May 29

Cutback Surfing; Insanely Useful Guide For Beginners

How to Surf Tutorials

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Just when you thought you’ve finally progressed, your hopes are deflated when your surf coach murmurs two words: “cutback surfing”.

You seen some great results in your surfing. It feels like you were almost born to do it.

And if you can just land this one maneuver, your surfing will take off like you’ve always dreamed!

But you don't know anything about cutback surfing. Even worse, you’re not exactly sure how to go about doing a cutback.

Let’s do something about that, shall we?

This guide will show you how to craft the perfect cutback. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll have everything you need to land your dream maneuver.

We’ll start with the basics…


What is a cutback in surfing?

In simple terms; a cutback is a surfing maneuver. 

A turn that takes the surfer back towards the breaking part of the wave curl. 

Think of it like this. 

The same as a top turn however the turn is continued bringing you around and back towards the curling wave.


How does making a cutback benefit the surfer?

You would perform a cutback in order to regain the momentum necessary to continue on the wave. 

When you are surfing, you may generate so much speed that you find yourself placed well in front of the breaking wave. 

At this point, the water is flatter (wave has faded, out into deeper water, or not yet formed up) and has less energy resulting in you losing speed/energy.

To regain momentum, you should return to the steeper part of the wave near the breaking curl. 

If the wave continues to form up in front of you, this eliminates the need for a cutback as you have continual fall and face on the wave to generate speed and momentum.


When to do a cutback

A cutback is usually an intermediate surfers first manoeuvre. Although it’s not super technical, it still requires quite a bit of weight distribution and rail to rail surfing. 

This simple yet complex manoeuvre is insanely useful.

Here’s a few examples of when to do a cutback;

  1. Cutting back to the power source/ losing speed (more on that later)

  2. Staying with the wave

  3. Setting up for another manoeuvre 

  4. Surfing through flat spots

This list goes on...

One thing is for sure. 

You’re going to use the cutback quite a bit in your repertoire, when you’ve transitioned to surfing unbroken waves. 

It’s a manoeuvre that will come in handy in all kinds of waves and for a variant of different reasons. 

As you learnt to make different sections or utilise your speed better, the cutback will be an extremely handy manoeuvre to use.


Why do you need to stay near the power source of the wave

Staying near the power source of the wave will help you do one of two things.

  1. Maintain your speed
  2. Generate more speed

Why is this important?

To put it simply; without speed it’s nearly impossible to perform any kind of manoeuvre.

This includes even the basics of staying with the wave. 

Most surfers, surf too far away from the curl (which is usually on the shoulder) or get caught behind the foam ball. 

Ideally you want to be using the power source of the wave to generate your speed into turns and cutting back to maintain your speed if necessary. 

Think of it like an elastic band. 

You expand and then contract. This principle applies to surfing a wave. Expand into turns and contract to regroup. 

Rinse and repeat.

Alternatively if you don’t surf near the power source of the wave, your rides will be short live and extremely frustrating. 


What’s the difference between a cutback and a roundhouse cutback?

The difference between a cutback and roundhouse cutback is the rebound of the white water.

To explain this further let’s take a look at the the official definition of roundhouse cutback:

“A manoeuvre that is cut back that continues right around through an arc of 180 to 200 degrees”. 

The roundhouse cutback is a more advanced manoeuvre than a cutback. It requires a change of direction, perfect timing and full engagement on your rail. 

The higher up the wave the surfer rebounds off the white water the more speed they will generate coming back down the wave. 

A cutback however, is more about the change of direction. It’s easier to perform and is most intermediate surfers, first taste of rail to rail surfing. 

Don't get me wrong.

Some cutbacks can be harder than others. 

But most are performed in an S shape and can be executed with as little or major commitment as needed. 


Surfing Cutback Frontside Tutorial 

Step 1: Generate enough speed on your take off, and begin to eye your path towards the shoulder of the wave

Step 2: Begin a shallow bottom turn and transfer your weight to your back foot and place it near your tail kicker

Step 3: Get your body low and compressed and drive out and away from the curl

Step 4: Transfer your weight from your toeside rail to your heal side rail

Step 5: Rotate your hips, open your leading arm, and head around as you extend your body into the turn

Step 6: Light pressure on your front foot and turn your head over your outside shoulder

Step 7: Allow your leading arm to guide you and control the extent of your cutback

Frontside cutback mistakes

X Leaning too hard and far over into your turn without enough speed, resulting in you falling off

X Go too far out in front of the wave and end up in flat water. At this point, you run out of speed to get back to the energy source of the wave (the curl)

X When leaning over the turn, the rail can catch in the water and track (like a railway line). Therefore stopping you from performing the arc of your turn and resulting in you wiping out


Surfing Cutback Backside Tutorial 

There’s very little difference between a frontside and backside cutback. Most people find it easier to perform a backside cutback because of their rotating their body back onto their front side. 

With that said. I recommend you going through each of the steps and familiarising yourself to make sure you fully understand all of the sequence. 

Step 1: Generate enough speed on your take off, and begin to eye your path towards the shoulder of the wave

Step 2: Begin a shallow bottom turn and transfer your weight to your back foot and place it near your tail kicker

Step 3: Get your body low and compressed and drive out and away from the curl

Step 4: Lean backwards and transfer your weight onto your heels

Step 5: Rotate your hips, open your leading arm, and head around as you extend your body into the turn

Step 6: Light pressure on your front foot and turn your head over your outside shoulder

Step 7: Allow your leading arm to guide you and control the extent of your cutback

Step 8: Lower your leading hand to help keep your trunk weight forward to bring the board around

Step 9: Extend your body out of the turn

Step 10: Maintain a weighted back leg, pressing on your backfoot toes to make the recovery easier


Backside cutback mistakes

X Bringing your leading arm across your body is going to leave you unstable 

X Trying to rotate your hips, while standing tall, wont engage the rail. What will happen is your upper body will rotate but your lower body will remain rigid

X To engage the fins you've got to stomp your foot right at the back of your tail pad (near the tail kicker). If your back foot is too far up, you simply won't be able to engage any rail

X Bad wave choice will equal poor execution 


Conclusion

Surf is fun. It’s also hard as hell. 

Between the hard work that’s required and the self doubt it produces, it can seem like an impossible task to see results.

But with the approach I’ve just outlined, you can create the perfect cutback that’ll impress any aspiring pro...

Imagine the validation and confidence you’ll feel knowing you have what it takes to move up to the next level.

You don’t just have to imagine it. You can make it real. All you have to do is take the next step.

Study the video. Follow the steps in this guide. And perform the best damn surfing cutback!

You can do this!

 Talk soon,

Loz

About the author 

Lauren Ringer

Hey, I'm Loz and I'm a former ex-professional surfer from Noosa Australia. I'm a qualified and certified Surf Instructor and Life Coach. My goal is too to help you to learn to surf and propel your surfing to the next level with confidence and with less fear. To share my knowledge to as many women as I can so everybody can experience the love of the ocean and the joy of surfing.

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