So you’ve progressed with your surfing to the point of feeling comfortable with the idea of more speed and learning maneuvers like the bottom turn. Unfortunately, sometimes the how-to’s don’t answer all your questions. We’ve spoken to one of our surf coaches, Franco Rivas, for his bottom-turn wisdom as an attempt to find a resolution to all those unanswered questions. From his experience with not only his students but with himself, here’s what Franco had to say.
“My coach told me, ‘Without bottom turns, surfing is silly.’ “
Firstly, what exactly is a bottom-turn maneuver?
A bottom turn maneuver is the key to a good trick. First of all, when you are at the bottom of the wave you are compressing all your speed to eject it to the angle you choose to put the nose of your board. Always remember there are different kinds of bottom turns depending on the face of the wave or the trick you want to make.
Why is this maneuver important for your progression as a surfer?
“I’d say that 90% of the tricks without bottom turns feel empty. “
It concentrates your speed and allows you to take advantage of it. You also need to master the bottom turn before attempting to hit the lip, do a turn on the face, or even to open yourself from the wave and put yourself on the pocket again to get barreled. Without a bottom turn, it would be hard to use your speed properly.
While learning, did you find it easier to start with backside bottom turns or frontside?
At the beginning, everything is easier front side, but for me, going backside was easier. It was easier to throw my weight backwards properly. Today, I enjoy both a lot.
What do you think are the misunderstandings of the bottom turn, or the most common mistakes of intermediate surfers?
Well, sometimes I read the waves improperly and choose the wrong kind of bottom turn to do — either a stiff one or a wide one.
I think intermediate surfers sometimes have trouble with that same issue. They also hesitate to take the risk of bouncing the body to the rails of the board. I suggest to not be afraid to throw your body on the inside rail (the one digging on the wave). As you do that, don’t forget to bend your knees — especially the one in the back, which compresses the speed on the fins. It’s also important, and often overlooked, to remember that where your shoulders point influences the direction of the nose of your board and your direction.
What would you tell someone to focus on if they are having trouble executing their bottom turns?
Understanding compression and decompression is key. Compression is when you generate a lot of speed by bending your knees on the bottom turn. Decompression is when you then straighten your legs to get to the lip or face of the wave.
Is there one pro surfer in particular you think has a very clean bottom turn technique people can analyze and get inspired from?
I really like Jack Freestone’s bottom turns technique. It’s really expressive and lots of times helps me understand little details about it. Rob Machado has a really nice example of speed compressing and decompressing.