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Weight Distribution for Carving & Trimming

It could be argued that the ability to shift weight over different parts of a surfboard is the most important skill in surfing. Pretty much everything that is done on a wave has to do with where surfers distribute weight over their surfboard. Weight distribution determines whether you are accelerating, slowing down or turning.

Surfers manage their speed by shifting weight between their back and front foot and initiate a turn by applying weight over their heels or toes. This video tutorial will show the different areas on which surfers apply weight, and demonstrate how and why weight is applied on these specific spots of the surfboard. We will refer to these areas as “Buttons”.

Speed Management Buttons

The speed management buttons are quite simple to understand.

To accelerate, shift your hips forward, over your front foot. This will put extra weight in the middle of your surfboard and help you gain speed.

To slow down, do the opposite. Shift your hips over your back foot to put the breaks on.

Speed generation is more technical than applying weight over the front or back foot, but this is the first thing to focus on at the beginner level. If you feel that the wave is outrunning you, bring your weight forward. If you feel you are outrunning a wave, bring your weight back.

The trimming and carving turns.

Before analyzing the different turning buttons, it’s good to know the two types of turns in surfing: the trimming turn, and the carving turn.

Surfers “trim” in order to adjust to the shape of a wave, going slightly higher or slightly lower to surf the shoulder in the optimal position.

“Carves” are more radical turns. They are used to change direction rapidly and drastically. This turn is more technical and it is crucial to surf progression because with it you can execute more advanced manoeuvres.

The trimming and carving buttons.

The trimming buttons are on the front toes and heel, and the carving turns are on the back toes and heel. Just like for the speed management buttons, surfers bring their hips over these buttons to apply extra weight on them. For example, if a surfer riding frontside wanted to trim on a wave, they would lean forward, bringing their hips up toward the front foot to apply extra weight over the front toes.

As you can notice here, the hips have been shifted forward, and most of the surfer’s weight is over the front toes, with almost no weight over the back foot. The result is acceleration since the surfboard’s inside rail is engaged in the wave’s face, redirecting water backward, generating lift and forward thrust. For more information on how this works, check out the “Using the Rails” tutorial in our “Speed Generation” course.

This surfer wants to carve toward the curl, which is behind him. To do so, he shifts his hips back to apply weight over the back heels to initiate the turn.

Carving on bigger surfboards is impossible without applying weight on the back heels or toes. It lifts most of the surfboard out of the water, allowing for a smaller turning radius. Putting weight on the back foot is also how surfers engage the back rail and fins to drastically change direction.

Feet Positioning is Essential

Turning is only possible if a surfer has the correct foot positioning over the surfboard. You can not press a button if no part of your foot touches it.

Imagine having your feet placed like this. Even if you applied all your weight over your heels, the board would not react enough to turn. That’s because the weight over the heels is applied over the stringer in the middle of the board, instead of being applied on the left part of the surfboard.

There are many other stance mistakes that prevent beginners from properly turning. For example, if your front foot is at 90 degrees, you can’t apply much weight to the left or to the right. Having your feet on different sides of the stringer will also make turning difficult.