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Underwater fin surfing...

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
It can take a long time to get an up-to-date response or contact with relevant users.

noa

Well-Known Member
Oct 17, 2003
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Some years ago i was sitting on a beach in northern N.S.W. Australia after a swim with my monofin. It was a beautifull sunny summer morning with a small but clean swell rolling through. As i was relaxing i saw what i had only seen once in a photo before. A pob of dolphins approached from offshore and proceeded to catch a wave and surf it as it peeled along the shore. These creatures are the planets most ancient surfers and probably this image is what inspired the ancient polynesians to start riding waves. To see with what style, fluidity, and grace they playfully rode that wave is something imposible to describe. This was really a situation of "you had to see it to really understand it".
All i could do was admire, in awe. When the first wave of emotions had disipated and the dolphins gone (probably to breakfast, hungry from the session) the only thing i could think about was if such a thing could be done by a human. Here i was in the land where surfing is a national sport and millions of waves get ridden around the country all year, yet to my knowledge, no other human had ever tried to imitate what i had just seen the dolphins do. So stood up and decided that it was time to wet my mono again and this time in a way i had never imagined. I finned to the lineup (for non surfers; the point where waves start to break) and waited for my first wave. Needless to say that my first attempts resulted in getting tumbled around with no result. But as i started to figure out the timming in diving at the right moment, finning and catching the wave as it broke, i magicly caught my first wave swimming underwater, just like they did. When you ride a wave in this manner you actually only kick to get some monentum, then when the wave comes above you it pulls you along with it's own energy without needing you to kick anymore. You suddenly find yourself in another dimension where you are inisde the wave, it's energy is all around you and you glide through the water propelled by it as it breaks down the line. You almost ARE the wave. When i exited the water from that first attempt i seriously felt as if i had seen the light, something in me had changed, maybe everything. As time passed i continued to practice whenever i got a chance and after some months figured out how to actually follow the wave. In the beginning i could only catch it and go in a straight line in front of it as it broke. This meant that my ride was very short as i didn't really follow the wave for much of it's breaking distance. So when i first followed the wave underwater as it was breaking along, without exiting from its inertia was again a ground breaking moment. This time i was starting to really surf it like the dolphins do. Of course i still could not manouver around underwater like they do with quick direction changes, out of the water leaps and so forth but i was on my way. One of the last times i surfed was in front of my old house in Bronte Sydney, where i was given the gift of catching my first tube ride. I was glidding fast under this wave when it started to tube and i kept on speeding right below the surface of a breaking liquid cylinder, WOW. Nevertheless, life having some odd twists and turns i was led away from my beloved waves and back to my familiar and flat mediteranean shores . It's been a year and a half since that last wave but not so long anymore until my next one. This winter i'm planning to see how far i can take this concept and to do so i will go where the best go, in the meca of surfing. Hawaii of course. Updates will follow. What i now want to know is...is there anybody else out there doing this. I really think that there must be, it's imposible that no one else has thought of this and tried it. If you are out there i want to know, i want to communicate, this is too fun to not share, and if i'm still alone it just a matter of time...
Delphicly,
Noa
 

laminar

Well-Known Member
Aug 13, 2001
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Hi Noa,

I've tried it briefly but without as much refinement as you. Unfortunately I am far from regular surf to practise in.

I take it you try this where there is no usual surfing/windsurfing traffic. I'd hate to get run over.

Please keep me posted about your progress in Hawaii. Next time I'm in warm surf, I'll give it a go again.

I'm assuming you're not wearing a suit? What kind of monofin?

Since it doesn't take much effort to get into the wave and manoeverabiliy is a plus, I've thought of using a smaller 50 inch training mono or a custom mono with rails that are parallel and then curved down toward the trailing edge, like a surfboard (square tail). You could also add a vertical fin to the mono for laterally steering.

The possibilities...... :)


Pete
Vancouver, BC
 

eshepard

New Member
Apr 24, 2004
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this sounds so cool,

just to clarify, it's like body surfing but you are underwater for the duration of the ride??
 

ADR

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2004
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Some of the Hawaiin "watermen", guys like Laird Hamilton have been on to this for a while now and there is some great footage of them doing it in some of the surfing videos

Andy
 

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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Noa,

What a great idea. This, I gotta try.

But, I don't have a clue how to balance the forces within the wave. When body surfing on the surface, the water is rushing up the face of the wave and gravity is pulling you down the face, you balance these two forces. If the wave is large or has a good shoulder, you can ride parallel to the beach.

What forces are you balancing when you do this underwater trick? Does the mono give you so much speed that you don't need to balance?? More details please, this is fascinating.

Wait a minute, I'm thinking out loud here. As the wave moves on to the beach, water is rushing up the face , but the interior of the wave is just moving forward. Are you balancing between the surface flow and the wave interior?? What does it feel like. Can you draw a picture??

Minor point, how do you keep mask or goggles on in the surf? I've tried goggles and the waves tear them off my eyes as soon as I catch a wave.

ADR: what surfing vids, where could I get them??

Thanks

Connor
 

M-2

New Member
Jun 28, 2002
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sounds awesome noa! i'd love to give it a go myself. i think a lot of your questions will be answered in hawaii. not surprised that laird and friends have played with this before, but i'm guessing that you'll find that it's not uncommon over there. good luck and keep us posted!

-michael
 

island_sands

Erection Supervisor ;)
Supporter
Jan 19, 2001
7,998
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i have done some here in maldives.. its gorgeous to see the waves underneath, the corals, and the feeling of being rushed along with the waves... mmmmmmmm
 

Adrian

Deeper Blue Beachcomber
Supporter
Nov 23, 2002
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I'd also be interested in seeing this in the video- I love bodysurfing and the idea of doing it underwater would be fantastic. I wonder though if once you are in the wave, bi-fins would be better for those little directional nudges and for balancing out the forces as Connor says.

Adrian
 

The111

Shallow Water Whiteout
May 29, 2004
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God this is amazing sounding.

I also want to know the surf vid where I can see Laird doing it.

Is your ENTIRE body (head too) submerged so that it is apnea the whole time?

I ask because I have seen dolphins doing this years ago and seem to remember their heads poking out the front, but I may be remembering it wrong, or it may have just been near the end of the wave as they exited.

Basically, I've seen it happen in New Smyrna, FL. I used to surf there a lot, and one winter in particular there were dolphins EVERYWHERE. Something about the combination of being out in freezing cold water surrounded by such odd beautiful creatures gave me a very unique "alien" feeling that is impossible to forget, similar to the feelings freediving inspires. The dolphins I saw scared the heck out of me when I first saw them. Even when there were no waves, they'd come swimming in sets of three or more, side by side, straight at me on my board. I'd think for sure they were gonna knock me off and at the last second they'd duck under and miss my feet by inches. I eventually realized they were playing with me. They when I'd be paddling back out and just getting bummed because a huge set (of waves, not dolphins) was coming at me, I'd see three dolphins come right through the face of the wave I was preparing to duck dive, again missing me by inches. I grew to love it even though it made the whole already scary experience of ducking a big wave (as a beginner) scarier.

I've never used a monofin and I'm not even sure if I'm interested in trying this anytime soon, but I do agree that it is impossible to forget seeing the dolphins doing it. I almost want to go back and surf NSB this winter and see if I can find some again... :)
 

groats

pelogic thinker
May 1, 2003
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I love doing that! Unfortunately i don't have a mono but it works as well with bifins, although not exactly as smooth as with a mono. You can do it heads-over-surface if the wave is of some reasonnable size or keep submerged. Latter is way cooler and when you run out of air you just have to stop by spreading your legs as this will kinda 'pull' you out of the wave.
All you need is a decent wave and with a bit of practice you get the hang of it and seems fairly easy.

Joe
 

noa

Well-Known Member
Oct 17, 2003
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Wow, i didn't expect such response. I'll try to answer some of the questions. At the time i was uing a Finis competitor mono (super stiff) and i think stiff is good to get some quick speed for take off when the wave arrives. In my opinion monos work better than stereos in keeping you ballanced and "together". I've already started experimenting with all kinds of extra minifin configurations on my mono and on my body via different attachments. All i know is that there's a long way to go until i figure out what really works and what not. Yes the whole ride is done completelly submerged, just below the surface, so basicly it's like bodysurfing but underwater. I've seen one video (called "Laird") where Laird Hamilton does this but on that video he does not do much. He can probably ride better now if he has trained in this but i'm quite better than what was shown on that occasion. As for the goggles, i started without, but the water friction due to the speed hurt my eyes and made them quite sore after the session. Since then i've tried different goggles and you gotta find what suits you best, just wear them quite tight. Hope that clarifies a few things. Very happy to see that some of you have toyed around with this and even happier to see the interest it generates. To be continued...
Delphicly,
Noa
 

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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Hey Noa! wait a minute, time out, what is this "To be continued..." stuff. You can't stop now, we're hooked. More details please!!!

I'm trying to visualize the internal structure of the wave and how to use it to surf inside. Some details would really help. How close to the surface are you riding? Does it feel like the wave forces are carrying you up or down? Can you feel part of the wave pulling one way and another going in a different direction, ie are you balancing between two forces? To stay in the same relative position in the wave, are you swimming relatively up or down? Can you describe the internal structure of the wave as to how you are using it?

Do you take off on the surface ahead of the wave (like normal) and then dive below the surface? How do you get into the zone?

Body surfing fins are normally short and stiff, good for fast acceleration but not much on sustained speed or efficiency. Would longer bifins work better??

Surf has been good in much of Florlida recently, a little too good. But, anyway the subject is real timely.

Thanks

Connor
 
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ADR

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2004
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Hi,

Here are a couple of rough pics to illustrate the different positions for normal body surfing vs the dolphin underwater style body surfing Noa is talking about. in the second pic I've tried to show the wave energy that effectively draws you along for the ride rather than the pushing feeling you get with normal bodysurfing.

hope these pics help a bit
 

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cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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Hi ADR,

Thanks for the pics, the water movement diagrams really help. I've reread Noa's posts and thought about it, and it sounds like he is just beneath the surface, oriented roughly head down parrallel to the surface, in a position that would correspond to a line from the 12:00 to 9:00 o'clock position on your water movement circle. That makes sense, but doesn't correspond to your diagram position of the submerged surfer. ???? Are there two ways to do this?

I experimented with takeoffs today and figured out how to watch the wave while driving myself below the surface, maintaining speed and not getting my fins out of the water. It seems like it ought to work. Can't wait for some decent surf to try this. Maybe hurricane Jeanne will play nice.

Other questions for anyone who has tried this. What size waves are you riding? Board surfers can catch waves that are not steep enough for a body surfer. Is it possible to catch a wave submerged that isn't steep enough for a body surfer to ride on the surface?

Has anyone tried the specialfin's bodysurfing fin??

Thanks all,

Connor
 
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noa

Well-Known Member
Oct 17, 2003
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OK, some more details. To begin i must emphasise that all i do underwater is done by "feeling" and not by technique. One day i'll hopefully have someone film me under and above water to see what i actually look like and how to improve. I take off as the wave is approaching me by diving underwater and starting to fin, as the wave catches up with me from behind i get into it's energy zone, no need to fin anymore as the wave carries me by pushing me forward in front of it. All i then do is ballance at the right depth, too deep and the wave passes over you without pushing you along anymore and too close to the surface i risk being pushed over the falls (especialy if the wave is more powerfull). So you just have to find the right spot and stay in that zone by doing little adjustments with your body position. As far as the diagram goes, i'm in front of the wave and not behind it. My head is about at the level of the point of the lip. Hope this helps some more. Let me know how you go with your progress. Maybe i should come to Florida some time and we could help each other get better.
Delphicly,
Noa
 

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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Thanks Noa,

Just what I needed. You are welcome in Florida anytime. Think I got it, will find out tomorrow. Hurricane Jeanne passed just north of us today and the surf tomorrow should be pretty decent.

One more question. How big (face height) are the waves you are catching?

Connor
 

ADR

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2004
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I think I'm doing it differently than Noa. Noa it seems is effectively riding the pressure wave out front but under the surface. I ride further back from this and am drawn along by the low pressure in front of me. The diagram is a bit misleading as the diver is actually closer to the surface than the pic shows but the vertical position shown in the pic is about right. The best way for me to explain it is this- When doing normal body surfing go for a wave and just as the wave is about to push you down the face hit the brakes big time. Even though the wave will pass by you will get "sucked" along behind it for quite a while before you stop. This is effectively the energy you ride beneath the surface. Under water it is stronger and if streamlined you don't need to kick once you are in it and you don't even need the wave to break. In fact the best waves for this are the ones that "jack up" and stay peaked but don't actually break as this dissapates some of the energy beneath the surface.

Andy
 

IronLung

CHALLENGER of the DEEP
May 17, 2004
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Wow, this sounds like so much fun! I love bodysurfing, so this underwater, dolphin-style bodysurfing should be a real kick. Cant wait to try it. I also wonder about face height, how large are these waves? I'm ok in fairly large surf, up to 15 feet on the face, though from what I've read, that could be too much power, and it sucks to get pitched over the falls in waves like that. Thanks for the wonderful idea! Keep us poseted Noa!

Ike
 

noa

Well-Known Member
Oct 17, 2003
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Wave height is always a very debatable matter as surfers know, but i would estimate that the biggest i have ridden till now was around six foot. For sure my plan is to go bigger, i want to see how big is eventually possible...
Delphicly,
Noa
 

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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Whoooeee, that has real potential.

Surfed today, lousy conditions, about 3 ft face, 20 knots onshore, sloppy choppy and murky, but still caught a bunch of waves. Catching the wave underwater is surprisingly easy, staying in the right spot I have not mastered. When I could get high in the wave and stay there, even briefly, it was a real high speed rush, fast enough to feel like my eyelids were flapping when I opened my eyes. Goggles are a must. This techniquie cries out for clear water and about a 5 ft face wave, breaking sort of slow and pealing off, but not real fast.

Noa, are you riding hands forward, hands back or both ???

ADR, thanks for the additional info, I will try this as soon as surf permits, Same question, where are your hands?

Ironlung, I remember California waves, Huntington Beach, very fondly. Caught one 14 ft day thirty years ago and I can still see exactly what the face of those waves looked like as I dropped off the crest, magnificent!
 
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