June 3

How to Master The Perfect Surfing Bottom Turn (+ Examples)

How to Surf Tutorials

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John John Florence once wrote, “I think a good bottom turn really does set the pace for the whole wave”.

It’s of little wonder then why recreational surfers, coaches and pros use the bottom turn to fine-tune their surfing skills and brainstorm new ways to draw different lines on the waves face.

But what is a surfing bottom turn anyway?

How can it improve your surfing?

And how the heck do you perform one?

Let’s dive in and find out…


What is a bottom turn

The bottom turn is a manoeuvre performed at the trough (bottom) of the wave. Hence, it is called the bottom turn. 

It’s usually the first turn you perform after you have taken off on a wave.


Why is a surfing bottom turn important

All great surfing begins and ends with mastering your bottom turn. 

Why?

This trick is one of the most crucial and fundamental moves in surfing and is the key to every other manoeuvre you’ll perform. 

With the correct execution the bottom turn will improve all areas of your surfing.

From more speed through your turns to surfing the critical part of the wave. 

As Tom Curren states : “The bottom turns is where it all begins”.

Agreed.

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Bottom turn for beginners

A bottom turn for beginners is a little different to an intermediate level surfer.

Due to one key component...

Speed. 

When you are first learning this turn, you will begin by performing smaller bottom turns where you have only built up a minimal amount of speed.

As you begin to master the art of generating more speed you can accentuate your bottom turn. 

What this really means is, you’ll be able to perform more critical turns like snaps and airs ect. 

This will notably affect your ability to take off late and into steeper drops. 

In the beginning however, your bottom turn will be more shallow and allow you to execute your first cutbacks and softer white water rebounds.

Why speed is crucial for all bottom turns 

Once you have taken a wave, you ideally want to build up as much speed as possible. So you head down to the through of the wave. The bigger the drop down the wave, the more speed you will gain.

Once you reach the bottom of the wave, the wave will probably pass you by, or knock you off, if you do not turn to get back onto the face of the wave.

The speed at which you can go into the turn and the amount you lean into your turn will depend on your level of ability.


What is the difference between a deep and shallow bottom turn

The most common difference between a deep and shallow bottom turn is the where the surfer takes off. 

Why is this important? 

It’s all to do with drawing your line. 

A beginner surfer will favour a less steep take off (usually on the shoulder). This affects the angle in which the surfer enters the wave. 

The surfer will enter diagonally on the wave, therefore their bottom turn will be more shallow to be able to execute maneuvers like cutacks and roundhouses. 

More advanced surfers are able to take off on the peak of the breaking wave, this entry is more steep and vertical. 

In turn, this favours a deeper bottom turn with full commitment to be able to perform more critical maneuvers such as vertical snaps or tail slide ect. 

Instead of dropping and surfing diagonally, this time the surfer is dropping in vertically. 

This is usually a defining factor between an intermediate and advanced surfer.


How to bottom turn surfing; Frontside

Step 1: Ride to the bottom of the wave, where the wave goes flat.

Pro tip: Look down the line and decide which bottom turn will be best for the oncoming section:

Deep bottom turn = Snap, Re-entry

Shallow bottom turn = Roundhouse, Cutback

Step 2: Compress your body nice and low.

Step 3: Lean forward and place your weight on your toes (do not drag your toes in the water).

Step 4: Dig your rail and use your leading arm as a pivot, and hold for an extra second. Push all the weight through your legs to your toes to tilt the board.

Step 5: Turn your shoulders into the wave and look where you want to turn.

Step 6: Push with your back foot as you come off the bottom to steer the board.

Step 7: Keep your knees bent and drive up the wave's face using your speed through the transition.

Step 8: Rotate your hips and torso to follow the nose of the board.

Step 9: Extend all the way through your turn.


Surfing bottom turn mistakes

X Leaning too hard and falling off into the wave face.

X Leaning over without having enough speed. This will cause you to fall off.

X Grabbing a rail in the water (i.e. the water is holding the rail) resulting in you not being able to turn the board. This generally happens when you do not have enough speed or you put too much weight over your front foot.

X Going too far out in front of the wave before turning (losing speed). When you turn, you will come to a stop. The wave will catch up to you and knock you off your board.


Backside bottom turn

A backhand bottom turn, the surfer’s back faces the wave as he turns at the bottom.

There are a few subtle differences between a frontside and backside bottom turn. So be sure to read through the entire step by step guide. 

Step 1: Ride to the bottom of the wave, where the wave goes flat.

Pro tip: Look down the line and decide which bottom turn will be best for the oncoming section:

Deep bottom turn = Snap, Re-entry

Shallow bottom turn = Roundhouse, Cutback

Step 2: Compress your body nice and low.

Step 3: Lean backwards and place your weight on your heels 

Step 4: Place the leading hand into the water (use as a pivot) and hold this position for an extra second.

Step 5: Square your shoulders towards the direction you want to go

Step 6: Get the rail of your surfboard into the water, push all the weight through your legs to your heals to tilt the board.

Step 7: Push with your back foot as you come off the bottom to steer the board.

Step 8: Keep your knees bent and drive up the wave's face using your speed through the transition.

Step 9: Bring your back shoulder and point towards the part of the wave. you want to turn, simultaneously fully rotating your body 

Step 10: Extend all the way through your turn.


A good bottom turn pays

Can you make some serious improvements with your surfing by mastering the bottom turn?

You know it. 

It won’t happen overnight (for most of us, anyway).

But that’s okay!

Every time you go out there and practice - your muscle memory will improve. That means over time you’ll start to see some traction. 

And that’s really key here. 

Plan on trying a little harder each surf. Plan on allowing yourself to go one two steps back before your go forward. And, always plan on believing in yourself. 

Why not go out there after reading this, and give it a go?

Talk soon,

Loz

About the author 

Lauren Ringer

Loz is also a passionate life coach over at laurenringer.com and full-time wood nymph. She's a Gypset on a mission to cultivate a conscious lifestyle - by design.  When away from her laptop, you can find her, in the surf, hugging trees and philosophising whist sipping her chaga tea. 

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