Do you have a Duck-Dive or a Dying Duck
Hello and welcome to our newest freediving blog, although this one is 1/2 blog, 1/2 rant. As I am sure you have deduced from the title, the topic of this week's discussion is on the duck-dive.
You remember the duck-dive right? You learned it on the first day of the first course that you ever did. You spent 20 minutes or more thrashing around on the surface, kicking into thin air (and wondering why you aren't descending into the depths) and then spinning around franticly trying to find the dive line..... does that bring it all back to you?
It is a great feeling when the duck-dive starts to come together and you can get yourself below the water and in front of the line on command, and it's a major step as a beginner freediver. The reason for this blog is there are plenty of divers who never quite got the hang of the duck-dive, and despite it marking the beginning of every dive they will ever do, they just decided that getting below the water by any means necessary is good enough for them.
What difference does thrashing around like a fish out of water at the start of each dive make anyway?
It makes a difference, and even if it didn't, I would write this blog anyway because it annoys the hell out of me. The sad thing is that I'm talking about some deep freedivers as well as the new guys. I've seen national record holders, even 90m divers with a worse duck-dive than some of my AIDA2 students. A bad duck-dive in an experienced diver is all the more frustrating to me because they have spent the time to master so many complicated skills but neglected, one of the fundamentals. Here are some arguments for mastering the duck-dive.
1. "Freediving is trying to get to a given depth in the most efficient manner possible" There couldn't be a truer sentence said about freediving. If your duck-dive looks more like a harpooned whale, can you imagine how that effects your efficiency? By the time you manage to get yourself below the water, you could of already got to 6m in terms of time and O2 consumption.
2. We must also consider the psychological effect a bad duck-dive will have on your dive, if the very beginning of the dive is a violent thrashing in thin air, you know it could have gone better. This means you will have lost your focus and will need to regain your composure on what may be a deep dive or PB.
3. We as freedivers think we are pretty cool, with our shiny wetsuits and special low volume masks. But know this, the only part of the dive that will be seen by everyone is the duck-dive, and if that looks like a 7 years olds flipper impression, YOU WILL BE JUDGED, and your cool ratings will dive bomb!
4. My final point goes out to all the safety's who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and got hit by a wayward fin, and to all the judges who were happy and dry, only to be soaked by what looks like a diver having a LMC mid duck-dive, and to all the instructors who have had to teach duck-dive in the AIDA3 and 4 when that time should be spent teaching new skills.
That's my rant, it wasn't nice but it had to be said. Now I'm not the type of guy who will complain about something without trying to make it better so here is a few tips to improve your duck-dive.
The underwater handstand
Most of us did this as kids and it is a great way to develop your balance and core stability, the idea is to do a handstand in about 1m of water and hold your legs straight out of the water for as long as you can.
The most common duck-dive mistake I see is people allowing the fin to fall backwards, which means you won't have the weight of the legs and fins helping to push you below the water.
Do the handstand with your fin and from the position you do your breathe up to make the exercise more realistic.
Practising this for 5 minutes before each water session is time well spent.
Your body position before the duck-dive
Your knees should be within 30cm of the dive line, this way once you have performed the duck-dive you will be facing the line and a good distance away from it.
If you breathe up on your back, allow yourself time to settle once you have rotated around, trying to dive too soon will make everything more difficult.
The arm pull
Your pull should be a full William Trubridge no fins arm stroke, think about the your hands following the shape of a keyhole.
Some people are scared to do a good duck-dive because their ears may not be able to handle it. The trick is to fit EQ's into the duck-dive so you are not putting as much stress on the ears.
The first EQ should be on the surface before you bend your upper body.
The second EQ will be after bending the upper body but before lifting the legs and straightening the arms.
The third is after the arm pull, at this point you can start to kick and just leave your hand on your nose for equalizing.
Principles of a good duck-dive
The fins will point straight up into the sky
Your body will be vertical
You do not use the fins until they are completely submerged
It should be smooth and effortless
You will be oriented with the line directly in front of you.
Your ears have been equalised