How To Do Top Turns

A Simple Guide on Top Turn Techniques

There are many different types of top turns. In this article, we simply focus on the basic top turn: how to ride up to the top of the face and how to turn back down properly. Note that the bottom turn is critical and dictates how you will draw your top turn. If you haven’t paid attention to the bottom turn yet, click here before going deeper into the top turn.

Different Surfing Areas for different Skill Levels

According to your experience level, you will aim different parts of the wave during your bottom turn. Softer shoulders allow lower-intermediates to practise basic top turns like cutbacks. More advanced surfers can do tighter bottom turns to reach steep and powerful sections of the waves, near the lip. The steepness and power of the curl in the “steep area” is what makes possible manoeuvres like off-the-lips, airs, snaps, tails slides, etc.

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Top Turn

Learn how to ride up to the top of the face and how to turn back down properly.

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Basic Frontside Top Turn, Step by Step

1. Aim your Target on the Face

Top turn technique

After your bottom turn, look and aim where you want to go up on the face. Most of your weight should be on your back foot to help you turn.

Your head is your steering wheel. Where you look, you will go. The turn is initiated with your head, then your shoulders, arms and hips should follow, pointing in the direction you want to go.

2. As you are Coming Up the Wave

Top Turn Technique

As you start coming up the wave, decompress by slightly unbending your knees and straightening your upper body. Keep your head centred over your body.

Note how the surfer’s hands are over each rails through the turn: the right hand is over the right rail, and the left hand over the left rail.

When you get to 3/4 of the wave’s height, you should already start to look down.

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3. Once you get to the top of the wave

Top Turn Technique
  • 1st: Look and turn your head where you want to go down the wave.
  • 2nd: Turn your shoulders, arms and hands to face down the wave.
  • 3rd: Your hips and legs will follow to complete the rotation down the wave.

Notice how the surfers upper body is centred over his front foot, his head centred over his body, and how each of his hands are still over each of his rails. The surfer focuses on shifting his upper body: chest, shoulders and arms to face back to the beach, his surfboard naturally follows this rotation.

4. As you start going back down the wave

Top Turn Technique
  • Compress down by bending your knees and hips, to make sure you keep your balance during the drop.
  • Bring your weight forward, over the front part of the surfboard. Bringing your chest forward helps you keep momentum to go down the wave and avoid getting stuck on top of it.
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Surf Coaching Retreats

How To Do a Backside Top Turn

Backside top turns are very similar to the front side ones. Just like with the frontside top turn, you need to look where you want to go, leading with your head, shoulders, arms then hips and legs.

The difference is that your back is facing the wave as you do your top turn. This actually makes it easier to turn back down because as you go up the face, your chest already faces down the wave


Extra Tips:

  • Don’t look down the wave too late. As soon as you go up the 3/4 of the wave’s height, initiate your top turn by looking down at the wave, where you want to go. If you keep looking up, you will end up going past the shoulder, in the back of the wave.
  • Always keep your head centred over your body. This helps your balance in turns and makes everything easier.
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