How to do a Floater

Tips on one of Surfing’s most practical maneuvers.

Floater Definition

When a surfer rides over and along the top of the broken part of a wave. This maneuver is named a “floater” because surfers get a “weightless sensation” as they slide over either a pitching lip or whitewater.

A Highly practical maneuver

“The Pocket Knife of Surfing”. Floaters are used to pass sections without losing speed, and sometimes actually gaining some. This translates into you making sections you previously couldn’t make, and surfing waves for longer rides, with more speed. It brings your surfing to the next level.

As a section breaks in front of you, you can either:

  1. You can do a “floater” over the breaking part of the wave and come back down the other side of the section with as much, or more speed than you started the maneuver with. As you see on this illustration, the surfer was going at 20 km/h before the manoeuvre and as he finished his floater his speed was 22 km/h.
  2. The other option is to go down the bottom and around the whitewater. When you go down in the flat part, you might lose lots of speed, as you are drawing your line in a weak area of the wave.
  3. The last possibility is to go straight down the wave and consider the wave is finished (what beginners do all the time).

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The Floater Technique

This is an example of a Backside Floater.

1. Generate Speed

You need a lot of forward momentum to pass over a section with control.

As you generate speed on the shoulder, you should be looking for a section that is just about to break.

2. Do a Shallow Bottom Turn

You want to reach the target with just a slight angle towards the breaking part of the wave.

Too much angle will throw you out the back of the wave. You rarely go below the mid-height of the shoulder when preparing for a floater.

As you get close to the lip, shift your weight on the back foot. This ensures that your nose goes up and over the white water, instead of having the white water crashing over your surfboard.

3. Unweight & Climb over the White Water

As you get to the white water, unweight the front part of your surfboard by throwing your hands up and forwards in the air.

4. On top of the white water, stay low and compressed

For more speed, keep your chest forward to bring extra weight over your front foot.

You should be looking where you want to go next (your line), whether that is going further horizontally, or starting to go back down.

You can shift weight to your toes if you feel you might be close to going over to the back of the wave.

5. Start Going Back Down

To go back down, turn your head, shoulders and chest towards the beach. Your hips and legs will follow and this will point your board back down the wave.

6. Compress Down when Landing

Make sure you crouch low and compress the lower body to absorb the shock as you land at the bottom of the wave.

Frontside Floaters are very similar:

  1. Shallow turn with speed
  2. ‍Pressure on the tail to lift the nose up
  3. ‍Stay low and compressed when on top of the white water
  4. ‍Look where you want to go
  5. ‍Turn head, shoulders and hips towards the beach to initiate landing
  6. ‍Compress lower body at landing

Slight difference: Put your weight on your heels, not your toes, if you feel you’re about to fall off the back of the wave while riding on top of the white water.

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Extra Tips:

  • Start with small waves to get comfortable. While floaters are not the hardest of maneuvers in surfing, they require timing, speed and practise. It’s easier to practise on small waves.
  • Speed. Speed. Speed. A lip pitches downwards, this mean you are riding over an energy with a different direction than yours. Momentum is the only reason you can make it happen and end up passing over a section.
  • Timing. To improve your timing, you need practice. Timing a perfect floater comes with experience. Also, look where you want to go: eyeball the section. How else will you time it at the fraction of the second when the lip is starting to close?
  • The right line. Again, this will come with experience. As you progress, you will have a better idea of what angle to take and what line to draw over the whitewater according to each different wave.
  • Drawing a line too high = Sliding off the back of the wave.
  • Drawing a line too low and too late = Get smashed down by the lip.

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