Once you’ve learned to stand up and stay upright on a surfboard, your next step is to learn how to turn on a surfboard so you can ride along the wave, instead of straight toward the shore. All accomplished surfers remember the first moment they got the hang of this turn, and now we’re going to get you to that moment too.
Going Down the Line
“Going down the line” is the technical term for riding along the face of the wave, not simply to the shore, staying just a little in front of the white water. This is where you want to practice – in the white water (closer to the beach) where it doesn’t matter which direction you ride, so you can get to grips with going down the line before you move further out and have to read the wave and get in the right position.
Step-by-Step: How to Turn on a Surfboard
So how do you learn to turn and go down the line?
- Well, the first thing you need to do is get to your feet quickly. Why? Because a white water wave comes up fast and gives you a big push, so if you take too long to get to your feet the board will already be slowing down by the time you’re upright. Then, another wave will come along and push you further toward the shore, meaning you will have missed the chance to attempt your turn.
- Look where you want to go. Decide which direction you are going to go in before you catch the wave. Look down the line, so as soon as you are on your feet you will be naturally angled toward the right direction – this is vital for your set up.
- Use the last step to lead your turn. You should think head, shoulders, hips to keep them aligned with your turn. Let your head lead and your shoulders and hips follow the line your eyes set. What you don’t want to do is throw your weight to the right or left in order to turn or think about your feet. If you come from skateboarding or snowboarding your instincts will be to shift your weight onto your toes or heels, but this causes most beginners to fall off. Instead, think head, shoulders, hips, or if you need to simplify it further look where you want to go and then lead with your chest, as this will help you shift your weight subconsciously just enough to turn.
- Stay over your board. In other words, don’t be so determined with your upper body that you don’t give your board time to turn with you. If you attempt your turn and find yourself bending over at the waist to keep your balance, this is your problem. Instead, allow your upper body to look down the line and allow your board to follow. Then, set your rail.
- Set your rail. Another common issue beginners have is that they continue to turn past where they should set their rail and fall off. You need to “set your rail”. Imagine there are two rails on either side of the fin. To continue riding down the line, you want to apply just a little weight to the rail closest to the wave to stay on it. Often, simply thinking about staying on that rail will be enough to subconsciously shift your weight, so imagine it as you ride down the line before you worry about applying any extra pressure to that side of your board, to see if that is enough.
- Once you’ve mastered this in one direction, make sure you also master the other direction. When you’ve got both down, you’ll be able to move in and out of the wave to let it build back up and move out the back to ride bigger waves.
Move Out Back
Once you’ve mastered this on the white water, you can graduate to out the back. Here, you’ll need to learn how to read waves to figure out what direction you need to go, then practice the steps you learned on the white water – you’ll soon have turning mastered!