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Basic surfing manoeuvres: bottom turns, cutbacks, and top turns

To become a proficient surfer, mastering basic surfing manoeuvres is essential. In this article, we will explore three fundamental manoeuvres that will help you improve your skills and take your surfing to the next level: bottom turns, cutbacks, and top turns.


Surfer performs a bottom turn on a peeling tropical wave


Bottom Turns

Bottom turns are the foundation of a surfer's repertoire. They are the key to generating speed and setting up for other manoeuvres down the line. A well-executed bottom turn allows you to harness the wave's energy and maintain control over your board.

Here's how to perform a bottom turn:

  1. Drop into the wave: Paddle into the wave and position yourself to catch it. Look down the line and choose the direction you want to go.
  2. Initiate the turn: As you start to angle down the face of the wave, lean into the wave with your front hand and engage your back foot, applying pressure on the inside rail of your board.
  3. Carve the turn: Pivot your board around the bottom of the wave by applying pressure on the inside rail. As you complete the turn, look towards where you want to go to set up for your next move.


surfer making a forehand cutback



Cutbacks are essential for changing direction on a wave and maintaining speed while doing so. This manoeuvre involves turning back toward the breaking part of the wave and then redirecting your board down the line. Cutbacks are excellent for showcasing style and flow.

Here's how to perform a cutback:

  1. Generate speed: After completing a bottom turn or while riding down the line, gather speed and approach the wave's shoulder.
  2. Initiate the cutback: As you reach the wave's shoulder, lean back on your back foot to pivot your board back towards the breaking part of the wave.
  3. Complete the turn: Once you've turned back toward the wave, pivot your board again in the direction you want to go, down the line. Use your rail to carve the turn, maintaining control and speed.


Surfer in action shot, speed top turn on fast ocean wave.


Top Turns

Top turns, also known as top-to-bottom surfing, involve redirecting your board vertically, often performed near the critical section of the wave. This manoeuvre showcases a surfer's ability to harness the wave's power and demonstrate control and style.

Here's how to perform a top turn:

  1. Approach the critical section: As you ride down the line, spot a section of the wave with potential for a top turn. Typically, this section will be steeper and offer a wall to work with.
  2. Initiate the turn: As you approach the section, shift your weight forward onto your front foot and engage the rail on your backhand (left rail if you're turning left, right rail if turning right).
  3. Pivot the board: Use your body and rail to pivot your board vertically, carving a turn that takes you up the face of the wave.
  4. Release and continue: Once you've reached the peak of the turn, release the pressure on your back foot, allowing the board to descend back down the wave. Complete the manoeuvre with style and control.

Catch the Wave with Slimes Newcastle - Your Ultimate Surfing Gear Destination

Mastering these basic surfing manoeuvres, including bottom turns, cutbacks, and top turns, will significantly enhance your surfing experience. These manoeuvres are the building blocks of more advanced tricks and manoeuvres. Remember, practice and patience are key to perfecting these skills. So, paddle out, catch some waves, and enjoy the art of surfing as you become one with the ocean. Stay safe and have fun riding the waves!

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