Step by Step: Mastering the Art of the Backside Bottom Turn

Chris Lisanti pulling a hard backside bottom turn to set up for a barrel. Photo: John Lyman

Chris Lisanti pulling a hard backside bottom turn to set up for a barrel. Photo: John Lyman

Backside surfing is the proverbial double edged sword.  Those who have it mastered are either goofy foots living in the northern hemisphere, regular foots living in the southern hemisphere (though I feel as if regular foots always find a way to go right no matter where they surf) or the elite class of surfers in general.  Everyone in the sport respects a surfer with a strong backside.  The names Mark “Occy” Occhilupo, CJ Hobgood, Andy Irons, Kelly Slater, just to name a few, are all masters of backside surfing.   It’s the corner stone to solid surfing.  Ultimately the ability to go both left and right without care should be every surfer’s end goal.

I am always astounded when a fellow surfer tells me he/she has difficulty surfing backside.  Usually it is one who has been surfing for years who makes such a statement.  For me being a goofy foot born and bred in the mainly right dominated beach break of northern New Jersey, backside surfing was never a consideration, but just another instinct like breathing.  It seems that regular foots will almost always take a right over a left if they can find one, while a goofy will take a right over left at times.

Stance aside, backside surfing is a necessary evil if one is to truly enjoy the sport of surfing.  Personally I almost find it more enjoyable to have my back against the wall.  If you don’t believe me I freely chose to live in Santa Barbara California where there is literally a right point break every five miles throughout the county.  Surfing backside allows me in many cases to fit better into the barrel and draw that picturesque backside bottom turn.  The backside bottom turn may be one of the most ascetic yet highly functional moves in surfing.  When a surfer drops into a big clean open face of a wave and leans into that first turn on his/her backside it is poetry in motion.

Rincon Point, Santa Barbara.  If your a goofy foot then your backhand better be in tune. Photo: Chris Lisanti

Rincon Point, Santa Barbara. If you are a goofy foot then your backhand better be in tune. Photo: Chris Lisanti

I thought I would take a moment and shed some light on one of the most basic, yet essential maneuvers in surfing, the backside bottom turn.  I have spent years working on my own personal form (I am still at it) and mentoring other surfers on this subject as well.  If your struggling with your backside surfing or just want to get a better understanding of the methodical side of performance surfing I implore to take a minute and give your backside bottom turn a second look.  “A wise man knows that he knows nothing at all”.

The key to a solid backside bottom turn is a surfer’s ability to get as far out in front of the wave as he/she possibly can.  When I say this I do not mean in terms of down the line.  I literally mean in front of the wave.  The further out in the flats one can get the more torque he/she can pull from the raw power of the actual trough of the wave.  Of course there is a  fine line  to how far you can come out.  One has to consider the size and speed of the wave and even at times the type of break one is surfing will help dictate this as well.  Obviously a surfer can draw a way longer bottom turn at a perfect point break such as Rincon, then at a fast moving beach break like Silver Strand.  One can also do a larger bottom turn on an overhead wave verses a knee high mush burger. In the following sequence I have broken down the backside bottom turn into three easy steps.

Step One: Square your body with the wave.

Chris Lisanti, squaring off with the wave. Photo: Heather Rayburn

Chris Lisanti, squaring off with the wave. Photo: Heather Rayburn

I am not going to go through the act of standing up and setting yourself up to get to the point shown in the above photo.  That is a very basic lesson that if you have not mastered then this lesson is a bit over your head.  Here I have already began to set up for my bottom turn.  My weight is centered in the middle of my board to my back foot.  At this point I have successfully made the drop to the bottom of the wave and am about to start my bottom turn.  In order to do this have a look at my back knee, it is bent down and forward.  This minute motion will allow me to begin to pull my board and body back up the face of the wave.  My butt is back toward the face of the wave as well.  This position should look almost like you are sitting on the edge of the chair.  My shoulders are squared back to the face of the wave and my eyes are looking up at the lip, the end goal of the maneuver.

WaterBacksideTurn

A close up of step one, note the sitting in a chair like posture. Photo David Molleck

Step 2: Pulling yourself back up the face of the wave.

BottomTurnStep2

Here I am pulling my weight back up the face of the wave. Photo: Heather Rayburn

At this point I have already shifted all my weight to the back of my board and my back foot.  I am torquing my entire body back to the face of the wave.  This motion has allowed the nose of my board to begin to turn back toward the face of the wave.  Since this is a smaller wave and at a beach break my bottom turn is happening just at the trough of the wave, rather then all the way out in the flats.  Had I been surfing a point I would have had the luxury of drawing this turn out a little longer.  The top half of my body from the waist up is completely turned toward the wave face and the bottom half of my body is just about ready to follow suit.  A solid bottom turn can be indicated by the size of the wake coming off of your board.

Step 3: Complete the turn.

The backside bottom turn completed correctly you should find yourself back at the top of the wave. Photo: Heather Rayburn

The backside bottom turn completed correctly you should find yourself back at the top of the wave. Photo: Heather Rayburn

Finally the culmination of steps one and two have brought us back to the top of the wave.  At this point all momentum is moving towards the lip of the wave and I am ready to start my top turn. I have straightened out both my back and my legs poised and ready to counteract the cascading lip.  As you can see my wake has made an “L” shape showing the distance I have traveled.  This backside bottom turn is a bit on the extreme side.  A standard bottom turn will just put you comfortably back in the pocket of the wave or on top depending on where you want to be.  There are a many variations but they  all are performed with these three simple steps.  If you are trying to bottom turn into the barrel then just counteract the turn as soon as you get to the bottom of the wave and this will stall your board allowing for a stylish tube entry.  If you want to just have a mellow lip ride counter act the turn mid face.  If you want to throw up a tail free reo then do not counteract the turn until your nose has come above the lip.

Here is our sequence in its entirety all the way through the top turn, but that will have to be for your next lesson. Note at the end of the sequence I am poised and ready for my next backside bottom turn. Happy surfing!

Your backside bottom turn from start to finish. Photo: Heather Rayburn

Your backside bottom turn from start to finish. Photo: Heather Rayburn

The following two tabs change content below.

Chris Lisanti

Chris Lisanti grew up surfing on the Jersey Shore where a life long passion for the ocean was sparked. Since adolescence he has experienced every facet of surfing from a competitive professional, to a promotional free surfer. He has spent time working at the retail level and as an industry insider. By and by he has never lost sight of the true meaning and stoke of surfing. Chris currently lives in Santa Barbara California where he works as a chef and manages to surf nearly every single day no matter the conditions. You can enjoy more of his writings on his blog SurfingRuinedMyLife.net for an autobiographical satire of his own surfing life.

Latest posts by Chris Lisanti (see all)

Comments

comments

No comments.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.