Surfing Technique: Turtle Roll


As a beginner surfer, you will likely start with a larger surfboard. Yes, you may want one of those sleek smaller boards that you see with the more experienced surfers to take to the best windsurfing spots in the world. However, you need to first gain experience before graduating from these.

All beginners will be amazed when they watch the more experienced surfers duck dive under the big waves and come out the other side seemingly unfazed. With the bigger surfboards, however, the larger surface area means that you will not be able to do this.

It might seem that the large waves are going to knock you off your board and separate you. However, if you know what you are doing, you can hold on to your surfboard and beat these large waves. You will do this with a technique called turtle roll surfing.

What is the turtle roll?

The turtle roll involves lying on your board flat out and flipping over allowing the big swells to move over your board. For beginners, it is always a good idea to read the surf beginners guide.

There is a right and wrong way on how to turtle roll. For example, if say you were to flip the board while fully extending your arms, the waves would rip the surfboard right off your arms and toss and turn you under the surface only to dump you at the beach.

The right way to do the turtle roll is to hold on to the board with the arms holding the surfboard close to your body.

How to do the turtle roll

To correctly perform the turtle roll, you need to face the wave directly at a 90-degree angle. As soon as it is near hitting you, hold on to the surfboard as close to your chest as possible and flip over.

Bending the hands at the elbows and pulling close to the surfboard means that you are better able to absorb the shock from the water and hold on to the board.

Also, ensure that you are grabbing the rails of the board and as close to your chest as possible and come out through the back of the wave. The turtle roll will require energy on your part and offer some of the best health benefits of surfing.

If the next big wave comes, you are going to lie down on the board and repeat the process. Keep doing this until you are tired and ready to head back to shore.

Practicing the turtle roll at home

You will need the practice to be able to perform the turtle roll surfing in the best and most efficient way. And you don’t always have to be in the water. You can practice the move within the comfort of your living room.

Find a tray that is going to simulate the surfboard and find a space where you can lie down flat on the floor. Now imitate the chicken wing position, hold the sides while bending the arms at the elbows.

Imagine a huge wave coming straight towards you and roll over on your back. Make sure that the elbows are bent. Now imagine the waves are going over you as you lie in this position.

Note that you will be using your core muscles. Imagining that the wave has passed, roll back into the right position and coming out through the back of the wave. Another great skill to have is learning how to catch more waves when surfing.

That said, you need to practice enough times so that it becomes muscle memory. Ten times is a good number, to begin with. It’s called the turtle roll for a reason as this is what turtles would do. The best advantage of this technique is that it allows you or ride bigger waves for much longer.

Some common mistakes to avoid


Many beginner surfers make a lot of mistakes on how to turtle roll. Once you learn which mistakes to avoid you can perform it most efficiently. You can start by learning the 5 steps to survive a surfing wipeout.

You need to ensure that the surfboard perpendicularly faces the waves. The wave should be coming straight at you from ahead. If it hit you from the side, the surfboard is going to be knocked clean off your hands.

Not having the surfboard in the water during the moment of impact, especially the nose part will make the whole process ineffective. The waves are going to push the surfboard back up and will knock it off your hands.

Keeping the arms stiff is also another mistake as you are less able to absorb the impact of the waves. The arms instead should be kept bent. Any shaking and tossing by the waves will be absorbed and you will be able to hold on to the surfboard.

Flipping too soon is another major problem with beginner surfers. The current and the waves will turn your board in a direction that is not perpendicular to the oncoming waves knocking your board away from you. Always make sure that you wait until the last few seconds to perform the turtle roll.

There is also the issue of turning upside down too late. By his time the wave will have hit you and will knock your surfboard away from you. It will then wash you back to shore. For any beginner, choosing the best type of surfboard for you is crucial. Once you are familiar with the turtle roll you can even carry surf gear and gadgets the next time you hit the water.

Globo Surf Overview

As a beginner surfer, not knowing the turtle roll surfing technique means that you are often going to find yourself separated from your surfboard by the waves and then washed back to shore.  Learning how to turtle roll helps you beat the strong waves and ride them for much longer.

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!