Surfboard: Do check the surf forecast to see if the surfboard you intend to bring is suitable for the expected surf conditions and ask for local advice if you are unsure. It can be better to rent so that you can change up your board depending on the conditions. Surfboards often get damaged in transit and are usually at least $100 USD each way on flights, so renting is often a smarter idea.

A Surfboard leash (and a spare one)

Surfboard fin set (don’t ever travel with your fins installed on your surfboard – always take them out and put them in a sleeve inside your surfboard bag).

Fin key (for putting in and taking the fins out)

Surfboard wax

Ding repair kit and/or an instant repair tape like Phix Doctor marine grade tape


Reusable water bottle. At Swell, we insist all our clients bring a reusable water bottle on their surf vacation. There’s no excuse now for using or buying plastic water bottles if there is a water supply that you can refill from. As you enter the surfing world, you will likely see first-hand the amount of plastic in our oceans 🙁


Travel insurance. I cannot tell you how many times we see in the surfing destinations we’ve lived in, a GO FUND ME page that has been set up for someone who has had an accident either surfing or more often, travelling around on a scooter for example but has no travel insurance to pay for their treatment. As a result, they are reduced to begging for help. Medical care is not usually free in any country in the World and it’s incredibly unwise to travel without an insurance policy in place. These policies are comparatively cheap to obtain and usually give a very high level of coverage for emergencies, including repatriation to your home country in case of anything really serious. These policies will also help you if you have delays or cancellations of your flights, lose items or have items stolen. Please, don’t be one of those people who think, ‘I’ll be ok’, because you just might not be: Spend the extra $50 to $100 USD to protect yourself. Use Google or your preferred search engine to search for ‘trip insurance’ ‘travel insurance’ or ‘vacation insurance’. Make sure that the policy you choose covers water sports (or doesn’t have exclusions for ‘extreme sports’ as surfing is sometimes classified). It’s a good idea to buy an annual policy if you are going to be making more than one trip in a calendar year.


Adaptors and chargers; For your adaptor, check the socket type of the destination you are headed to, or if you are not sure, buy one of the more expensive multi-socket adaptors that cover all socket types. Don’t forget your ‘phone charger!


Check your data roaming policy from your ‘phone service provider. Does their data roaming cover where you are headed without incurring lots of extra fees? If their charges are going to be excessive, buy a local sim card as soon as you arrive at your destination: They are often sold in airport arrival areas. Using a local number can save you a fortune on roaming charges. Remember that apps like WhatsApp will still work even if you have a new SIM card with a different number in your ‘phone (just select ‘no’ if Whatsapp asks whether you wish to change the number registered to your Whatsapp account).

Final travel tips for your surf vacation

Check the validity of your passport before you book your vacation; when does it run out? How long will it take to renew, if necessary?
Check any visa requirements you might need for the country you are headed to. (Most nationals don’t need a visa for the Dominican Republic)
Check any compulsory or recommended immunisations you might need
Tell your bank you are travelling; most credit card providers have a travel advisory section where you can let them know it will be you using your card(s) in an unusual place. It will help prevent the rather embarrassing experience of not being able to pay for things!
If you are on medication, do you have enough for the length of time you will be away?

We think we’ve covered everything you need to bring on your surf vacation, but if you have any other tips we haven’t covered, do get in touch with us!

surf destination list


At Swell we have been offering active watersport holidays since 2009. We offer high quality accommodation, tasty food and a social vibe for people of all ages. We offer surf lessons, kitesurfing lessons and Wingfoiling courses. Get in contact with Clare if you’d like to join Swell Surf camp

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am i too old to learn to surf?


Or: Am I too old to learn to surf?

Ah…….. this question. I promise it’s my favorite (and I get asked a lot of questions every week). I receive this particular one in my inbox at least once per week. Am I too old to start surfing? Will I fit in? It’s my favorite question because it’s the one I can answer with absolute surety because I’ve experienced it and I understand it, I get the doubt in the back of your mind. I’m 58 and began surfing at 52. My only regret is that I didn’t take up surfing even earlier in life.

too old to learn to surf
(That’s me surfing 2 years ago, ago 56)

We receive emails from people of 50, 60 and slightly less often of 70+ all asking the same thing about age and suitability. Surfing, after all, has a reputation for young dudes hasn’t it?

When we opened Swell in Cabarete, on the North coast of the Dominican Republic back in 2009, the first thing my husband and I noticed was that the people who were choosing our surf camp were older than we had been expecting. We had not even considered that there were this many ‘older’ people who wanted to learn to surf. It blew us away. Our website, in the beginning, was geared up to the audience we had been expecting, but as the ‘older’ surfers kept coming, we adapted, changed our website, and our mindset. Our average age at Swell is now 40; when you think about it, that means we have as many 50-year-olds as we do 30-year-olds. It’s pretty incredible and we are super proud of the fact that age is no barrier when you want to learn to surf. It just isn’t.

I’m pretty confident that you have heard the saying, 70 is the new 50. Whatever the age, it’s a fact that we are living much longer than a few decades ago. I’m no medical practitioner but I am 58 and I can see that being 70 years old is not far away. Barring a debilitating illness, I don’t see myself giving up my water sports any time soon. I began kiteboarding at 41, surfing at 52 and I’ve just started wingfoiling at 58. I’ll probably try the next new water sport that comes along, as long as my body lets me keep trying.


Let’s be really honest here, it’s definitely a bit harder on the body learning to surf at 50, 60 or 70+ than it is when you are learning to surf at 30 years old. But with good basic preparation and realistic expectations, it’s absolutely possible.

And if you have a desire to do it, then the health benefits are extraordinary. In fact, surfing is one of the best all-around fitness activities you can possibly undertake. It generally has low impact, it’s good for cardio, good for muscular strength (and let’s face it as we get older, our muscles can really benefit from being used more rather than less), and perhaps most importantly, it’s really good for the soul. I’ve left many a bad mood on the beach when I enter the water. Surfing has a tendency to connect you to nature and forget about all the other stuff. I cannot even begin to describe the feeling when you catch your first wave, even a little white water ride, it’s incredible and trust me, if you are 70+ it will probably give you more of a thrill than if you were 25.

So if you are someone who wants to ask the question, ‘I am too old to learn to surf?’ let me answer that here and now: No, you are not too old to learn to surf. Neither are you too old to ‘fit in’ with the surfing crew. As I answer every client who sends that question my way if you have the desire, it’s enough: It already puts you in the ‘crew’ before you’ve ridden your first surfboard. And, just as these wonderful Australian ladies in the video Taking Off demonstrate so well, it changes lives and always for the better.


Come and try it, regardless of your age. We look forward to teaching you how to surf and changing your life too! I’m on hand to answer any questions or doubts you might have about learning to surf as an ‘older’ person.

Clare, co-owner of Swell surf retreats

Sidenote: It’s not just surfing that you can learn later in life, I have also just started my first lessons in Wingfoiling, I will update you on that progress here too.

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paddling surfboard


The Proper Paddle Technique Explained

Paddling is arguably the most important aspect of surfing. In fact, we probably spend 90% of our time in the water on our stomachs paddling, not on our feet riding waves. So, whether you are you a beginner surfer who can’t seem to figure out a natural paddle technique, or you’re an intermediate or an advanced surfer who always seems to run out of steam on tough paddle outs, improving your paddle technique will ensure you have a better time in the water.

how to paddle on a surfboard


Either way, this article how to paddle on a surfboard is for you. Learn the proper technique that will have you gliding, streamlined on top of the water’s surface, and save your shoulders from that dreaded burnout pain. Whether you’re paddling out right in front of our Caribbean surf camp, or your surfing at home, these tips will help get you to the lineup as quickly as possible, fresh, and ready surf.


1. Start with a proper warmup

Paddling can be a bit of a workout, so you should warm up accordingly. Either when you hit the sand, or before you head out of the surf camp. When you paddle, you engage your shoulders and upper back, so be sure your warm-up activates both of those muscle groups.

Additionally, when you paddle, sit in the line-up, and ride waves, your hips are in a closed and locked position. It is crucial for longevity to perform exercises and stretches that will open your hips.

2. Timing is everything, don’t rush

When you arrive at the beach and strap your leash on, don’t just sprint into the water and start paddling madly. Relax, sit down, maybe stretch a bit, but most importantly watch the water.

What are the waves doing? How often are sets coming? Is there a channel to paddle out in? These are all things you must ask yourself and answer before entering the water. Wait for a lull between sets, and head into the water. Walk your board out until you’re in about chest deep water and then hop on and paddle.

surf paddle technique
surf paddle technique

3. Position yourself on the board correctly

Bad positioning plagues many beginner surfers, causing unnecessary drag and therefore hardship during their paddle out. If you’re too far towards the back of the board, the nose of your board will tilt up in the air, slowing your paddle.

Contrastingly, if you’re too far forward on your board, the nose of the board will sink underwater causing unnecessary drag. Find that sweet spot on your board, where the nose is gliding just above the surface, in calm water and remember where you are in reference to a marking on the board (like the logo).

4. Elongate your reach with each stroke

Like swimming, when you learn how to paddle on a surfboard, your body should be as long and stretched out as possible.

With each stroke, you should extend your arm to its furthest possible length. Short and rapid movements will leave you exhausted, while long reaching strokes will send you forward, gliding efficiently over the surface of the water.

5. Move slowly

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast?” It applies directly to paddling. If you’re at a full sprint trying to paddle out, you won’t make it. You will tire long before you reach the lineup. Slow and smooth long reaching strokes will propel you quickly and efficiently.

7. Don’t overreach on the follow through

Surf Paddle training
Pool paddle training at Swell
When you’re executing the “pull” phase of your paddle stroke, be sure not to drag your hands too far back causing downward (not forward) momentum that will slow your paddle. To execute proper paddle technique, pull your stroke back to chest level, then lift your arm straight out of the water and repeat. When you pull further than your chest, the last portion of your stroke will push your board downward causing you to lose your momentum with each stroke.

8. Keep your elbows high

If you watch 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater paddle, you’ll notice how effortlessly he moves through the water. Part of his technique that stands out is that he consistently keeps his elbows high. From the moment Kelly brings his hands out of the water, to the moment he extends his reach, he leads with a high elbow. Keeping your elbows high will increase the effectiveness of each stoke, by keeping your hand and forearm in the vertical position from the start of the stroke. Essentially, it will allow you to move more quickly with less effort.

9. Drag your thumbs

This tip goes hand in hand with the previous tip of keeping your elbows high. If you keep your elbows high, your hands will naturally be low. The idea here is to not bring your hands too far out of the water. When your hand exits the water, it should almost drag on the surface next to you as you bring it forward for the next stroke. By dragging, or nearly dragging, your thumbs in the water as you bring your hands forward for each stroke, you save energy by not engaging your traps. This will allow you to paddle harder for longer and prevent you from burning out due to soreness.

10. Keep your legs and feet in control

While it may be instinctual to kick and try to propel yourself forward, it will actually slow you down. Instead, keep your feet together with your ankles side by side as you paddle. While kicking your feet might help shift your weight forward to actually catch a wave you’re paddling for, when you’re paddling out you do not want your weight too far forward. So, keep those feet still!

11. Keep Your Head Still

Again, if you watch world champ surfer Kelly Slater paddle, his head is still. This may seem inconsequential, but it has a tremendous effect on speed and efficiency in the water. Any swimmer will tell you that keeping your head still will keep your weight centered, not moving it from side to side, reducing drag and increasing speed. The same principle obviously applies to surfing. If your head moves to you right, your body will follow, taking you off your trajectory, digging your rail into the water, and ultimately slowing you down.

12. Your spine is your fulcrum

Similarly, to swimming when you paddle, your spine acts as a fulcrum as your body moves ever so slightly from side to side with each stroke. This slight movement is not intentional, but a byproduct of the reach. To ensure you’re moving correctly, it is best to envision you are moving with a metal rod going through your body from head to tailbone. As stated previously, your head should stay still while you reach out each stroke.

13. Spot the wave and react

The final step to a good paddle out is a proper duck dive or turtle roll. As you paddle out, constantly look out to sea for oncoming waves. When you spot a wave headed your direction, whether it is whitewater or a cresting wave, you’ll want to initiate your duck dive or turtle roll approximately 2 meters from the breaking wave.

Video how to paddle on a surfboard

Just like with any aspect of surfing, practice makes perfect. The best exercise for increased paddle strength and efficiency is paddling out to surf as often as possible. Now that you’ve learned how to perfect your paddle technique, take the next step in progression and learn to properly duck dive and turtle roll by checking out our blog on paddling out!

This article on how to paddle on a surfboard is part of the surf technique series for beginners.
Other articles in this series are:

More info on external websites about how to paddle on a surfboard:

Paddle like Kelly Slater

Interested in learning all the essentials of surfing in an action packed water sport holiday in the Caribbean? Have a look at the surf holiday packages we offer, inlcluding our 1 week learn to surf holiday

surf surftechnique

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surfboard fins


Have you ever done research while looking for a new surfboard? If so, then you’ll know that there is an overwhelming amount of information on there on making the right choice.


Fins for your board are no different. They are available in a variety of sizes, materials, setups, and flexibility. And whether you’re a beginner or pro, your fin setup will have a huge impact on your style and preference when surfing.

Now, before going any further let’s discuss what fins actually do. They essentially give you control, direction, and stability on your board. Without fins, you take away much of your ability to navigate through waves. Surfing with precision and speed is really only possible with fins.

As we said before, there are many different options out there for fin setups. We chose to highlight a few of the best for you to peruse.



The number of fins and possible configurations will vary from board to board and depend on fin type. You’ll have to decide which setup will be best for you and go from there. We will discuss some of the most popular configurations to give you a better idea. Each one is used for a different reason and is chosen by different types of riders.

single fin surfThe single fin option is ideal for longboards. Some surfers consider these a touch outdated, while others appreciate the different feel it offers. These fins are really best for basic, straight shot surfing. Basically, they won’t help you while doing anything too fancy.

They are long, wide and big offering fairly easy control over the board. Single fins are best when surfing small/medium, fat and weak waves. Since one fin creates less drag than multiple fins, they are most useful when surfing smooth, slow turns. That being said, if you try and make quick turns or moves, a single fin won’t handle it as well as a multiple fin setup.


surf twin fin surf 1A two fin setup is referred to as twin fins or a dual fin configuration. You will typically see a twin fin setup on a shorter surfboard. They can offer more fun, playful surfing when used.

Twin fins give the rider more manoeuvrability and have a skatier feel than a single fin. This fin setup saw a spike in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. Surfer Mark Richards used twin-fin “fishes” to win four consecutive World Championships. After that, surfers worldwide saw the competitive edge that two fins can offer a rider versus a single fin. A dual fin setup offers more control and speed than a single fin, but can also feel a little loose and make bottom turns harder.


thrusther 3 fin
3 fin Thrusther

As you might have guessed this set up is three fins. The tri-fin set up is by far the most popular amongst surfers across the board. It can be ideal for all skill levels from novice to expert.

It’s also the most practical purchase. If you have a tri-fin setup you can always remove fins to try single and twin fin surfing as well. The third fin adds more stability and manoeuvrability. The two outer fins are angled towards the centre of the board increasing tracking and speed. The middle fin is closer to the tail of the board. The tri-fin setup came from Australian surfer Simon Anderson. He came up with the idea of three equal-sized fins in the 1980s. The setup exploded with popularity after that. The tri fins do well even in harsher conditions. They can hold up to steep, powerful waves. This setup is great for high-performance riding and tricks. The only real downfall is the drag you get from the additional fin.


Quad fun surfboard
Quad fin

The quad fin is, can you guess it? That’s right, 4 fins! This setup can offer you some of the best features of the twin fin and the thruster. Opposed to Thrusters, Quads can offer much more control and are best used in small surf.

When the back fins are positioned close to the rails they help increase speed for the rider. They also allow for fast turns, similar to a dual fin, however, with a quad, the surfer maintains more control.
The quad fin can stand up to powerful waves and not falter. Because this setup doesn’t have a centre fin, there is less drag. This yields maximum speed but doesn’t sacrifice manoeuvrability. The quad setup will take a bit of getting used to. The first time you ride, it may feel a little loose.


5 Fin
5 Fin

Although it may sound like a 5-fin setup means you attach 5 fins to your board, this is not the case.

Five fin configurations are not supposed to be surfed with all five fins.
Five fin boxes simply give you the option to mix and match fins.
Different types of setups using the various 5 boxes are used depending on your preference and the surf conditions you encounter. Basically, the more boxes your board has, the more fin options you have.
You can experience more fin setups with the same board.
Not many people ride with the 5 fin setup, most people either prefer 3 fin or 5 fin setup.

2+1 FIN

2+1 Fin
2+1 Fin

This is a 3 fin configuration, similar to a thruster/tri-fin setup. The difference here: the middle fin is a longboard single fin. The remaining 2 fins are regular thruster side fins on each side.

The middlebox is longer with a 2+1 setup. This gives you the choice to attach the middle fin more towards the front or back. This setup is gaining popularity with riders who use funboards, eggs, logs and SUPs.


Now that we have a general idea of fin setups, let’s dive into fin type. We are going to look at glassed-in fins vs. swappable (removable) fins. It is important to know the differences between the two and what each is used for.

The biggest aspect of glassed-in fins is that they are not interchangeable. They are permanently attached to your board. These fins are usually very smooth and offer a nice ride. However, because they can’t be taken on and off, they limit your versatility. This also poses expensive repairs when the fins get damaged.

Removable fins offer lots of versatility because you can take them on and off. These types of fins are screwed into your surfboard via “boxes”. Swappable fins are taken on and off using what’s called a fin key. The key adjusts the small screws and is very simple to do. Different types of fins are used in the corresponding type of boxes. Don’t force a fin into the wrong type of box and make sure the fin is being attached the right way. Once the fins are attached to the correct box in the correct position, you simply tighten the screws. It’s really that simple.

If you decide removable fins are the right fit for you, there are a few things to know about the boxes used to attach the fins to your board. There are a few different types to choose from.


The only surfboard that is widely compatible with many different fin boxes are longboards. Most all other surfboard styles are a little more specific with what’s required. These boards will generally be equipped with one of three different box types.

FCS (Fin Control System) came out in the 1990s and has since been the most popular fin system used by surfers worldwide. The FCS fins are attached by two tabs or plugs that are screwed into the board. FCS recently released the FCS II keyless Fin Standard. This option does not require screws or a fin key to attach and remove the fins. FCS II is also backwards compatible. This means you can use your older FCS fins with the new FCS II system. All that’s required is a compatibility kit.
More info: FCS Fins (opens a new window)

The other common type of fin box is a single tab (futures). The single tab fin box connects to the entire length of the of the fin box (unlike boxes with plugs). This box type offers a strong, lightweight connection to the surfboard. These boxes are also attached with screws.
More info: Future fins (opens a new window)

Different Aspects Of Your Fins To Keep In Mind

Bigger fins will offer a tighter feel. More of the board’s surface is in direct contact with the water. On the other hand, small fins will offer a looser feel. Of course, it gets a touch more technical than that, as there’s a lot more to it.

As you might imagine, the flexibility of a fin will affect how your board will handle certain waves. Fins that are stiffer will respond quickly but don’t allow for much give. These fins are great for all skill levels. They are quite stable and predictable. A stiff fin works best in hollow waves.

A flexible fin is best used with playful waves. They offer a much skatier feel. These fins are ideal for fast turns but are harder to control. Of course, it’s not as simple of just stiff versus flexible. Fins have flex patterns. This means that certain fins may have a stiffer base while the tip is flexier. A fin-like this can offer a rider stability while simultaneously providing agility.

The fin base measurement refers to the part of the fin that is directly attached to the board. The longer the base, the more drive and speed you can expect. When a rider turns the surfboard, pressure is put against the base of the fin which increases their speed. If you choose a fin with a smaller base you won’t feel as much drive but you’ll see more success with quick, short moves.

When looking at a fin, the rake (sweep) refers to how far the fin tilts to the back. A fin with less rake will make it easier to turn fast, while a fin with more rake will help riders with longer turns. If you enjoy big, playful waves, you’ll want to opt for more rake. If you are a quick turning, fast rider, you may choose less rake.

The toe (splay) refers to the angle of the fins on the side in comparison the fin in the middle. Side fins are usually described as toed-in. This means the front of the fin is angled towards the middle of the board. This angle allows water pressure to build on the outside of the fins and helps the rider with responsiveness.

The term foil refers to the curve and shape of outer and inner sides of the fin. The thinnest part will be near the tip and thicker part near the fin’s base. Different types of foil will alter the way water flows over the surface of your fin. This will, of course affect the way your fins and board perform. Your middle fins will always be symmetrical and convex on both the inner and outer sides. This is sometimes called 50/50, signaling even stability and water distribution. Your outside fins will typically be convex on the outer side and flat or curved on the inner side. A flat inside will give the rider more balance and control as well as speed. A concave or curved inside will offer less drag which helps build speed and gives more fluidity.

The height, sometimes called the depth, is the measurement from the fin base to the very tip. This feature can affect how stable your board feels through turns. Typically, the taller the fin, the more forgiving and easier it is to handle. For more advanced riders who will be doing quicker, more trick turns, shorter fins offer a smoother ride.

The degree that your fins tilt in regards to the surfboard’s base is called the cant. When the angle of the fin to the board is completely straight up and down, it’s at 90 degrees; this means it has a 90 degree cant. A 90 degree cant is also called “no cant” because it has no angle. When you have a 90 degree cant, you will usually ride faster. Any angling that is greater than 90 degrees will give you better response. Surfers will cant their fins to help feel more control of the board and increase responsiveness. Canted fins are especially helpful through turns. Fins with no cant will give you speed, but offer less playfulness. When you give your fins a little cant they’ll allow for more maneuverability and a looser feel.


When learning about fins, it can be a lot to take in. There are so many different choices and aspects to consider. The best advice we can offer is to try different combinations until you find what feels best for you personally. Think of it as test driving a car. Test out different fin types and setups to get a sense of how each feels for you.

surf learning to surf


•For a playful setup, add small fins with a little flex and sweep to a stiff surfboard

•For a faster ride with more drive, add stiff, big fins with a lot of sweep to a soft board

•The terms cluster and placement of the fins mean how close together or far apart they are on the surfboard

•The more spread out a fin cluster is, the more control the rider will have; the closer together a cluster is, the more speed and response the rider will feel

•Where you place your fins in relation to the tail of your surfboard will change how it feels. Fins attached more towards the front will feel looser. While fins more towards the back will give the surfer a more controlled feel

•Wide-tailed boards are usually best paired with bigger fins

•Surfers who prefer shortboards and ride bigger waves will benefit most from fins with more rake

We hope you enjoyed this article and learned a little bit about the world of surfboard fins. Happy riding!

In need of good waves?

At Swell we provide Learn how to surf holidays for people that have never surfed before as welll as a great social place to stay for advanced and expert surfers looking for a cool, comfortable & social place to stay. We offer full packages which include:

  • Airport transfers
  • Breakfast and 4 dinners
  • Comfortable & stylish accommodation
  • surfboard rentals and surf transport
  • A great social vibe


Located on the scenic north coast of the Dominican Republic is our purpose built surf resort
surf learning to surf
We cater for surfers of all levels, from beginners to expert surfers who are looking for an active surf holiday

Swell offers full surf packages holidays


More info on wingsurfing

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We hope to see you in the Dominican republic soon

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surf wave selection

4 Tips For Perfect Wave Selection

How do you get perfect wave selection?
Is perfection even possible? Maybe.
Waves are a funny thing, every wave is different, but they can look quite similar. Predicting how a wave will break may seem like a difficult task, but don’t worry. There are a few things you can do to get yourself prepared, and we’ve got four great tips right here to improve your wave selection.


In order to get perfect wave selection, you need to know your surf break in and out… or at least know what makes your spot tick.
Several factors go in to creating a surfable wave at your break.

Distant storms

It usually starts by a storm far out at sea. Powerful winds wash over the ocean, creating friction in the surface of the water. Over time, this friction builds up more and more, to create powerful swell that can travel over entire oceans. Once the waves reach shallower water, your surf break for example, they jack up in size and fold over themselves.

This is what we call breaking waves, or “surfable waves”.

Know what your break needs

To have those perfect, glassy waves of your dreams, a number of factors must come together.
At your surf break, we’re talking:

  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction
  • Tide
  • Swell direction
  • Wave periods

If the wave period is too short, with howling onshore winds, in an extreme high tide, chances are that the waves won’t be very good.
With terrible conditions, chances are most of the surfed waves will be pretty terrible too.

Perfect offshore winds
Perfect offshore winds

For perfect conditions, usually you’re looking for:

  • Light winds
  • Offshore winds (blowing across the beach towards the ocean, the opposite is onshore) (Light onshore if you love to pop airs)
  • The best tide for your surf break (check online)
  • Swell direction pointing directly towards your surf break
  • Longer wave periods, over 10 seconds.


Surfing in great conditions will make it way easier to select your perfect wave… … but as you already know, perfect conditions aren’t always there.

That’s why we strongly recommend you to surf in lesser-than-perfect conditions as well. If you can develop perfect wave selection in subpar conditions, chances are you will absolutely excel on those good days. Just don’t go out in hurricanes or anything too crazy.

Research your break

Research your surf break online. See what weather conditions and type of swell makes your surf break go nuts. Read up on the best tide, wind direction, swell direction and type of swell. Then go surf as much as you can on those good days.

2. Watch the waves

Playa Encuentro
Empty wave at our local surf spot in Cabarete

Watching the waves is a big one and goes hand in hand with our first tip. You first need to know about the perfect conditions for your surf break, to know when it’s go time. Then, you need to spend some time watching the waves when you get there.

It doesn’t have to be an hour long watching session… but in order to build up your perfect wave selection, you need to see how the ocean behaves before you paddle in. This could be done when doing your warm-up stretches, or when debating where to paddle out with your friend.
When watching the waves, there are a few things you should look for.

Find the peak

Surf line up
The Line up

“The peak” of a wave, means the position where the wave will start breaking first. Or, the ideal place to paddle and surf the wave.
You should always try to catch the wave right at the peak, to gain maximum speed and momentum. Shoulder hopping doesn’t do you any favors (on super crowded days we’ve all been there though…) and will limit your progress.

Look for where the line-up is and see where the other surfers are. Hopefully, most or at least a few surfers will know where the best place to sit is.

See how the waves break

In order to perfect your wave selection ability, you need to watch how the waves are breaking.

Are they mainly lefthanders? Righthanders? Is it a slower, mushier wave, or a fast, steaming, barreling freigh train? See if you can spot different sections in the wave. How many waves are in each set? Which wave is the biggest, and how far apart are the sets?

Having crystal clear knowledge about the waves you’re going to surf is critical for perfect wave selection.

If you don’t know which waves you want to surf, how could you see them in the line-up?

Other things (not necessarily related to wave selection) to look for include:

  • Entry/exit points
  • Rip currents
  • Hazards (rocks, dry reef, structures etc.)

It makes a lot of sense to know what you’re getting yourself in to before paddling out, which is why this is so important.
Watching the waves accomplishes three things:

-You develop a greater understanding of your break and the current surfing conditions
-You know which waves you want to catch…
-And which waves you don’t.

3. How to read waves

While in the water, having the ability to read waves is essential for perfect wave selection.
Imagine, you’re sitting on your board in the line-up, waiting for the next wave… you are first in line and stoked. The next set comes in. A huge, dark wall is

coming at you fast. Almost in an instant, you have to make the decision of whether to go, or to bail.

Incoming wave
Spotting an incoming wave

How do you even know if it’s a good wave? Are you in a section that will just close out or are you in perfect position?

When to paddle

There is quite a simple technique you can use to read how a wave is going to act.
First off, use the horizon as a reference. Compare the angles of the incoming wave to the vertical line. The picture beside shows what an incoming wave could look like. You could be closer to the right or left side, or you could be right in the center. What does this mean? When should you paddle?

The parts of a wave

left wavesLooking at the wave coming at you, the left side is called a “right” because you go right when you surf it. The right side is called a “left” because you surf it to the left.
On the left and right side, you see the ends of the wave. This is called the shoulders of the wave. Shoulder hopping means catching the waves far out on the shoulders and should be avoided. The shoulders lack the power and speed that the peak provides.


Beware of closeouts (a wave “shutting down”). On an incoming wave, it’s quite easy to tell whether it’s a closeout or not. Any part of a wave that’s parallel to the horizon (vertical) will break first. Only the angled parts of a wave will break slower. In the example below, pretty much the whole middle part of the wave would break at once.

Is it a slow or fast breaking section?

The more vertical the wave is, the faster it will break. A steeper angle will break slower. In the example below, the right hander on this wave would break faster than the left hander. Why is it like this? Physics. And gravity-stuff… I don’t know.

Which direction do you surf?

If the wave looks exactly like in the picture, with both the option of going left and right, you have to make out which side you are closest too. If you are closer to the right, you catch and surf the right hander. Closer to the left? Then you surf the left hander.
What’s important is that you catch the wave in the steepest part of the wave, “the peak”. Then you ride towards the shoulder you are closest too. Or in other words, along the direction of the brea

4. Adapt your surfing

To get the most out of each wave, it’s important to adapt your surfing to the waves you surf.
You now know which conditions make your surf break great. You have watched the waves. With the surfboard around your arm, you sprint down to the beach, adrenaline rushing through your system.
Reading waves is now a piece of cake. You now know whether it’s a right or left hander and have some ideas on how to surf it. You also know where the peak is located and have decided on your focused location in the line-up.

Now what?

Adapt your surfing to the conditions you’re about to surf
If it’s a smaller day and a bit onshore, with fast sections, try working on your airs. Maybe work on your bottom turns or quick snaps. If it’s barreling but closing out, work on getting tucked in the barrel. Practice steep, fast drops. Work on getting pounded.
Make it clear in your mind before you jump in, what kind of surfing you are going to do with the waves of the day. This way you take full advantage.

You vs. Perfect wave selection
Perfect waves only exist on the most perfect of days. And the perfect days could almost always get better…
The key to selecting the perfect wave is to know which wave you want. And paddle for it.

In need of good waves?

At Swell we provide Learn how to surf holidays for people that have never surfed before as welll as a great social place to stay for advanced and expert surfers looking for a cool, comfortable & social place to stay. We offer full packages which include:

  • Airport transfers
  • Breakfast and 4 dinners
  • Comfortable & stylish accommodation
  • surfboard rentals and surf transport
  • A great social vibe

surf surftechnique

We hope to see you in the Dominican republic soon

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Surfing: How to generate speed


Have you mastered a proper pop-up? Can you read oncoming waves? Can you select, paddle, and catch a wave on your own accord? Can you turn down the line and ride an open-faced, green wave? If so, congratulations. You are ready to learn how to generate speed and set up maneuvers. Generating speed on a wave ensures the longest possible ride, and allows the surfer to set up further maneuvers, such as cutbacks.

There are two ways to generate speed on a wave: trimming and carving. Whether you use trimming or carving depends on a variety of variables like board size, wave type, maneuver goals, and wave size. To find out how to properly generate speed on a wave, and whether you should be trimming or carving, keep reading! At Swell , we are here to help improve your surfing for your next surf trip to our Caribbean surf resort, or just for your surfs at your local break back home!


What is Trimming?

Trimming is a technique employed when a surfer needs to maintain speed and navigate the face of a wave to stay in an optimal position to continue surfing at a high speed or to set up a maneuver.

Unlike carving, trimming does not involve large, rounded turns but rather, trimming requires delicate rail work. The rail is the side of a surfboard, and it is the part of the board that is most engaged in the wave face during trimming. When a surfer trims, he or she makes small adjustments in his or her weight distribution and stance to set the rail into the wave’s face and then to release it. This act moves a surfer quickly down the line, keeping her or him ahead of the breaking water.

Wave Type

While there are a number of factors that go into whether you trim or carve on a wave, the wave itself sometimes won’t give you a choice. A fast-breaking wave makes it virtually impossible to perform regular, elongated carves. Therefore, on a fast-breaking wave, you have no choice but to trim.

Board Type

It is possible to trim on all board types. In fact, trimming is useful in a variety of situations on shortboards and longboards. But if you are a longboarder, you will find that you will be trimming on most waves, even if short boarders are carving.
The large surface area and volume that long boards have makes generating speed as simple as walking up the board. To trim properly on a longboard, a surfer should move towards the center of their board and set their rail into the wave and then release it as needed. Longboarders use trimming to set their board, to walk to the nose, or to set up a cutback. Short boarders use trimming to gain speed for an air/ cutback off of a high line, to navigate a barrel, or to stylishly cruise on a high line.

Weight Distribution and Turning

Whether you are on a longboard or a shortboard, trimming takes a specific stance, weight distribution, and technique. To effectively trim, a surfer should be positioned more towards the center of the board, have a stance slightly wider than shoulder width, and have their feet placed somewhat closer to the rail that is engaged in the wave’s face. As you move down the face of the wave, lean in and put your weight towards the wave to move up the face, engaging your rail into the wave.

Additionally, your weight should be distributed more to the front foot than the back. This is referred to as putting on the gas. Once you’re high enough on the wave, faintly let your rail out and allow your board to move down the wave before reengaging and moving back up.

Possible Maneuvers to Set Up

If you’re trimming properly, there are a few maneuvers that you will be able to work on. From a proper trim or high line, you can execute a cutback, set up an air, or if you’re on a longboard, walk the noise. You can also execute floaters on a closeout section.


What is Carving?

surf generate speed carve
Carving bottom turn
Carving is a way of moving down the face of the wave and generating speed while doing so. Carving involves larger, deeper, and more radical turns than trimming.

A surfer carving will make a series of bottom turns and top turns down the waves face until the end of the wave, the whole time utilizing their fins to make sharp, dramatic turns on the wave’s face.

Wave Type

While it may be possible to do a few top or bottom turns on a fast-breaking wave, the ideal wave for carving is a slow breaking, somewhat steep-faced, wave. A slow breaking wave allows for a surfer to do a drawn-out bottom turn to drop in, without risking getting caught by the whitewater, and then set up a succeeding top turn. This act is repeated over and over down the wave’s face.

Board Type

To properly execute swooping bottom turns and sharp top turns that are required in proper carving, a shorter board is required. While it is definitely possible to carve on a longboard, it is difficult given the board’s length and the distance of the rider’s feet from the fins and certain points in the wave. A shorter board (anything below 7 feet) will allow you to maneuver more freely and whip the board around for sharper, more dramatic turns.

Weight Distribution and Turning

Like trimming, carving takes a particular stance, technique, and weight distribution to be done successfully. To effectively turn sharply, whether a top turn or a bottom turn, a surfer must “pump the brakes.” Meaning the surfer must put their weight on their back foot to engage their fins in the wave and allow the board to turn sharply. When you are ready to perform a carve, put weight on your back foot and slightly towards the rail that is engaged in the face of the wave.

Then as you turn, shift your weight forwards and towards the direction of your turn. For example, when you engage with your toeside rail in the face of the wave and you want to perform a cutback, then lean into the wave’s face and then engage the fins, rotate your board, and shift your weight to the other rail. When a surfer places weight on their back foot, the nose of the board lifts out of the water just enough to allow the surfer to pivot the board using a combination of the engaged fins and rail.

Possible Maneuvers to Set Up

High-performance surfing essentially is carving. With the exception of airs, most traditional high performance and power surfing maneuvers involve large cutbacks, swooping turns, and powerful hacks into the waves face. If a surfer wants to improve their performance surfing, the first thing he or she should do is learn how to properly carve.

Armed with the knowledge on how to properly trim and carve, you are ready to get out in the water and work on generating speed on a wave. Once you’ve successfully mastered generating speed, move on to learn how to set up maneuvers and learn to look for workable sections in a waves face. To further your progression, come visit us in the Dominican Republic at Swell to surf the warm, welcoming waters of the Caribbean Sea!

We hope you like this article “Surfing: How to generate speed” But if you have any questions about this topic, feel free to send us an email about this topic (or any surf related topic) I am sure we can help you progress with your surf abilities.

Video: Surfing how to generate speed

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surf fitness

7 Cross Training Tips for Peak Surfing Performance


We all want to be able to ride the waves like a true champion. When you first begin surfing, no matter the age, you are both excited and motivated to take on this new challenge. As many will attest though, despite any amount of youthful confidence in your earliest lessons, many are shocked to discover that the challenge of being the next pro surfing great, is indeed greater than they anticipated.

Not to be discouraged though, many new and experienced boarders will simply bounce back up and give it another go. There are several exercises and tips you can incorporate though if you really want to maximize your ability and potential on the board. Here are 7 of the best to improve your surf fitness:


skiing surf fitnessMany may recommend snowboarding here, and whilst practicing another board sport is an excellent way to prepare for the open water, skiing just adds that extra dynamic of having your feet move more freely. This is something which absolutely helps to improve your focus, and given the unpredictability of the waves on occasion, we feel like I is a similar match for that of the mountain and the obstacles which it presents.

Working on your skiing will help you focus on a variety of areas which are considered essential in surfing too. These include knowing where your feet are positioned and how to direct them at all times. Besides this great footwork training, you will also get accustomed to dealing with the reality of falling down but getting right back up again. This is something which is likely no more perfect to prepare you for the life beyond the TV glamour of learning to surf, which undoubtedly will involve many horizontal moments.


swimm surf fitnessIt seems like an obvious selection, but as a reminder to some who may have overlooked it, swimming is the most important skill which any surfer must possess. It is after all a water sport, and you will indeed find yourself in the ocean on more occasions than you may expect. This is key through all stages of your surfing development. As you start to become more accomplished, sure you become a better surfer, being a top quality swimmer suddenly becomes all the more important.

The added advantage with bringing top notch swimming skills to the water add is that you will have the confidence in swimming so that you do not fear falling from the board. This can be a key tool in helping you overcome challenges when learning. As any surfer will tell you, the water often feels like their second home, this is particularly useful at times when you feel challenged by boarding techniques.


skateboard fitness
Another board sport which many surfers gravitate toward and vice versa. Skateboarding is ideal from both a theoretical and practical viewpoint when you are learning to surf. It helps you identify the best boards that suit your style. FinBin is an awesome resource for choosing your surfboard, but skating really gets you in the groove in terms of identifying what you need and prefer.
As a more experienced surfer, it is not always possible to get on the water, that could be due to poor conditions or a variety of other reasons. Skateboarding is perfect for keeping your skills honed and on point when you can’t make it to the surf. Achieving your potential really requires constant practice and keeping those skills sharp at all times. This is one of the primary reasons you will find many of the world’s top surfers at your nearest skate park on the off-season.


dance to surf fitnessThis next training technique is a bit of a curve ball for many. Dancing can have a number of benefits to see you reach peak performance on the board. How is that possible? – Movement. This movement and most importantly coordination with your partner in dancing, can easily transfer across onto the board. Knowing where your feet are positioned at all times is vital when boarding and dancing.

Timing, movement and coordination are all vital parts of both activities, therefore it actually makes perfect sense that the best surfers in the world should spend some time on the dancefloor perfecting their moves. That said, if you have two left feet on the dancefloor, don’t worry too much. There are many other methods you can use to reach peak performance in surfing as we have outlined.


surf fitnessThis is a broader concept, but staying upright on a surfboard requires a lot of core strength. Not only that, but getting back up on to your board and keeping your balance are all centered on the core of the body. Therefore, anything you can do to boost your core strength will result in positive results in the swell.
Luckily for us, many of the exercises mentioned here are also fundamentally based around improving your core strength, so in many cases these activities come with multiple benefits to help you get the best out of your surfing potential.


cross to surf fitWhat better way to boost that core strength we just mentioned than engaging in one of the trending exercises of the moment. CrossFit training will absolutely help boost your core strength and that of the rest of your muscle groups whilst also promoting and improving agility. There is so much crossover here which can help you with your surfing performance that most top guides nowadays would actively encourage registering yourself with a CrossFit program.
Naturally, this strength and agility will help you on the board, but it should also serve to boost your self confidence in that beach body too! This is something which cannot be underestimated when boarding and getting the most out of your performance. Having the ability and confidence to test yourself and not be afraid of failure is absolutely vital.


calisthenics for surfWhen we talk about movement, agility, and flexibility, we absolutely must give a mention to calisthenics. This makes us focus on all of those areas and boosts a number of the areas which we have already discussed. This attention to bodily movements and the amazing boost which some of the workouts will give you raw core strength is vital if you want to take to the waves and be the best that you can be.
A final key area where calisthenics proves invaluable to surfers is focus. Focus and clarity of the mind may be one of the single most important attributes a surfer possesses. Having the ability to focus on themselves and the challenges they face, without distraction. This is something relevant to any professional sport and particularly surfing. That is a primary reason why you will see many top surfers and athletes in general now engaging in more and more calisthenics training. Try This Beginner’s Calisthenics Workout ( opens a new window)


Of course, much of a really elite level surfer’s skill comes from a profound level of natural ability. Desire and motivation to reach those challenging goals are also vital. Having the right type of equipment too. What we have outlined though is that through training, in any area, there are multiple ways in which you can improve your own performance and skill level.

Working hard and training hard is a vital element in any sport or profession, surfing is no different. With multiple options to choose from, there is no excuse not to engage and derive some benefit from any of the activities mentioned which can ultimately translate to you improving your surfing skills regardless of your level.

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how to duck dive



Swell Surf technique series:
If you have ever tried to surf without knowing how to turtle roll or duck dive, you might not have had a great time. Both turtle rolling and duck diving are an essential part of surfing. Without doing either, we would spend our entire surf session washing back to shore every time a set came through.

If you’re unsure whether you should turtle roll or duck dive your board, this article is for you.

If you’re unable to safely and effectively paddle out to the lineup on your own, this article is for you. And lastly, if you can duck dive or turtle roll, but not with 100% effectiveness, this article is for you.

Here at Swell Surf Camp, we want to give you the tools not just to surf when you are on your learn to surf holiday with us, but to surf anywhere in the world.


1. Which type of board are you riding?

Do you want to know if you should turtle roll or duck dive? Look at what you’re riding. If you’re on a longboard, or even a fun size, and you cannot easily push the entire board under water, then you should be turtle rolling.

2. Don’t rush it timing is everything

When you arrive at the beach, don’t immediately run into the ocean to paddle out. First, warm up, relax, and watch what the waves are doing. As you watch the water, you should look for any channels that may exist help your paddle out. Time your paddle out for a lull between sets.

3. Walk your board out

To enter the water, walk your board out with it tucked safely under your arm to chest deep water. We do this to ensure that our board stays safely at our side and does not get washed into any other surfers. Additionally, if you lie on your board to paddle in too shallow of water, you risk breaking the fins off of the board.

4. Spot the wave ahead and get ready to roll

As you paddle out, you should be constantly looking out to sea for oncoming waves. When you see a wave approaching, wait for the wave to be 2 meters (6 feet) away, and get ready to begin your turtle roll. If the wave approaching is white water or a wave breaking in front of you, you will have to turtle roll. If the wave is just cresting or rolling through unbroken, you can continue to paddle over the wave.

5. Grab your rails and flip

To execute a proper turtle roll, grab the rails of your board with both hands firmly. Your hands should be gripping the rails directly in front of your chest. With both rails tightly grasped, roll over with the board, sinking underwater as you expose the backside of the board to the surface.

6. Extend the arms (optional)

While underwater, some surfers choose to extend their arms, which pushes the board out of the water, giving the wave room to travel in the space between your body and the extended board. This is done so that the board does not get ripped from the surfer’s hands.

7. Resurface, roll, and get back on your board

Once the wave passes over you, pull the board close to your chest and roll back onto your board. Center yourself on the sweet spot of your board and resume paddling. Be ready to repeat when the next wave breaks in front of you.

Practise in the pool at Swell
During our learn to surf course we give paddle, duck dive and turtle roll lessons in our pool, so you can praqctise the right surf technique some more.


Next up in our learn to surf technique series


which surfboard is right

1. Which type of board are you riding?

If you’re riding a shortboard, and you are strong enough to completely submerge the board underwater, then you should be using the duck dive to paddle out. If you’re riding a shortboard but cannot submerge the board under the water with ease, then you should turtle roll. Both are effective, and both keep your board in control and away from other surfers.

2. Walk your board out

Just like when you’re paddling out with a longboard, when you’re riding a shortboard you must walk your board out to chest deep water before beginning to paddle. If you try to duck dive in shallow water, you could hurt yourself and damage your board.

3. Face towards the wave and paddle hard

While paddling at an angle might be a useful way to get around cresting waves. If a wave is breaking in front of you, to properly execute your duck dive you must face the wave and paddle towards it. Meaning your paddle direction should be perpendicular to the lines of waves washing to shore.

4. Spot the wave and push your board underwater

Similarly, to when you paddle out with a longboard, when you paddle out with shortboard you must constantly be looking out to sea for oncoming waves. Make sure you do not mess around and go with speed and power towards the wave. The faster you go, the faster you will come out the back on your resurface. When the oncoming wave is 2 meters away (6 feet), grab the rails (the sides) of your board and push the board under water. At this step in your duck dive, your arms should be extended with your elbows locked and your board should be completely submerged under water.

5. Use your foot

The next step in executing a perfect duck dive is to use your foot. Place your foot at the tail end of your surfboard—on your traction pad if you wave one— and submerge the tail of your board. Raise your tailbone to the sky as you plant your foot, shaping your body like a triangle, to engage your body weight effectively. Surfers typically use the foot that would be considered their “back foot” while surfing.

6. Pull yourself under

Now that your board is completely submerged underwater by three points of contact (two hands and your foot) you must submerge yourself. First take a deep breath, then pull yourself underwater towards your submerged board, to allow the oncoming breaking wave room to roll over you. If your duck dive is timed correctly, you should not feel the force of the wave as it passes over you. If you are not submerged deep enough, you may be pushed around by the wave while underwater.

7. Breaststroke kick (optional)

On particularly large days, it is challenging to execute a proper duck dive even with perfect technique. The waves are simply too powerful to get under. You will find that at the deepest point of your duck dive the wave will still reach you, and either push you down deeper underwater or wash you back towards the shore. To remedy this issue that only occurs on bigger swells, perform a breaststroke kick (or two) at the deepest point of your duck dive. This will allow you to plunge deeper underwater and avoid the force of larger and more powerful waves.

8. Resurface and repeat

Once you pull yourself to your board and execute your kicks, you will find that you will naturally rise upward to the surface the other side of the breaking wave. Center yourself on your board, wipe the hair and water out of your eyes, and paddle on, but be ready to repeat at any moment.



More videos on how to duck dive

Here at Swell Surf Camp, our surf instructors will ensure that you perfect the art of paddling out. Whether you are learning to turtle roll or duck dive, we will work with you until paddling out becomes a breeze. Our goal is for you to leave our Caribbean surf camp with enough knowledge to surf anywhere in the world!

This article on how to duck dive and do a turtle roll is part of the surf technique series for beginners.
Other articles in this series are:

surf surftechnique

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how to pop up surfing


Here is a “how to surf” tutorial on various surfing techniques which are vital when you are learning how to surf. It is not meant as a replacement for going on a learn to surf holiday (like those we offer at Swell) but rather as a reference with visuals to make learning easier.

About Swell Surf Camp
We offer luxury surf holiday experiences for people who want to learn how to surf in warm, Caribbean water. We focus on a structured approach in our surf lessons, taught by ISA qualified surfing instructors.

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  • Place hands flat on your board under your chest (see note below about hand-position)
  • Push up: Arch your back, weight on toes and hands
  • Twist your hips into a position which allows you to first move your back* foot into position
  • Move front* foot into position, place front foot between your hands
  • Stand up, keeping center of gravity low with your kness bend & looking forward
  • *your ‘back’ or ‘front’ foot is determined by whether you are ‘regular/natural-footed’ (that’s riding with the left foot forward) or ‘goofy-footed'(riding with your right foot forward). In order to test this, have someone push you gently from behind on a flat surface (ideally when you are not expecting it). The foot which leads the step determines if you are natural/regular or goofy. If you have skateboarded or snowboarded, with surfing, you are very likely to ride with the same foot forward.


caribbean surf campThere are various ways on how to do a successful pop up on a surfboard, below is the approach we use the most at Swell in our surf lessons at Playa Encuentro.

This approach to the pop up is only suitable for beginners learning how to surf on big surfboards (anything over 8′ and ideally on a soft top with plenty of volume and stability). Depending on how tall you are, you might adjust your hand position further under your ribcage (imagine a pendulum) in order to give your feet the space to move.

For best results this technique is best practiced first on the beach, so you have extra stability, then when you have mastered it on the beach, practice in small mellow waves, like those we have at Playa Encuentro.

The following images show the pop-up technique for a surfer with a “natural/regular” stance (riding with left foot forward), If you are goofy-footer (right foot forward), the technique stays the same, just move the other foot as opposed to how it’s shown in these images.


Practise on the beach, then go out on small ‘white water’ waves. White water of about 30 to 50 cm is ideal. Enough power to give you forward thrust.

surf step1 pop up surf

Paddle hard enough to catch the wave and feel the force of the wave pushing you forward. As you gain speed the board actually gets a bit more stable. Now place both hands flat on your surfboard under your chest (don’t grab the rail of the surfboard). Some taller people find it easier to place their hands further down the chest towards the ribcage to ‘balance’ their body before moving the feet.

surf step2 pop up surf

Now arch your lower back  – by doing a push-up movement. Only your toes/feet and hands should be touching the board, look up / forward, not down at your board.

surf step3b pop up surf

Now slide your ‘back’ foot into position first (it sounds confusing, but this will be your left foot if you are goofy and your right foot if you are a natural-footed surfer). The back foot should move about 35-45 cm forward. Twisting your body will make this easier as it creates space.

surf step4a pop up surf
Then move your front foot towards your hands staying very low to maintain balance.

surf step5 pop up surf

The final part of the pop-up, releasing your hands from the board but making sure to keep a low center of gravity ( = better balance) by bending both knees; you can also extend your arms straight, one forward and one behind you to further increase your balance. Look forward (not down!) and enjoy the glide!



surf wrongPractise on the wrong waves: the pop up technique should be practised in small white water waves, not out in the lineup (out the back) for first time surfers. Don’t go out in big waves, or crowded surf spots.

surf wrongFeet in the wrong position: Your feet should be pretty much in the centre of the board, over stringer  ( center line made of wood in the board)

surf wrongWrong hand position: Don’t grab the rails of the surfboard, it will slow the board down and will also make  the board a lot more unstable for the push up

surf wrongKnees on the board.  A lot of beginners do this, it might make standing up on your first waves ‘easier’ but it’s a bad technique and correcting it later takes more time, so skip the knees on the board part.

surf wrongLooking down: A very common mistake in people learning how to surf is to look and see what they are doing, so looking down at their feet / board / water. It make keeping your balance very difficult and you cannot see where you are going. Keep looking forward!

surf wrongToo early: Don’t stand up too early. Make sure the wave is properly giving you forward momentum. Stand up too early, and the board will lose speed, you miss the wave and will fall off.

surf wrong
Standing too upright. You have done all this hard work to stand on the board and now you want to stand tall! Don’t do it! By staying low and bending the knees you have a lot more stability.

surf wrongLeaning over with upper body. All the bend should be in the knees, not the upper body. When you bend / lean over with your upper body, keeping your balance is practically impossible and you will fall.


surf good pop up surfUse a big soft top surfboard. Sure those little boards look cool, but learning on a board that is too small will make learning to surf far harder and will take you forever. Big soft tops are stable and safe.

surf good pop up surfPractise on the beach. Before going out in the water, practise 15-20 pop ups on the sand.

surf good pop up surfWatch other surfers. See how they do it.

surf good pop up surfAsk for feedback. Ask your surf instructor for tips.

surf good pop up surfStay positive. As easy as some surfers make it look, learning to surf is not easy ! Don’t get discouraged when you make mistakes, we were all beginners once.

Once you have masterered the surfing pop up on a longboard you can start trying the technique on smaller boards. The video below shows how the top pros do their pop up in slow motion on a shortboard at the Surf ranch.


Here is another good instructional video of the do’s and don’t to master the pop up surf technique


how to generate speed

We hope we made it as clear as possible for you. But feel free to send us a message if something is not clear, or if you want to join us in the Caribbean for a learn how to surf holiday, where our qualified surfing instructors teach you the above steps, and will help you with any questions you might have.


Located on the scenic north coast of the Dominican Republic is our purpose built surf resort

We cater for surfers of all levels, from beginners to expert surfers who are looking for an active surf holiday

Swell offers full surf packages holidays

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