Intro: The Duck Dive

Duck diving is a technique to help surfers get past sets of waves in order to reach the break. This technique is extremely helpful and can be valuable when surfing larger waves. However, without the right technique and timing it can be useless. Here’s some pointers on how apply a new technique if you’re having difficulty getting past white water.

Ducking and dodging haters all day

Things to consider before learning to duck dive

  1. How long is your surfboard?
    • Longer surfboards will be harder to duck dive with. Some are impossible Only short surfboards between 6’3″ and below.
  2. Do you know your surfboard?
    • Be one with your surfboard. I know it sounds corny, but it’s so true. Your surfboard is part of you, like your leg or arm. If you don’t know how to control your surfboard in or out of the water, how do you expect it to help you?
  3. Do you have access to a swimming pool?
    • It’s much easier to learn the basics of balance, paddling and maneuverability while in calm water. If you have the luxury of a swimming pool, you will learn much quicker.
    • Master balancing on your surfboard such as sitting down in the water. This will help with positioning and timing.
    • Learn how much buoyancy your surfboard has and how much strength it takes to push your surfboard down below the white water.
  4. How well can you paddle? Have you mastered paddling?
    • Once you’re popping out from the dive you need to paddle quickly and powerfully. We will cover paddling techniques in another post. 
  5. Where do you position yourself on your surfboard? Where is your chest? Where are your knees?

    • You will need to use your entire body in order to dive under the wave by pushing down as hard as you can.
  6. Timing is everything
    • Before duck diving under the wave, you need to time your dive at the exact moment the wave passes over you. If you get this wrong, you will be drilled and pushed back to shore losing critical energy while paddling out.
    • Count the number of waves that come in until there is a break. This is called a “set”.
    • Count the time in between each set
    • Once you figure out how many waves are in each set, this will give you an expectation of how many duck dives you need to make and how much time you have to paddle as hard as you can to the line up until the next set comes in. Yes, it’s like playing Frogs on Atari but in real life and in the water. Don’t get drilled.
  7. How far is the lineup?
  8. How deep is the bottom?
  9. What are the conditions you’re surfing in? What are the wave heights? Is there onshore or offshore wind?
  10. How long can you hold your breath?

It’s like playing Frogs on Atari, but in real life and in the water. Don’t get drilled.

Next, we will cover the technique and I will provide a tutorial. See ya!




By far, the best wetsuits.

In the past year I ran through three different wetsuits. If you purchase a high quality wetsuit, it can last up to 10 years. But it also depends on how much you surf and where. I’m in the water almost everyday. Sometimes, I manage to go 2 times per day on the weekends.

Let’s examine.


If you’re conscious about cost like everyone, cost plays a major role in the selection process. However, if you want quality you’re going to have to shell out the money. A wetsuit is the most important equipment you’ll have in your quiver. The warmer you are, the longer you can surf. If you’re a beginner, make sure you’re committed until dropping some loot on a quality wetsuit.

The mid-market wetsuit market ranges from $250-$600. That’s a big spread. But there are high quality wetsuits out there within the lower price range, you just have to know what to look for.

What to look out for,

  • Find wetsuit sales that offer 20-40% discounts during October – November
  • Look at wetsuits that range in the mid $500s – these type of wetsuits offer top quality material
  • Search online/research and compare in your local surf shop – nothing beats supporting your local surf shop and evaluating in person before you purchase.


O’Neill Wetsuits started in San Francisco, California and there’s a reason why the best wetsuits are developed in Northern California. Shit gets cold quick. I started out with a 3/2mm wetsuit and ran through 3 of them in a year. Do not purchase a 3/2mm for Northern California surf. Purchase a 4/3mm.

I am grateful for Jack O’Neill for developing the wetsuit to keep surfers in the water all year around. And the new O’Neill wetsuits are definitely high quality, especially with the Firewall technology and stitchless neoprene.

What to look out for,

  • No stitching – the more stitching and thread to keep the material attached, the higher chance there will be a leak – go for the stitchless neoprene. Open the wetsuit and examine the inside. Feel its thickness and examine for stitching.
  • Front zipper – I hate how back zippers open up after you get drilled by a big wave. Front zippers are protected and when you wipe out they are less likely to open up exposing you to cold water. Not fun.
  • Thickness – in NorCal, go for a 4/3MM (a must).
  • Neck, Wrists and Ankle enclosures – you want to ensure that nothing gets into your wetsuit. Examine the tapping and welds.

Let’s compare.

  1. O’Neill Pyscho Freak Z.E.N. 4/3 – $519.95
  2. RipCurl E-Bomb Wetsuit 4/3 – $339.95
  3. Isurus Alpha Elite 434 – $539.99
  4. Body Glove Full Suit 4/3 – $337.99
  5. Hurley’s Phantom 403 – $480.00
  6. Patagonia R3 Yulex – $469.00

After examining all 6 wetsuits online and visiting in store, I shortlisted the ones that didn’t meet my standards based on my preferences and usage.

  1. Patagonia R3 Yulex – $469.00
  2. O’Neill Pyscho Freak Z.E.N. 4/3 – $519.95
  3. Isurus Alpha Elite 434 – $539.99

All three of these wetsuits were top notch and I knew I needed a high-end wetsuit. I went online and examined the videos attached in the links provided above. Patagonia R3 Yulex was made of high-quality weld similar to O’Neill’s and Isurus’, but fell short of the lack of neoprene design.

The Pyscho Freak was definitely my number one choice if cost wasn’t an issue. However, Isurus’ Yamamoto Neoprene is made from limestone and not petroleum, and the it’s design was made specifically in a surfer’s full extended form. Isurus’ top notch design and build was definitely tempting.

After checking out the wetsuits in-store and negotiating with my local surf shop, I  went with the Isurus Alpha Elite. NorCal Surf Shop hooked me up with a 30% discount! Make sure you support your local surf shop or stop by to see what NorCal Surf Shop has in store if you’re in the area.

The Isurus Alpha Elite is the best wetsuit I have ever worn. I actually sweat while surfing and it’s amazing to be working out while in 54 degree water. Any of the top three wetsuits I shortlisted are definitely options you won’t regret. You want to spend the money on a good quality wetsuit if you’re going to surf. If don’t have the budget, wait for new wetsuits to hit the market and purchase last year’s model. But make sure you purchase a 4/3mm and not a 3/2mm. Any 4/3mm is better than a high-end 3/2 since it will keep you warmer.

Thanks for reading and feel free to ask me any questions or suggest anything I missed.




The Untold Rules of Surfing

When the waves break here don’t be there, or you gonna get drilled – Turtle to Rick, North Shore

Do you remember the cult movie, North Shore? Well, surfing in real life is kind of similar, but there’s no one there watching you. Surfing can be a dangerous sport if you don’t know what you’re doing. When I started out, no one told me how to act or what to look out for. So I definitely want you to be mindful before you go out.

As surfing becomes more and more popular all across the world, there’s going to be more people. And more people means more accidents. Don’t get caught in a dangerous situation and definitely do not hurt yourself or others around you.


I remember a few instances where surfers would call me out. Looking back, I totally appreciate and respect what they were telling me. I don’t know what I was thinking being out in the water with 4 months in and trying to surf 5-7′ waves. I could’ve injured myself or others around me. I barely knew how to catch a wave and for sure, definitely didn’t know the rules. If a surfer calls you out, there’s a reason for it. Respect the locals and respect yourself. Take every sign and indication for what its worth because someone’s looking out for you. Definitely, do not take it personal and just brush it off. Unless, you know how to surf and there’s localism about. We will talk about that in another post.

Surf Etiquette at The Hook

  1. First surfer up closest to the curl, has right of way.
  2. Paddle around the break to get out.
  3. Hang on to your board and look out for others.
  4. Help other surfers in trouble.
  5. Respect the beach and ocean.

What does this mean?

  1. First surfer up closest to the curl, has right of way.
    • When you’re in the line up, there’s going to be people in front of you and people behind you. The person closest to where the wave curls or “breaks” has the ownership of that wave. If you see this, scale back and let that person go.
  2. Paddle around the break to get out.
    • I remember paddling out and I wasn’t aware that I was in the middle of line up and the break. Do not put yourself in this position because you will get hurt or hurt someone else. I injured my knee for a few months and a longboard went hit me head on. Ouch! One mistake I will not forget. Go around and try to paddle back where the rip current is, where the wave dies out.
  3. Hang on to your board and look out for others.
    • Last weekend some douche bag was paddling for the same wave I was on and he missed it. He then proceeded to let go of his surfboard and it came right for me while I was popping up. DO NOT LOSE YOUR SURFBOARD. I was a bit upset because he wasn’t mindful of others around him. Always know where your surfboard is and never lose it.
  4. Help other surfers in trouble.
    • Surfer’s are athletic and we love the water. If we see anyone in distress you better believe we’ll help.
  5. Respect the beach and ocean.
    • There’s nothing more beautiful than nature and surfing wouldn’t be as beautiful without it. Please do not liter and please respect mother nature. I would also add, respect the locals. They know how the waves break and conditions best. Be mindful of what they say if it helps.

If you can follow these rules and be mindful of your skill level, equipment and respect others, you should be good. Remember, we all make mistakes and it’s okay to make them as long as we learn. But always be respectful and apologize if you “dropped in” on someone or cut them off. Surfers are some of the coolest people out there, have fun and don’t bring any drama to the beach.

Don’t get too Stoked: Will you commit?

All right, so now you’re pretty stoked about surfing. How’d you do?

I remember my first time surfing was with my coworker. He told me at the office that if I wanted to learn how to surf then I should meet him at 7:00am in front of NorCal Surf Shop on Saturday. I didn’t have much to do that day, so I decided I might as well try something new. It was the best decision in my life. However, it was very difficult to show up. Northern California surf is pretty bad. Bad compared to Hawaii or Los Angeles where the water is a lot warmer, especially in the mornings.

My first day was rough and I’m sure after your first day, you probably felt really sore afterwards. This brings up a great segway into our next topic.

If you want to learn how to surf, you need to be consistent. Surfing is one of the coolest sports out there and catching a wave will be one of the best feelings you’ll experience. It’s definitely worth your time. Once you learn how to surf you’ll become healthier and more active. Surfing is a form of exercise. Even if you’re not catching waves in the beginning, you’re always paddling. You’ll become stronger and you’ll build up endurance. (I’m going to write up all the healthy benefits of surfing in our next blog).

Here are some tips to make progress while you’re in the beginning stages of learning.

Buy or Rent?

  1. If you’ve made the decision to commit, you want to buy your own surfboard. Buying equipment is a lot cheaper than renting, especially if you plan to surf every weekend.
  2. You want to start off with a “foamie” before considering a “cool” looking surfboard. On average depending on condition and who shaped it, custom surfboards can be very expensive and range from $500-$3,000 on the low end and up to $10,000. But you obviously do not want to do that since you’re starting out and probably damage it while you’re learning. Plus, you’ll look like a “kook” (poser) if you show up and can’t surf. Highly ill-advisable.

A great beginner surfboard would be a Wavestorm that will cost less than $200, like this one found below.

WavestormTM 8′ Pinstripe Graphic Classic Surfboard

It will provide with a lot of paddling power and ton’s of buoyancy making it easier to catch waves. This type of surfboard will help you build strength and endurance while learning to pop up. Start with this type of surfboard until you are able to stand up and ride consistently. Click the link above to purchase on on Amazon.

Next, you’ll need a standard longboard leash and not a standard 6′ leash since you will be riding a longboard. At the surf shop you’ll pay roughly about $30-$40. Here are a few options below,
Dakine Unisex Longboard Kainui Calf 9′ X 1/4” Leash, Pink, OS
Dorsal ProComp Surfboard Surf Leash – Red 9 FT Longboard

Your last piece of equipment, a wetsuit.
Depending on the temperature where you live, you might not need one. But if you live in Northern California you may want to purchase a 4/3 wetsuit that can be used all year around. There are a ton of places you can surf in Northern California. People are always surprised when I tell them I surf and live in San Francisco. Water temperatures can be very cold from 55 degrees to 59 degrees on average. The coldest months are November and December.

When choosing a wetsuit make sure you find a 4/3mm and the right size. I recommend going to the local surf shop and ask them what’s best since they’ll know the conditions that’s best suited for your local break.

The best surfer is the one having the most fun.

Ok, so this is my second blog post and I guess this wouldn’t be a surfers blog without instructions on how to start.

People ask me all the time, “Toan, how’d you start surfing?” Well, I guess I’ll go ahead and tell you how I got started.

Before you head to the beach it might be best to start researching online. Watch some videos on YouTube and learn the basics. Then, when you’re ready enroll into surf lesson. Typically surf lessons are a great way to start because you’ll meet people that are also interested in surfing and they’re beginning just like you. The surf instructors will also be knowledgeable about how the waves break and conditions. You’ll learn the basics about how to pop-up, where to position yourself in the water, but most importantly surf etiquette. We’ll definitely cover this in a separate discussion.

For now, if you’re lucky enough to live along the coast in California the first step should be pretty simple. Head to the beach, find a surf shop and enroll in a lesson.

Before the BIG day be sure to keep in mind what you’ll be learning.

  1. What size wetsuit should I get?
  2. How thick of a wetsuit should I get?
  3. How long of a surfboard should I get?
  4. Should I get booties?
  5. What is the temperature of the water?
  6. How big do the waves get?
  7. What type of surfboard works well in my area?
  8. How much does renting a surfboard and equipment compared to buying?
  9. How long can I surf until I get tired?
  10. Will my local beach be crowded?
  11. If you’re going alone, where should I put my keys? – Leave your keys at the surf shop register.

These are all great questions to think about before jumping into the water, but you’ll learn as you go. Remember, the best surfer is the one having the most fun. Go out there and have fun! I’m excited you’re going to be stoked! 


First blog post: Surfing heals the soul.

How did I get into surfing? That’s probably the first question people ask me when they see my social media posts on facebook, instagram or even snapchat. Take a wild guess…I started surfing at a pretty late age. I started surfing at age 31. I am now close to 33. However, surfing had always been in and out of my life, but I never noticed it or was too busy to take advantage of trying it.

Let me explain….One of my coworkers actually brought the surf lifestyle and culture into my life, and that I am forever grateful. However, there was a deeper reason why I started surfing and it was a tough time in my life.

Surfing had always been in and out of my life even at a young age. My sister taught my how to swim in the local pool in San Rafael. When I was 6 years old, she pushed me into the pool and I started kicking. That was how I learned how to swim. Survival.

Next, movies like Point Break growing up during the 80s I was familiar with the concept and totally felt the adrenaline rush of watching it on the big screen and envisioning a life where I was actually in the water. Growing up with Vietnamese immigrant parents, I was familiar with the ocean life. My uncles had their own fishing companies and boats and we’d be in the ocean or close the ports watching them fish.

I also remember how my sister when she was 15 and watching North Shore, her crush on Kelly Slater and Keeanu Reeves from Point Break. I remember back in the 90s girls loved surfers and that’s how I remember it today. But I don’t surf because of the girls or the image.

I surf because it heals the soul.

If you made it this far, I’ll tell you the truth. Now, to the deeper side of why I started surfing.

I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my teens and young adult life. I’ve made the wrong career moves, investments, I had a wrong perspective on life and materials, but more specifically the wrong choices in losing the women I loved. Some of my biggest regrets. My mentality wasn’t worthy of having such beautiful women. My mentality led to my decisions and my behavior.

I know, I know…I am being such a coward. But hey, life isn’t about how much money you make, or how many trophies you have. Life is about love. Do what you love. Be with who you love. That’s the only reason why people are happy. Surfing taught me that. There is no better joy than being one with nature. It’s free. It’s gratifying. It’s beautiful.

Now what enabled me? Before embarking on my surf life, I went through a horrible break up. Learning how to be alone was hard. Breaking up with someone is hard. Surfing brought me back to life and made me realize how much beauty and joy you get from being in the water or catching that perfect wave. Surfing taught me I could be alone.

The joy of surfing demonstrated a sense of peace. It gave me therapy and a way for me to heal by finding myself in the water. It gave me peace. If you listen to the waves you may very well find something you’re looking for. The beauty of the waves reminded me that love is out there, you just have to open your eyes. And that was all I needed to learn to move on.