How to Dropknee
Dropknee, or “Jack stance” as it’s know in Hawaii, where Jack “Da Rippa” Lindholm introduced it to bodyboarding in the late 1970s is a style of riding your bodyboard that takes a great deal of skill and patience to learn. Riding a finless, 3 1/2 foot long flexible board in a “half-stance” is challenging to say the least, and those that have mastered it have spent countless hours practicing.
My personal foray into learning to ride dropknee began not long after I started bodyboarding full-time in 1980. The only references I had were scarce photos of Lindholm riding crude equipment at big Pipeline. I would study every aspect of each picture with disbelief that someone could do that on the super-flexy boards out at the time, no less on a wave as intimidating and challenging as Pipe!
I started by getting up on two knees and riding that way. “Double-knee” was kind of a thing back in those days, but quickly gave way to me hoisting my front leg up onto the board. My initial attempts were greatly aided by the fact that I was riding a twin fin setup on my bodyboard, so sideslipping was rare. But, by the time I ditched the skegs, dropknee took on an entirely new level of difficulty. My placement on the board was hyper-critical! Get up in the wrong spot and all control was lost, ending in a side-slipping trip to Davey Jones’ Locker!
(Even the best wipe out now and then. Pic: Scott Winer)
Eventually however, I figured it out and though I’m reasonably proficient at it, placing as high as 6th on the World Tour’s DK division, still to this day, I have plenty of room for improvement! It’s kinda like golf in that respect…really hard to master.
(Pic: Tony Prince)
So, the point of this blog is to give you some tips on how to dropknee. I would say before attempting it, you want to have a reasonable level of competency riding prone (laying down). Make sure you have your edge control, wave knowledge, and board choice dialed in. That will give you a great head start!
As mentioned before, getting up in the right spot on the board is critical. You need to know if you are “goofy foot” (riding with the right foot forward) or “regular foot” (left foot forward).
(8-time DK World Champ Dave Hubbard is a goofy foot. Pic: Scott Winer)
There are two ways to get up. One step or two steps. One step involves basically hopping up from the prone position directly into the DK position in one motion. The same way a surfer pops up. It has to be fast and is a “pop up” motion going from a sort of pushup position, directly to your DK position. The two-step method is slower, but easier. Slide up to both knees on the board, then lift your front leg around and put that foot on the deck.
Ideally, you want to have a board with a crescent tail and channels. Yes, you can dropknee on a bat tail board, but it’s going to be harder as the crescent helps lock in your back foot. See “positioning” below. The shape should be nice and even, meaning a board with a wide nose and a high wide point will provide stability, but you will sacrifice maneuverability. Many dedicated DK boards have narrow noses with a lower wide point. I prefer what’s known as a “combo” board because I like prone and DK and do both on the same board, so my shape has a moderately-wide nose, and a nice, rounded shape which works well for prone or DK, at least for me.
(My shape helps me turn better. Pic: Tony Prince)
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*Choosing the right wave:
Your ideal wave is going to be an easier takeoff and a mushier, slower wave, at least when you’re learning. You don’t want to learn DK in heavy, barreling waves or it will end in frustration. Easier waves give you more time to get up and a bit of extra time to adjust if you don’t get up in the correct position on the board. Start learning dropknee by going “frontside” which means facing the wave. If you’re regular foot, that means going right on the wave. Backside riding is a bit trickier and can come later.
Your back knee should be firmly planted on the inside rail of your board with your ankle straddling the tail and your swim fin hanging off the back of the board. This puts pressure on the rail to avoid sliding out, and “locks” your back leg on to the board, plus the fin hanging off almost serves like a rudder, helping with edge control. For this reason, a swim fin with a shorter blade can be advantageous not only because longer fins will drag too much off the back slowing you down, but also a shorter fin is easier to lift up on to the deck with your front foot.
(I prefer Tribe T1 Fins for their shorter blade)
Need to make your existing fins shorter? Check THIS BLOG. Some riders, myself included, modify just the front leg fin and leave the back fin as is.
The front foot should be on the opposite rail of your back knee and about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way back from the nose. That gives you the ability to switch your pressure from the inside knee to the outside front foot to make turns.
Your body should be upright, but you can put your weight on your back leg as the wave gets steeper, and you can lean forward putting weight onto the front foot if you want to gain speed on a less-steep, slower wave. The real key is the inside back knee being on the rail and the back fin hanging off the back to avoid side slipping.
Some riders will grab their outside rail with their hand, but you can experiment and see what works best for you. The top dropkneers rarely grab the rail.
*Get out there:
So, the next time you paddle out, give it a try. Many riders are strictly prone and some are strictly DK. In my day as a pro, a lot of us did both and I still do to this day. For me, it keeps bodyboarding interesting, but to each their own. Whatever makes you happy!