When performed by an expert, surfing can look like a dance, a series of graceful maneuvers combining strength, balance and agility. To the untrained eye these movements look like a single fluid progression, but, in fact, are a sequence of unique maneuvers, each one learned and mastered by the surfer, and then combined to produce the act of surfing. Let’s take a look at some of these maneuvers.
Basic Surfing Maneuvers
The first movement in surfing is the “take-off”, the process of successfully catching a wave by paddling into it and jumping to your feet. For obvious reasons, no other maneuver can be attempted until the take-off can be performed routinely.
Once the surfer is up and riding with confidence, the next challenge is to keep the ride going for as long as possible. To accomplish this, the first maneuver most surfers learn is the “bottom turn”, a turn executed at the bottom of a wave after dropping down its face. This delivers the surfer back up the face of the wave for more energy and a longer ride.
When the surfer performs a series of rapidly executed bottom turns up, resulting in a rapid ride up and down the face of the wave for the purpose of gaining speed, it’s called “pumping”.
A turn executed on the shoulder of the wave that delivers the surfer back towards the breaking part of the wave is called a “cut-back” and is the maneuver most surfers learn next.
When the ride is over and the surfer turns out of the wave to slow down and stop, it’s called “kicking out”.
Advanced Surfing Maneuvers
Once the surfer can sustain a ride by these maneuvers the next challenge is to learn higher grade maneuvers like “turning off the lip” where the board is turned at the very peak of the wave.
The “rail grab” is another advanced trick in which the surfboard’s rail is grabbed with the back hand while riding.
“Cross-stepping” is when the surfer steps forward or back on the board. Once the surfer can move around on a long board while riding, he can attempt to “hang five”, placing one foot or five toes on the very nose of the board.
Once a surfer can hang five, the next logical step is to “hang ten”, placing both feet or ten toes on the nose of the board, also called “nose riding”.
The “helicopter” is an advanced long boarding maneuver in which the board is spun around from the nose and the surfer is briefly riding backwards on the board.
A surfer who has mastered all of these maneuvers is ready to begin “shredding”. Shredding is the performance of high-grade maneuvers and is the stock-in-trade of world class surfers. Many of these maneuvers involve aerials in which the surfer launches off the crest of a wave, performs some trick in the air, and then lands to continue the ride.
A “front air reverse” is a leap off of a wave, a twist in the air, and then landing nose first into the wave. An “aerial barrel roll” is a 360 degree twist in the air. A “rodeo clown” is a flip while holding onto the rails of the board.
The art of surfing is really just the stringing together of a series of maneuvers. Your progress as a surfer can be charted by your mastery of these maneuvers. By taking them one at a time, mastering each in turn, you can climb the ladder to being an expert surfer.