How to Turtle Roll in Surfing
When you start learning to surf, you don’t have the luxury of using a shortboard; rather you learn to surf on a longboard which is slower and more buoyant compared to the shortboard. This can pose some challenges. That is why the turtle roll will help you overcome some challenges.
Due to their higher buoyancy, there is no way you are ever going to get a longboard to submerge through a wall of white water. But how do you make your way past this obstacle so you can get to the starting lineup where the surfing wave will commence? The turtle roll is how to do it.
Like your long and slower longboard, the turtle can’t outrun or beat a wall of whitewater wave, but it’s a master at getting to the other side of the water. Rather than worry ourselves to death, we learn how the turtle does its thing; meaning the turtle roll.
But first, why can’t you push your longboard through the waves as shortboards do?
It can be somewhat difficult to watch shortboarders go right under huge waves without hesitation while you contemplate your next line of action before the sheer power of the oncoming wall of water tears you away from your surfboard and back to the beach. Shortboarders achieve the impressive feat through a maneuver known as a duck dive.
The bad news, however, is that longboards can’t be used to perform a duck dive. The reason for this is that duck dives require submerging the surfboard under the oncoming wave, but the larger size and buoyancy of longboards prevent them from going under the waves easily as the shortboards do.
However, longboards compensate for their inability to submerge with increased agility and faster paddling. Since longboarders can’t perform duck dives, the only way to get past the waves without getting separated from your surfboard is to learn how to perform the turtle roll correctly.
The turtle roll is one of the most important skills you will learn as a longboard surfer because you need it to get to the lineup in one piece. While surfing is a sport created entirely for riding waves, you also need to have a strong understanding of some basic skills of paddling and surfing to become proficient at riding the waves with grace and finesse.
It’s important that your paddling skills are correct and smart if you hope to make it to the lineup. You must be able to time your sets with accuracy, watch out for the shortest and most promising channels that will get you to your destination within the shortest time, and above all, be effective at paddling. When you have mastered the art of paddling efficiently, you can move on to perfecting your turtle roll maneuver so the big waves won’t be an obstacle to you anymore.
You might be wondering why the waves always flip you back in the direction of the beach? Well, it comes with the physics of the environment and your surfboard. If you are using longboards or even bigger funboards, the rules that apply to the shortboards may not apply to you when facing a huge wave on your path to the starting lineup. It’s no surprise then that the waves keep moving you back to shore.
If you are not submerged when you come into contact with a wall of whitewater, you quickly find yourself surrounded by water, and the goal of the wave is to separate you from your surfboard. The problem is that you can’t submerge your longboard under the waves due to its buoyancy and higher volume, so your head is still sticking up when the wave reaches your position, which means you will receive some serious battering.
In such a situation, the wave will pry your board out of your hold if you tried to flip it over while your arms are fully extended. The result is that you will be separated from your board, into the foaming water and back to the shoreline. If you don’t want to suffer such fate repeatedly, you have to learn the turtle roll.
The turtle roll is also known as the Eskimo Roll, and it’s the best maneuver for getting to the other side of whitewashes that are too strong to go under to the other side. If you wish to have total control in the face of vast waves of white water, then the Turtle Roll is an essential surfing skill you should learn like yesterday.
Not only is the turtle roll an essential skill for beginners, it’s also used extensively by advanced riders using larger funboards as it offers one of the safest and most effective ways to get past the breaking waves in challenging conditions without losing your board.
How to Do the Turtle Roll Correctly
Most people who are starting to learn to surf wear themselves out by paddling straight for the lineup, largely because they don’t yet know how to time the sets correctly. But you can’t win against the whitewater by paddling at top speed. To get to the lineup, conserve your energy and deploy the turtle roll.
Here’s how to go turtle mode:
- Paddle directly towards the wave. It’s important for your board to be perpendicular to the oncoming wave because the wave will rip your boards from your hold if you are at an angle to it.
- As you get closer to the wave, stop paddling and hold tight onto the rails, i.e., the side of your surfboard at a point a bit above your shoulders. Be sure that your board’s nose is slightly pointing downwards. Otherwise, the wave will flip you over and back to the beach.
- At this point, your goal is to grab your board as hard as you can to ensure you don’t lose your grip. To increase your grip on the rails, you can wax it.
- Before you come into contact with the waves, take a deep breath and flip the board upside down so that the fin side is facing up. You achieve this by pushing up yourself from the board when the wave is on its final approach, and then lean your body sideways. For increased leverage and speed while turning the board over, raise your torso slightly. When doing the roll, try keeping your elbows bent as this will allow more space to move your arms as the board goes under the wave, making it easier for you to absorb the shock. Make sure to flip before the face of the wave covers you, but also ensure you don’t flip too early as you won’t know if you are still perpendicular to the wave when you are underwater.
- Hold the board close to you to keep the surf strong as the amount of water between you and your board will determine how easy you can maintain your hold.
- When you are submerged, stay relaxed and free. Don’t try to fight the wave or stiffen your muscles. Additionally, don’t try to wrap your legs around the board as this increases the resistance of moving against the water. Hold on to the board with your hands.
- When you have mastered the turtle roll, you should add a frog kick to your underwater maneuver to cover some ground while the wave is traveling over you. But only attempt this after perfecting the turtle roll.
- Flip your board over once you are clear of the wave. Get back on the board as fast as you can by kicking with your legs while pushing and pulling with either hand.
- When you are balanced on your board, commence your frantic paddling to cover the ground lost while under the waves so you can get to the lineup on time.
If you encounter another wave, repeat the above steps or rest for a while if you are tired from the last turtle roll. Before trying this maneuver in the enormous whitewashes, it’s better to practice with smaller waves. Better still, you can practice the roll at home.
Practicing the Turtle Roll at Home
To do this, all you need is something you can use as a surfboard, such as a bodyboard or a tray. The purpose of this exercise is to teach you how to keep your hands bent while going into full turtle roll mode in a whitewash wave.
- Place the bodyboard on the floor and lie over it while holding onto its two sides with your hands bent outwards.
- Now look up and imagine the oncoming wave and then flip your body so that its now facing upwards. Maintain your elbows in the bent position and imagine yourself holding onto the railing of your board as the wave rides over you.
- When the imaginary wave is clear, roll back while keeping your elbows bent. Execute these moves with your arms and core muscles.
- Repeat this exercise until you memorize the moves and it becomes easy to replicate in the water.
You can also practice the turtle roll in a pool, lake, or rive without waves to just get the motion of the turtle roll down. It’s important that you execute the turtle roll and are fully submerged before the wave hits you. Also, practice the maneuver extensively in small waves before attempting it in powerful whitewashes. The turtle wave is a powerful skill for getting past challenging waves that are too strong to pass through, and can also help you avoid dangerous crashes. Whenever you are in a tight spot, remember what the slow and steady turtle will do.