Successfully taking your stand up paddle board through the chop and out to the lineup is by no means a one trick skill. The reality is, making your way past the shorebreak and through a channel filled with waves requires a bag of tricks that you can use on demand almost without thinking about it. One such technique that you can add to your skill set is what we refer to as stand up paddle duck dives.
A duck dive on a traditional surfboard is when a surfer pushes the nose of the board under the whitewater of an oncoming wave then pops up on the back side for the wave. Watch any traditional surfing video and you'll see it happening left and right. For a stand up paddle board, the volume of the board makes this technique impossible. However, the same principles can be applied to get you through a towering wall of water executing what we refer to as "stand up paddle duck dives".
Paddling out through the whitewater is done most efficiently standing up. However, from time to time we find ourselves caught on the inside with only enough time to get up on our knees and take 1-3 strokes before the next wave hits. This is where this technique shines. Instead of getting tossed over backwards on your knees, this trick can get your clean through a watery wall or foam ball. It works well in small to medium size waves. When the waves are booming, forget about it.
First of all, you have to make it up on your knees sitting on your ankles. Give as many quick and hard strokes as you can straight toward the oncoming wave. As you approach the wave, you'll have 2 choices: 1) lean your weight back to try and skim up over it or 2) hunker down and duck dive through it. It's important that you make a decision. If you go half way, the board will dive through the water and the wave will blast you in the chest knocking you off and sending you back where you started from.
If you decide punching through in a duck dive fashion is the best way, lean your weight forward, extends both arms out in front of you while lining your paddle handle up with the center of the nose of your board, in sort of a medeival knight jousting fashion.
Keeping a tight grip on the paddle, let the nose of your board break the surface of the oncoming wave or whitewater. The nose of your board will create an air pocket that your and your paddle can fit through with speed, timing, balance, and practice. Put your head down and lean your body forward with your paddle and arms extended, to squeeze into the airpocket you just created. A successful execution will bring your clean through the wave with enough momentum to make it over or through the next one.
Even though you're on your knees, this technique takes practice to become proficient at. You'll take your bumps and bruises as you start figuring it out, but it'll be worth it in the end and could get you out of a jam in the future. As with any stand up paddle skill, it should be practiced away from others. As you're learning this slick move, you're bound to take some tumbles and you'll want to be clear of any others that may also be in the water.
Have fun adding stand up paddle duck dives to your bag of tricks.