There really is no other sport quite like surfing, and the more time you spend on the waves, the more you fall in love with it.
The sense of accomplishment you feel when you actually manage to keep your balance on a fast-breaking wave is an unforgettable thrill. The sense of ease as you glide down a smaller surf, on the other hand, is one of the most relaxing and freeing feelings that surfing has to offer. Both of these extremes are possible in surfing, and both are great incentives to pick up a board in the first place.
But if you lean more towards the first camp and prefer a bit more speed when it comes to surfing, here are the most essential tips you need to know to up your surf game and take your skill to the next level.
Since we covered most intermediate tricks in our Ultimate list of intermediate-to-advanced surfboarding tips, tricks, and techniques, here we’ll give the intermediate surfers who want to perfect their surfing 3 additional advanced techniques.
Trim or carve
There are a lot of different factors you need to consider when it comes to whether or not you can surf certain waves. Some waves might be a bit too big for certain boards, while others might not have enough energy to even pick you up. However, a lot of the time the biggest problem might just be your approach.
The way that you paddle out to a wave can really affect whether or not you can actually stand up and surf it. Some waves are much more ideal for trimming, while others will need to be carved if you want to have any chance of staying on your surfboard.
Trimming is the only way to take on fast-breaking waves. When you see that a wave is breaking rapidly, turn your board at an angle and paddle slightly towards the shoulder of the wave. You don’t want your board to be facing down towards the surface of the water as the wave picks you up, nor do you want to be turned too much to the side. If the nose is down, you’ll get thrown into the water face first, and if the board is to the side, you’ll get flipped over.
What you should do is paddle in such an angle that the wave will pick you up and the board will already be going towards the shoulder before you even pop-up. The trick with trimming is that you’re not going to want to make sharp turns. Focus on making small adjustments on the face of the wave and using the angle of the board and the power of the wave to push yourself forward.
Carving is much better suited for slower breaking waves. As the wave is coming towards you, simply let it pick you up and start carrying you. When the nose of the board starts facing downwards, you’re going to want to pop-up. Drop towards the bottom of the wave, use your back foot to stop, and make a sharp turn (carve) away from the direction that the wave is breaking.
Using your back foot will halt your downward momentum, but as you turn the wave will get steeper under your board, and you’ll be able to ride it by pumping your board up and down the shoulder. This technique mostly utilizes sharp turns in order to get the most out of waves that wouldn’t otherwise have the necessary energy to move you along, especially if you decided to trim.
How to master the bottom turn
Learning how to do the bottom turn is essentially the most important lesson that you’ll learn as a surfer. This maneuver is very difficult to pull off properly in the beginning, but it’s one of the most important moves in any surfer’s skill set, which is why every surfer needs to persevere and try to get the hang of it.
The reason the bottom turn is so vital is because it can help the surfer generate the force that they need in order to pull off maneuvers that would otherwise be impossible to pull off by using the energy from the wave alone. If you’ve developed a bit more experience as a surfer, then it might be time to move on from the minor to the major bottom turn.
The minor bottom turn
As pretty much every surfer knows, the bottom turn is a move designed to transform your vertical energy into horizontal energy.
This is done by taking a dive towards the bottom of the wave, and then making a strong sharp turn in order to generate the necessary force to push yourself back up the wave again.
Minor bottom turns are mostly performed on waves with softer shoulders. The difference between the major and the minor turn is the direction of the board.
The minor bottom turn is when you sweep yourself diagonally up the face of the wave. A major bottom turn is when you go as close to the bottom of the wave as you can and immediately stop and rotate your board towards the top of the wave again.
Pulling off a major bottom turn
Actually doing a major bottom turn is going to require quite a lot of skill, but mostly it’s going to require a lot of practice. Part of your standard major bottom turn training is going to be learning to accept that you’ll be wiping out and hitting the water more often than not before you actually manage to get the hang of it.
- Start off as close as you can to the breaking part of the wave that’s at the peak.
- As you’re coming down, you’ll need to crouch on your board as far as you can in order to generate as much force as possible, while also using your lowered centre of gravity to hold your balance on the wave.
- Lean your body forward and dig the inside rail of your surfboard under the wave, while the rail on the other side jumps out of the water. The water flow will hit your board and propel you towards the shoulder at incredible speeds.
- Use your right arm in order to be able to lean further forward, and keep it extended so that you can use it as a pivot point when you turn the board upwards.
- In order to pull off the type of sharp turn that you’re going to need in order to get back up the wave, you need to rotate your hips and chest, on top of putting as much pressure on your back foot as you can.
- When you gain enough momentum to get back up the face of the wave, unbend your knees and start maneuvering the board in order to use the gained momentum to pull off the trick of your choice.
Backside bottom turns
The backside bottom turns are exactly what they sound like. Both moves start out the same at the peak of the wave, but as you reach the bottom you lean backward on the board instead of forwards. Once you manage to turn on the board and start going up the shoulder, it’s the same routine – decompress, maneuver, sick trick.
The difference is that you’ll need to pull off the backside turn by putting your weight into the soles of your feet rather than your toes. Balancing backwards isn’t all that tough to pull off once you get the hang of it, but it does take a bit more practice.
There are actually people who prefer this variation of the bottom turn, and actually find it easier to pull off. In general, however, most surfers have an easier time when they can use their arm as a pivot point, and when they can see that exact shape of the wave as they make the turn towards the top.
This section can be summarized with the phrase ‘a little bit more’.
A lot of surfers have great board control with very little or minimal foot movements, but that’s not going to work for everyone. You might be proficient at board control yourself, and you can probably cut through the waves with very little difficulty. However, there is quite a lot of merit in testing exactly where your limits are, especially if you want to exceed them.
If you want to pull off some more advanced moves, you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone and step closer to the edge (literally). Moving a bit further back to put a bit more pressure on the fins might help you pull off that bottom turn faster, and going a bit further forward might help you go faster on a wave that’s breaking quickly.
Keep in mind that we’re not saying you should try and change your stance on the board entirely. Rather, we’re putting out the possibility that you might be unintentionally limiting yourself by not leaning as far forward as you can, or not keeping a wide enough stance for better control.
When you try a few different foot placements you might fall off a few times, but you might also find that your centre of balance was actually lower than you were expecting and that you can actually pull off a few moves that you didn’t think were possible yet.
There are naturally going to be a lot more advanced tricks that you can pull off as you keep growing as a surfer. However, the techniques that we mentioned are going to serve as the building blocks to those advanced tricks, and are the milestones that mark your advancement from a decent surfboarder, into a dedicated one.