How to Turtle Roll your Longboard (Eskimo Roll)

Since we were talking about how to duck dive earlier today, seems like we should also cover the turtle roll.  (Turtle roll is also called an Eskimo roll.  Thanks, Mike!) When the board is too big or too buoyant to duck dive, the turtle roll is a decent alternative (and a bit easier to pull off).  So, here we go:

  1. Prepare: Just like with duck diving, keep your momentum going forward.  Paddle your longboard and keep an eye on the approaching wave.
  2. Roll: A moment or two before the wave envelopes you, take a deep breath, grab the rails nearer the nose and roll the board over so the fins are pointing to the sky and you are underneath the board.
  3. Cling: Grip the board tightly and pull the nose down while the wave passes over you.  Your board’s rocker is curved opposite of the curling wave so they will push against each other.

    Two things to be especially aware of while the wave is passing over you. First, your head will be tilted back, so let bubbles come out of your nose to prevent salt water from rushing into your brain. Second, the wave will be pushing down on you and in the bigger waves, this can be significant.  Don’t let the board bonk into your head.  A good way of preventing this is while you are gripping the nose, fold your elbow inward between you and the board.  This will provide a cushion to absorb the energy of the wave pushing down and keep the board away from your face.

    Two options with as to what to do with your legs.  Some people like to wrap them around the board for extra clinging power, which works great, especially when it’s extra strong.  Others like to propel them selves with swimming kicks to help pass under the waves.  Both are valid and useful.  Turtler’s choice.

  4. Resume: Roll back over and continue paddling on.  Sometimes this can be the most difficult part.  With practice, much like popping up, the roll-over-to-paddle can be done in one graceful move.  But this will take some practice.  The good news is that the wave will have passed and you will have time to right yourself (unless the wave period is extremely short).

See Mike’s comment below for video sample.


  1. Tracey on 19 October 2009 at 9:47 pm

    I am AMAZING at catching a wave upside down while turtle rolling. I’m not sure it it is because I’m very light or I’m just not pulling the nose down enough, but I have found myself zipping along tail first more than once.


    • Jeff on 20 October 2009 at 7:33 am

      I’ve been there too. And I always think, “All that paddling for naught!” I’ve also turtled WAY TOO SOON and popped back up to the surface just in time to get smacked square on by the wave.

  2. Mike on 20 October 2009 at 9:16 am

    Here’s an Australian video of a turtle roll demonstration (they call it “eskimo rolling”)

    I’ve set the link to start at the point where the eskimo roll section starts.

  3. Jeff on 20 October 2009 at 9:46 am

    Thanks, Mike! Eskimo roll…huh.

    • Mike on 20 October 2009 at 8:26 pm

      Makes me wonder what a “California Roll” would be.

      • Jeff on 21 October 2009 at 7:56 am

        It’s when you do a turtle roll and you accidentally get all wrapped up in seaweed.

        • Tracey on 24 October 2009 at 1:57 am

          Did a little of that in Santa Cruz tonight at the Hook. My first time surfing in kelp. Nothing slows down your paddle like 50 lbs of seagrass.

          • Jeff on 24 October 2009 at 2:11 pm

            No doubt. It’s like the hand of Neptune reaching up and calling you off a wave.

  4. Miguel on 22 October 2009 at 11:28 am

    Turtle rolled my way through a few sets this morning at El Porto.. I found I wasn’t being pushed back to shore as much as I would have been doing a duck dive after being caught inside and somehow thought it was easier on the arms than trying to swim through the wite wash after letting out a few choice words (#%&@!).


    • Jeff on 22 October 2009 at 11:41 am

      Sweet! Glad this helped. I heard Porto was super crowded this morning. Besides turtling, how did you do on the waves?

      • Miguel on 23 October 2009 at 1:25 pm

        @Jeff.. not as good as I would have liked on Wed.

        I started my workout regimen up Tuesday nite after a 3-4 week layoff due to overtime at work so you can imagine my body was aching and stiff before I paddled out under darkness at 7am.

        The waves were great but I was having a hardtime popping up at first during the session Also morning sessions have been kinda short so my mind set was to catch a min. 3-waves and try to get out of the water and not be too late for work.

        Thursday & Friday were better.. body stiffness gone(at least today-Firday) caught more than my 3-wave miniimun, and looking forward to a full 3 hour sessions both days this weekend.

        Also I asked the boss if I can punch in a little later explained the surf was up and he agreed so that made it easier for me to relax and not rush out of the line-up. Was able to paddle back out numerious times, enjoy the surf and finish the session under my terms. Fog, wave uncertinity and all. Not too crowded.

        • Jeff on 23 October 2009 at 4:34 pm

          I know what you mean. I was out for a week after those recent rains and when I headed back out again it was a 5-footp-plus day. My body was not at all ready for such a jolt and it was sure to let me know. Spent most of my time paddling/foundering.

          • Miguel on 24 October 2009 at 1:54 pm

            Worked the kinks out..

            Jeff just want to give you an update.

            The aches and pains from working out earlier in the week have all but disappeared, Saturdays session at Porto went great.

            Being able to take my time in the line up and not worry about leaving to get to work helped me find my groove and get into a rythum in between sets.

            Granted the waves weren’t as big as they were earlier in the week I had a more consistant and enjoyable session.

            Riding the bike to my surfspot north of the tankers also makes a big difference on weekends as the DP crowd starts to thin out when the meters kick in, it’s amazing how much elbow room there is in the line up.

            Sometimes one or two waves make up a good session on real big days, but I’ll take a good 2 1/2 hour session in 2-4 foot clean surf any day.

            As I was leaving Porto today at around 10:30 I couldn’t help but notice how much the waves were looking like it was breaking at Tressels. Good Shape (L & R) warm water and Glassy. It must of had something to do with the slow moving High Tide filling in. It was GREAT, looking forward to tomorrow.

  5. Jeff on 24 October 2009 at 2:10 pm


    I hope tomorrow works out just as well as today did for you. And glad to hear you had such a great morning. El P definitely takes on a different vibe when the meters kick in. And it’s extra good when the tide coincides just right with the meters. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for tomorrow. Let’s hope the glassy water and long rides hold out.

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