Tutorial 3 of 4
In Progress

Foundations: Going into the Turn

In the previous video, we discussed decision-making; in other words, did the surfer choose the right turn for the wave’s shape? In this tutorial, we ask: does the surfer have the correct setup for the turn? This video is about everything that comes before the turn for it to be successful. From our experience in coaching, there’s often room for improvement in how intermediates set up their turn, whether that’s their positioning, line, speed, timing or stance.


Positioning is crucial. Surfers need to be at the right place at the right time for the specific turns they aim to do.

When first learning to do cutbacks, low-intermediates often have a positioning problem. For example, they might start the cutback too low on the shoulder and lose their speed at the end of the manoeuvre as they get stuck lower in the flats.

They also often don’t start far enough on the shoulder and get caught in the whitewater after doing the cutback.

As surfers progress, positioning gets even more precise. There’s only a tight area near the pocket where surfers can perform snaps and re-entries. It’s very common to just be a foot or two away from the target.

Positioning concerns every aspect of the turn, not just the turn itself. It concerns where surfers are before the turn. For example, when surfers do shallow bottom turns already quite far from the pocket, it makes it difficult to do a quality turn, as they are already too far in the flat part of the wave.

It also concerns where the surfer is positioned after the turn. For example, a common mistake is to finish a cutback low on the face, with very little speed generation potential.

The more you are aware of where you are on the wave relative to the pocket, the better. Lots of intermediates consistently surf 5 meters or more in front of the power source without being aware of it.


Speed is also key to a good turn. Without speed, manoeuvres are almost guaranteed to be poor.

Although not every maneuver requires top speed, a good momentum makes turning easier. With rail engagement and speed, surfers feel in control, which often translates into better turning ability.

Speed is mostly gained through rail engagement with a proper bottom turn. Too often, surfers focus on their top turn and aren’t aware that there’s still much room for improvement in their bottom turn technique.

The more vertical and critical the turn is, the more speed the surfer needs. For example, to do a re-entry on a solid head-high wave, surfers need to be very fast, as there’s only a fraction of a second when they can connect with the lip. Going into a lip on a solid wave without speed would not work.

The Line

Next is the line surfers take for their turn.

If you fail to do a turn on a wave, ask yourself: did I take the right line for the manoeuvre I wanted to do?

To do a cutback, you need to draw a more horizontal line out toward the shoulder. For a snap or re-entry, you will need a more vertical line. Again this has to do with your bottom turn technique.

With practice, you’ll learn how to lean and distribute the precise amount of weight required, putting more weight on the back toes or heel at the end of the turn when you need to go more vertical.


You also need to time it right. Timing becomes more and more critical as you progress in your surfing.

You can only connect with the lip with perfect timing. If you do it too early or too late, you’ll either get stuck on top of the wave or get pushed off balance by the lip.

Whether it’s getting barrelled, doing an air or throwing fins, advanced manoeuvers require great timing.

The Stance

Lastly, the stance.

Turning is done by applying weight on specific parts of the surfboard. To trim or for turns like down carves which aren’t drastic directional changes, more weight is applied on the front toes or heel. For sharper turns, surfers need to apply extra weight over the back toes or back heel.

Many surf coaches find that not having the back foot far enough back on the traction pad is the most popular turning mistake from intermediate surfers, limiting their progression.

Where you place your feet and how you apply weight over them is essential. More experienced surfers have the habit of moving their feet over the surfboard’s deck to maximize the surfboard’s response.

The stance is not just feet positioning on the board. It’s also the angle of your feet, the space between them, and the position of your knees, hips, hands, chest and head.