Duck Dive or Bail Your Board?

TransWorld SURF: How do you know when to duck dive and when to bail your board?

Rob Machado: I bail all the time. It’s great.

Pat O’Connell: That’s the opposite of what you thought he was going to say, isn’t it?

Rob: The only problem with that is both Pat and I hardly ever wear leashes. So when you bail your board with no leash, the session’s done.

Pat: (Laughs) I don’t even own a leash right now.

Rob: Seriously, in a place like Hawaii, I have no problem bailing my board. On a Second Reef wash through set, it’s OK to bail your board.

Pat: I’ll tell you a funny story, though. I was paddling out at Sunset and I watched Johnny Boy (Gomes) get barreled through the inside section. He was headed right for me, and I couldn’t ditch my board because it would’ve hit him so I duck dove a 7’4 at Sunset.

Rob: Because you had to.

Pat: Because I had to. So if you’re in Hawaii, you have to be especially careful when you bail your board. The last thing you want to do is throw your board when anybody’s going to be nearby. It’s too dangerous; you can kill somebody that way. So definitely have that in mind.
But there are situations when you might have to throw it–big waves at Sunset or Pipeline for example–that I don’t think you can duck dive. You’ll just get washed to the beach anyway.

TWS: So what do you look for in a wave that tells you it’s time to bail?

Pat: If I feel the wave sucking up on the reef I know I’m getting off my board and out of the way. There’s no concrete gauge but if you’re aware of your surroundings, you instinctively know and learn. You say to yourself: if I don’t get to this particular point then I’m throwing my board. Then it comes down to a split second decision.

TWS: What’s good technique there?

Pat: Simon Law had a good one. When you let go of your board, stay vertical. Don’t swim down headfirst. And don’t swim all the way to the bottom. Just take two downward strokes and then absorb the impact upright. When it’s really hollow, try to bail it away from the lip–parallel to the wave, just not directly into it.

TWS: How do you know when not to bail?

Pat: If there’s some distance between where it broke and where I am, generally I’m hanging on. Plus, if the waves are really big, sometimes if I’m out really far in the middle of the ocean, then I’m going to hang on no matter what because I don’t want to lose my board.

Rob: He can’t swim. I can’t either. Dan Malloy told me a story that he paddled out at maxed out Sunset. He got cleaned up and he came up holding only the back fin.

Pat: Morale of the story: If you don’t think you can swim in: 1) don’t paddle out, 2) don’t bail your board.

Thoughts? Send ’em to [email protected] and look for them to be posted later in the week.

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