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Underwater fin surfing...

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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I would love to see this done. once i'm settled, you folks will have to let me know when you're practicing so I can filom or video it. I think if people could actually see it done, it may help...just a suggestion

Tina, give me a shout when you are settled. The Fla west coast won't work for photos, too murky, but Palm Beach should. I watch pretty close and go over on the rare occasions when it is good. The break is 100-200 yards offshore, so you need either a long lense or be in the water. I'd love some pics, might help me figure out this technique.

Not a problem. Connor, Please see my thread on "Florida Lobster Diving" in "The Beach Bar" and tell me what you think. I am sure a floridian may have greater insight on this than me...lol

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Great thread! I was lurking around and this one made me log in! Why? I've been Underwater Body Surfing for twenty five years and it's like I've just found My People! I live on Kauai, plenty of waves and clear water. So it's nice to be with some of my own kind even if it's web surfing.

My two cents;

It's about wave energy and you've got to find the key spot within the wave. It's all done by feel because your eyes are generally closed. I've use goggles and that's fun but the wave must be real small and weak or the goggles get ripped off. If the wave is too big or has too much energy it may be impossible to stay under and what you find works best is just normal bodysurfing after using an Underwater Takeoff.

"advanced" techniques include longer rides and Porpoising (popping out on the face of the wave taking a breath and then popping back under and riding further. 50 to 75 yard rides are possible. Explore laminar flow, kicking techniques, speed and different kinds of waves. Check this link out. http://www.zoology.ubc.ca/courses/bio325/Porpoise.html. This winter over a river mouth sand bar I discovered that if you can get enough blast off with the first few underwater kicks you can catch one of those long slow barely gonna break waves and ride it forever underwater. Popping out and breathing must be very brief though because on the surface your hull speed slows down. In that instance I think it was because the whole body could absorb and use more wave energy under water. On the surface you rely more on gravity and a long sandbar wave has more forward energy than vertical/gravity energy.

Equipment? Many bodysurfers disagree with me on this, most use Vipers, Churchhills or Duckfeet. (large, heavy, rubber unresponsive things) I use a full footed dive fin but cut the blade down so it reaches about six to eight inches from my toe. They mimic a pelagic type fish like a Tuna which gets optimum velocity quickly with only a few stiff kicks. Don't cut down good ones yet, I use decent quality tourist snorkel fins from WalMart.

I sure got some looks when I showed up for the Pipeline bodysurfing contest this winter with Walmart fins. Upwards of twenty foot faces and insane riders. For future reference underwater rides can get you killed there and Vipers are the proper foot wear for that break. Here's a link featuring a woman who I think has something missing upstairs; Survival instinct. I mention her because she's a kindered spirit in the Underwater Bodysurfing/Underwater takeoff world. She successfully advanced to Quarter finals in this contest using underwater take offs. http://www.usgirlshawaii.com/Lane/journalist/bodysurfingstory.html

Be careful, neck injuries can occur. Before you take off know what's on the bottom, where the bottom is (how deep) and I recommend keeping your hands and arms out in front of you. I speak from experience. I had one neck injury years ago and then just last winter I was careless and while riding under water on a long ride (@ 25 yards) torpedoed a surfer head first. I cracked four inches of the tail section of his board and knocked the fin out. Fortunately didn't hurt myself except for a small scabbing. (some kind of miracle)

Have fun an E' if you're headed toward Kauai, we can go surfing. Diving too for that matter, we've got arches here at 60 feet that you can park a jet under!


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I've used some long freedive fins, I think esclapez but I forget, at Sandys and point panic on oahu...you pick the wave up early like you guys have been talking about, but I can't resist poping into the face and rolling down then back under...

Seems for me getting the momentum early is like catching waves with longboards, it's easy to match the speed instead of sort of jumping over the ledge with short fins or vipers. The long fins work best on Maxed out days, like when the South Shore is about 12-15 feet...pretty much the second the channels start closing you want the long fins the most.

I havent tried getting forward and low, but I will. Usually if I'm surfing underwater it's cause my leash broke and I'm swimming in and just get pulled along...

thanks for the tips, I'll give it a shot.

Welcome to DB. I'm very glad you chimed in. The dolphin site finally explained to be why underwater works, seems counter intuitive but it really is less drag. Having read this thread, you can see there are a bunch of us trying this technique who don't really know what we are doing. I've got a whole lot of questions but can't stop now. Will post tomorrow

Thanks again

Cool, we're onto something. I'll answer one now since I'm new here and over-enthused. If you finish a wave and all your skin on your face and shoulders is itchy you've been going very fast under water and it must have been a good wave.


I can't imagine dolphin surfing on Pipeline! Just watching that wave on film makes me shudder, Canadian small-surf (10') novice surfer that I am.

Thanks for sharing your experience with this exciting sub-set of water enthusiasts! I just wish I could go out in my back yard and experiment and then report back to this thread.

I am most interested in the idea of catching waves that aren't breaking. Can you say more about that? Is it tricky? The idea of being drawn along faster than I can swim for hundreds of metres and coming up for a breath when I need one- just like a humpback whale making good time from Hawaii to Alaska - is just too good to be true. It reminds me of a feature article about Rush Randle in the surfer's journal who said he surfed a wave on his foil board for a couple of miles on the open ocean. :duh I'll bet whales to the same thing.

I also really like the thought of dolphin surfing into a wave, riding it, then popping out to the surface to bodysurf the face, then ducking back in to dolphin surf. Has that been done? Also, what about aerials? Can you bottom turn while bdysurfing such that some combination of being sucked up and slicing up to the shoulder could pop you over it and behind the wave? Can you imagine how cool that would be? Of course, it would suck if you just got sucked up into the lip. :duh

Ahh, so many question. I just need a crash helmet and a ticket to Hawaii.

Okay, I'll sell my girlfriend for warm water and waves. Any buyers? :wave

Pete Scott
Vancouver, BC
Hi Pete,

Let me reel you back in a little. The wave at Pipeline is really not the best for Underwater bodysurfing. The direction of it's energy most of the time isn't right. Just imaging Bodysurfing it in a traditional manner is great dreaming. I prefer many other waves/breaks to it but nothing compares for visuals and danger like the Pipe. The Wedge at Newport is a close second. Crazy wave and it's another not suited for the Underwater thing. The direction of the wave energy is perpendicular to the shore line.

I won't say a ride hundreds of meters is unrealistic but I haven't seen the wave yet that can make it possible. I haven't been around much though, just N.Cal. and Hi.

Since we're speculating here I've always wondered if it's possible to find the right boat or ship wake and ride it continuously. I think it may be possible.

For your everyday good Dolphin Surfing wave (There I said it, I'm used to saying Underwater Bodysurfing.) I like a break which has the wave energy running diagonally against the shore and breaking on a reef. Picture a wedge shaped point of land jutting out into an on coming swell line. Standing on the point the wave on the left side would be a "right" and the wave on the right side of the point would be a "Left". The Point at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz is a good example. The right there is good and the Sea Lions can teach you a thing or two. Anyone know the Lane? Taken one step further the break further out in the kelp is even better. (oops, forgot about the kelp, pretend there's no kelp) It's called Middles and breaks through to Indicators and then onto Cowells. That series of breaks exhibit the best qualities for this because they're breaking laterally to the shore, have a good shoulder and are a little slower than the Point.

There is a limit to your underwater speed depending on your profile. Once a wave gets too big or steep re-entering through the surface of it is only gonna end the wave for you because punching through slows you down and the wave passes you by. You're better off riding on the surface where it's steepness lets gravity make you fall. Your surface speed works for the steep wave because you're falling and hydroplaning at the same time.

The barely breaking wave over the sand bar or hypothetically behind a Ferry Boat of something (I can just see you out there chasing down the Vancouver/Seattle ferry) is more suited for Dolphining (there's got to be a better term. How about UWBS'ING). Underwater bsing. Hmm might be appropo for this forum. Anyway, catching that elusive barely breaking wave over the Kilauea river mouth sand bar a couple of months ago was a little break through. And showed me that you can get some great hull speed up on a lousy little wave that long boarders even have a hard time catching.

The smallest waves work too, especially over sand bars. That's when I can put the goggles on and they stay on.


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G'day all,

My names Tim and I'm an underwater bodysurfing enthusiast from New Zealand. Much like Tom, the discovery of a group kindred spirits like yourselves was a bit more than I could bare without posting myself,
so.... here I am!!

I'm relatively new to this underwater bodysurfing business (well compared to Tom anyway :) having only been doing it for about 4 years, but I've still spent a heck of alot of time doing it and analysing it using my own "that seems fair enough" type science and have a few insights of my own.

First and foremost - Aerials are possible. I'm talking full breaches (For lack of a less geeky term). The closest I've come is out to my knees (according to the people watching) but it felt like I was right out, as it has on several other occasions without spectators. I've only just started trying aerials (hence my finding this forum looking for more info) but I have no doubt that in the right wave, and with a bit of practice/good timing the results could be insane. At this point I must also point out that the waves where I live are quite frankly crap.

It's all about timing and small fins are definately needed to give the short sharp bursts of power needed as you arch your back and head to the surface just as the wave passes its apex and begins to break. Give it one last 2 legged kick just as you get spat out from the top of the wave and your officially airborne.

The waves I've had most success in are small barrelling waves whose energy is obviously directed upward, moreso than perhaps larger, crumbling waves. I can't wait to travel and find a decent surf location with CONSISTENT waves. Right now, finding somewhere with the perfect underwater bodysurfing waves is my primary reason for wanting to travel. Psycho ay.

Anyway must dash or i'll be here all night. Plenty more to rave on about i.e. long fins vs short, new goggle designs, moves etc but i'll leave that for another post.

Look forward to a bit of banter.

Cheers guys,


P.S. Any interest in a underwater bodysurfing website??? Pics, vids, exposure to the masses etc
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All right! Some activity in this thread! Tim, do you dive too or did you just google this? If you don't dive you just landed in a forum where the general is to stay underwater as long as possible, I hear NZ is loaded with good Tail, Yellowtail I mean. That's the next fish I want to spear unless anyone has tasted a better one.

The surf here is starting to die off and diving season is just around the corner but if it comes up again I'm going to try your idea and get some air. The closest I've come to your idea is kicking out (underwater) the other direction and breaching out the top/back of the wave as the wave and I pass each other. I do that when the wave or set is too big. Too big to ride but at least you can get a little thrill by being launched out the back.

A buddy here has been surfing a good break near the end of the road on the North Shore of Kauai called Puka's. He told me he unintentionally did an underwater El Rolo. Where as you ride normally, say on a Boogie board, you ride up the face and follow the curl up and over and then land back on the bottom of the wave face and keep going, he did it underwater. He said he didn't hit the sand at the end. Good to read your story Tim,

Great to see there's still enthusiasm for this thread.

I tried (again) to get going on Friday at the one surf spot here in Curacao but failed completely. Unfortunately the waves were few and far between so after half an hour I gave up and just snorkelled around for a bit before heading back in.

Last time I'd tried I lost one of my fins while I was duck-diving - never found it either as the waves crash into a reef etc, so little chance of it washing up and no chance that I'm going to be sticking my head under 1 foot of water while 4 foot of water is about to slam my face into the reef. My wife gets mad enough about the few urchin needles I bring home in my feet, never mind a reef-shaped face.

Anyway, Dexter, please start a website. I think that you and Tom have indicated that the more appropriate name for this activity is Underwater Bodysurfing, and it seems that underwaterbodysurfing.com is available... maybe we can some input from Laird Hamilton on this?

Let us know what you think :)
Hi Guys

A rolo - nice. Thats the thing about this sport. I think there is so much to it. Different styles, lots of move waiting to be accidentally discovered etc. From what I've already learnt and from what this forum has confirmed is there are lots of ways of doing it, different positions on or in waves, various depths etc, with each spot having the potential to be exploited. For example - I started bodysurfing basically just under the surface so as the wave would break, I was visible as a figure going down the wave, under the surface. I would catch these waves at almost the same time I would bodysurfing normally. (I must also point out that it took me a long time to try this with fins on) Now I like to start right out the back, swim to the bottom catch the wave really early (for long rides - as described in an earlier posting) and scoot along the bottom for ages until I try and launch. Now people don't even know Im under there until I pop out.

As far as my diving background goes, although I did google my way directly to this forum, I am an avid spearfisherman and free diver and I did notice that, freediving etc is the focal point of the site. I have PADI tickets up to dive master level, but like many of you, I suspect, I think diving with just you, your fins, and a lung full of air is a)more challenging b)more dynamic and c)less hassell than SCUBA diving (forgive me if that spiel is somewhat cliched to you lot, but I'm a rare breed where I'm from). The deepest I've been freediving is 25m. No idea how long I've stayed down for.

And yes Tom, plenty of Yellowtail, lots of BIG Kingfish (Giant Tuna like fish) and even lots of Marlin (bumper year this year for Marlin. No-one really knows why) A guy here recently set a world record for the largest Marlin ever caught on a spear (not sure which type of Marlin), only to be overcome with remorse and vowing never to spear a marlin again!!!

r.e. website. www.underwaterbodysurfing.com is still available, but I will need something to put on there. Has anyone out there got any pics of themselves or others, or can they get some? I'll try get some of myself. They won't be much but at least its a start. Lairds input would be awesome, even just a free screenshot or 2 from his vid.

Anyway mull it over guys and lemme know what your thoughts are. Anyone got anymore stories, techniques, tactics etc!?!?!!!

Welcome Dexter. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

I'm real new at this and did not understand your techniques of riding deep or of breaching. Could you please describe both in detail, size of wave,depth of water, shape when you catch it, how you take off, distance traveled etc etc.

Our local waves are beach breaks, 3-4 ft face on a good day, very confused and tend to come up fast and fall over, mostly wind chop. Florida east coast waves (when its good enough to go over for them) are swells, 5 to 8 ft face, 10 on an very exceptional day. Sometimes steep but often a little mushy. Could you relate a description of your waves to what we have.

Bluh20, could you describe an underwater take off. I've been taking off on the surface, getting up to speed then driving through the surface to be underwater just as the wave arrives. This ends up giving a ride that is like what Dexter described starting with. What you are doing must be very different.


[Anyway, Dexter, please start a website. I think that you and Tom have indicated that the more appropriate name for this activity is Underwater Bodysurfing, and it seems that underwaterbodysurfing.com is available... maybe we can some input from Laird Hamilton on this?]

By the way Gordon,

Underwater Bodysurfing is a good descriptive name for what we do, but it could be jazzed up a bit. Why not coin a name for it right here in this forum!!!

Suggestions anyone - Its a genuine brainstorming session so nothing is too out there...

I'll get us started ay:
D-Surfing (Dolphin surfing)

Any more???

Here goes.

Riding deep is fairly straight forward - You go out the back and when the wave is say 4-5 matres away from you (and well before it breaks) dive down to the bottom, and start finning hard. The wave will eventually catch up to you and you're away. You'll need to experiment a little and get a feel for your local break. You can start in close to the beach but the main thing is that you need to shift your mindset from when you usually catch a wave. Your catching these waves much earlier.

As far as breaching goes, the waves I've been doing it in a pretty small, 2 foot max (which shows the potential in bigger waves) and barreling. Breaching is all about timing your ascent up the back of the wave. Just as it breaks you want to go hard for the surface and give one last 2 legged kick just as you feel yourself being spat out.

It's hard to explain, but I like to imagine the wave as I mentioned earlier as a big cylinder rolling into the beach. Riding deep involves (using my sounds fair enought science) riding a small invisible wake that is created by the force of the wave hitting the seafloor. Breaching involves getting into the wave and becoming part of its natural motion (as its breaking) but instead of just "going over the falls" you're keeping it controlled and using your fins to propel you up and away from the natural path of the wave.

I should also emphasise that I'm using short (bodyboarding) bi fins, but in a mono fin action. Twice as much power using this action which is what you need to "catch" the wave. My arms are by my side and manouverability is achieved by rotating on a horizontal axis and arching my back or leaning forward, much like a seal. There may infact be better ways but I think swimming like a Dolphin is just plain cool anyway.

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Underwater take offs can be practiced in almost no wave. I'm not too picky about my waves if I need to get in the water. On vacation last year I played around a little on the shore of Lake Michigan. It's a sensation you're looking for since your eyes are closed most of the time. In fact I'd recommend learning this goggle free. Try just submerging yourself prone facing the shore just under the surface in the wave zone. As the wave comes by feel it pass you. Then as it comes by feel the point where it's energy pulls you toward shore the most. Then, next wave, Dolphin kick once or twice just before it's strongest energy passes you and you will pick it up and go. Keep your hands in front of you so you don't plow your head into the sand. I've done that on a very small wave and the ensueing emergency room trip, compressed vertabrae and two years worth on numb fingers in one hand was the result.

The Laird idea? ehhh. He seems to like cutting edge fun of different sorts and I'd suggest just cutting our own edge. Wake riding underwater would be fun to try. If you could find a big enough wake. Some guys in a river here wake board by loading the back of thier ski boat with a huge bladder of water so the overloaded boat puts out an exaggerated wake. I've towed the coastal reefs a couple of times looking for good fish holes and while riding along breath by breath had a great time, even had some Spinners come up and check me out.

These guys at HSTA have a lot of fun, I joined up with them and started in the Pipeline contest (didn't place but survived). This page has lots of bodysurfing but no underwater stuff for obvious reasons, it's not a very photographable activity.The third Pipeline shot from this year is Judith Sherdan. She uses an underwater take-off even at huge pipeline. But of course there's not much to see of the take off just her great wave. http://groups.msn.com/Pipeline2001Classic/pipeline2005.msnw. Check out the Kauai pics from 2004, those are some of my spots. Too bad I was working during most of their go-outs.
Yeah, you're probably spot on with your comment on Laird. It would be nice to be able to show some clips of him doing this though. Apparently there's a "bonus feature" in this year's Billabong Jack McCoy Surf Film Festival which is, essentially, three shorts by Blue Horizon, one of which is called "Rasta Into the Sea: underwater bodysurfing by Rasta" Perhaps some of you antipodeans could get to watch this although I don't see any dates for the festival touring after the end of February. (You can check out more on this festival here:

Anyway, that sounds like an amazing short - I'd definitely love to see it.

Dexter - the naming thing. I like sub-surfing, personally. The whole "let's compare ourselves to dolphins" thing is romantic but, frankly, a bit cheesy. Whereas the idea of being "submerged" is relatively self-explanatory and won't provoke sniggers from the surfers and body-surfers when we talk to them.

Everyone else - do you want to vote on the current choices or offer up some others for consideration?

Tom, Tim, bluh20, Dexter:

I like Sub-Surfing, although "Deep Riding" or "Deep Surfing" is a close second, even though both are vague.

I think to get any real good footage of a sub-surfer, we have few options:

1. Attach a small video camera to body somewhere. Head cam is the instinctive choice, but you wouldn't see much of the diver, would you? You could strap a miniature camera to your wrist and have it pointed at your face-although it would probably be impossible to keep it steady (or secure for that matter!). However, you would get the sensation of being in the wave.

2. Have someone freedive down to the bottom and film from below as you get sucked on by. Only practical for larger waves that break in deep water where there is enough room for someone to be under the impact zone. And good viz, too.

3. Follow someone who's caught a wave just before you, holding a camera with both hands out in front of you. Hopefully, you would be able to keep them in the frame long enough.

Has anyone tried filming sub-surfing yet? Comments?

I am glad to hear that aerials have been done. I have been able to launch clean out of the water in a traditional breach (monofin). The trick is to angle your launch slightly forward of vertical and flick your legs out of the water and pike your body as the water reaches your shins. That way you get some air time before gravity reels you back in. I wonder with the right wave action (barreling you upwards and over the falls) and a strong exit how high I could get?

Another idea. With practice, couldn't you be able to tell if you are behind or under the breaking part of the wave and move to where the wave is still clean on the surface? Then you pop out, do an aerial "out of the lip" (vs. "off the lip") and then land on the face and start bodysurfing all the way in. :)

I also like the concept of learning in small waves by feeling with your eyes closed. That's a very helpful tip for people trying this out.

It seems that while having your arms by your sides is the most comfortable and natural, those of you who've bashed your heads on the bottom swear by the hands first method. Having arms out in front would also seem to me to be a good tool for increasing speed if you suddenly need it.

I'm moving to Vancouver Island in the next few months so I'll be able to try these techniques out in a variety of conditions from heavy wind chop to offshore swell 5-10 feet. Can't wait!!!

What about surf traffic? Do you find that the waves that are suitable for sub-surfing/deep riding are usually ignored by surfers? I wonder how we'll be able to signal that we're taking a wave from underneath to a boarder? What do bodysurfers do? It would really suck to come up underneath someone on a surf board!

What's the longer underwater run anyone's had?

The suggestion about sub-surfing ferry waves is an excellent idea. Reminds me of the scene in Step Into Liquid when those guys surf the tanker wake in texas for minutes at a time. I wonder if it's possible to catch a breath of air and re-enter the same wave?

Fun, fun, fun!

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