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How to Duck Dive Properly for Freediving

In freediving, we start our dives with something called a duck dive. This technique allows us to descend underwater smoothly, get the best position for diving, and it sends us off in the right direction.

Perfecting your duck dive can take time and practice, and is not as easy as the pro’s make it look. To help you duck dive properly for freediving, we have put together a step-by-step guide on how to duck dive, and we will also discuss some common mistakes you should try to avoid.

Ready to duck dive in?

What is a duck dive?

The duck dive technique in freediving is how we go from being on the surface to being underwater. The idea is to “duck” your head under the water, lift your legs upwards and use the weight of them to push you under the water to dive. A duck dive also involves using the arms to pull you down for extra power.

A duck dive is used at the start of every dive, except for the free immersion discipline, where you would hold the rope and pull it to turn your body into an upside-down position on the line. Recreational freediving will always start with a duck dive, so it is important to know how to do a good duck dive!

Why is it called duck dive?

It is called a duck dive because it mimics how ducks tip upside-down in the water to catch fish or forage for food. A duck will dive underwater by first putting their head under the water and following with their body.

The weight of their lower body is enough to push the duck underwater, and then they will use their feet to paddle downwards. This is very similar to the duck dive in freediving, where we first lower the head and upper body, and then follow by lifting the lower part of the body to push us under the water.

a duck diving

What is the proper duck dive technique for freediving?

Perfecting the duck dive can take time and practice, most beginners struggle to achieve an efficient duck dive straight away.

To duck dive properly, you should start flat on the surface with your face in the water looking down. When you are ready to dive, you can take your last breath, remove your snorkel, and make a couple of kicks on each leg to make sure that your legs are on the surface to start the duck dive (some people’s legs sink down a little when they aren’t being moved).

remove your snorkel before duck dive

Next, tip your upper body downwards so that your body is in a 90-degree angle (legs still horizontal on the surface), and then lift your legs straight up into the air together and make sure your toes are pointed to keep your fins pointed straight up (this will make them go into the water in a streamlined way).

freediver starts diving

Once your legs are up and your body position is horizontal with your head leading the way, you can use your arms to pull you under the water faster, you should pull your arms down in front of you (instead of at the side like in breaststroke) for the most streamlined approach.

After the tips of your fins have been submerged, you can start kicking to keep you going downwards, you can bring one arm down to your side and keep the other at your nose to equalize as you get deeper, or if you are using a nose clip you can bring both hands by your sides or straight above your head with hands together to stay streamlined.

Diver start kicking when his fins underwater

If you are using your hand to equalize your ears, it is very important to incorporate equalization into this process.

The first few feet of the dive are the most important to make sure you are not straining your ears, and it is usually the part where people do not equalize regularly enough because they are distracted by doing the duck dive. This can lead to ear barotrauma or a ruptured eardrum, so to keep your ears safe, you need to equalize before lowering your head down.

Check your ears are clearing fine while you are lying on the surface, then you can lower the head, you will need to equalize again at this point so you probably want to keep your hand next to your nose through the whole process.

When you lift your legs up equalize again before moving your hands to make the pull.

Once you’ve used your arms to pull, bring your hand straight back to your face to equalize again, and then again every couple of feet or as needed. You want to make sure you are equalizing well before any pain occurs.

If you feel you are straining your ears too much during the pull, you can try pulling with just one arm and keeping the other hand on your nose to equalize more, you should be able to get enough power from one arm pull to get you under the water.

The last thing to remember for achieving the perfect duck dive is to keep your chin tucked and to look straight ahead, instead of looking “up” into the depths by stretching your neck which can disorient you and make it harder to equalize as you can’t bring the air up into the throat as easily.

It could even lead to a trachea squeeze as you get deeper, so make sure to look, straight forwards.

Tips to perfect your duck diving

There are a few ways to make your duck dive really efficient to save energy for the dive, and start you off in the correct position:

  • Make sure you have the correct weight on your weight belt: You want to be heavy enough to make getting under the water easily, but not too much that you can’t float on the surface (this is important for safety). Read My weight yourself for freediving article that can help you perfect your weighting.
  • Practice makes perfect: Head to the shallows just to practice your duck dives over and over.
  • Ask a friend to film you practicing your duck dives: Then you can look over your technique and see what needs tweaking. Then try again until it’s perfect.

Common mistakes when duck diving

Here are the most common mistakes people make during a duck dive, so you know what to avoid when perfecting yours:

  • Kicking too early: You need to ensure your fins are submerged before you kick. This will allow you to start the dive in a streamlined position and avoid splashing around on the surface.
  • Not equalizing enough: As we talked about before, missing an equalization can ruin your dive. Make sure to equalize on the surface and then throughout the duck dive. Do not wait until you are a few feet underwater, this is too late.
  • Not heading horizontally down: It’s easy to mistake the position your body is in when you start kicking downwards, and you might head down in a diagonal direction instead of straight down. To make sure you are heading down horizontally, ensure your body is at a 90-degree angle before you bring your legs up.
  • Trying to look down: Looking down in the direction you’re going will stretch the neck and make it harder to equalize, and it might even lead to a trachea squeeze. Remember to tuck your chin and look straight ahead on the way down.

Interesting questions about duck diving

Learning to duck dive efficiently can take a little practice but it is usually quite easy to learn. Practice makes perfect!

The duck dive sets the precedent for the rest of the dive. A smooth duck dive will put you in the best position for your dive and allow the dive to start in an easy way. An improper duck dive can disorient you, put you in the wrong position for the line or where you want to go, and will use up precious oxygen that you want to save.

In freediving, we try not to stretch the neck by pointing the head to look down in the water. This is because stretching the neck underwater can cause a trachea squeeze. Another reason why it’s important to look ahead is because it is a much easier position to equalize the ears. Stretching the neck makes it harder for air to be transferred from the lungs to the throat in order to equalize successfully.

Duck diving with a nose clip is easier than with a mask, this is because you do not need to keep bringing your hand to your nose to equalize your ears, as the nose clip permanently shuts your nose, and you can use both of your arms to pull you under and complete the duck dive while using less energy.

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