Surfing is one of the coolest sports in the world, but it’s also very difficult despite the fairly relaxed culture of surfing.
If you’ve learned how to pop up and are comfortable standing on the board, the next thing to learn is how to turn, so that you can ride along the wave more easily and start to extend the amount of time you actually spend surfing the wave itself.
Most beginner surfers start by simply riding straight towards the shore, and while this is a perfectly valid way to surf, learning to turn and run along the length of the wave will vastly improve the amount of time you spend actually surfing and make it much easier to stay out in the water, reducing the time you spend paddling back out to the waves.
In this guide we’re going to provide you with a step by step guide on how to turn on a surfboard, with a focus on beginners as well as some helpful tips to get you surfing with confidence and skill.
But without further introduction, let’s take a look at the steps themselves and get you ready to carve!
The Steps to Follow
- Pop up quickly – It’s important to get to your feet quickly once you decide you’re going, as waves move quickly and if you don’t commit fully you’ll potentially miss the wave entirely or end up trying to stand too late which can cause you to fall off the board.
Ideally you want to catch the wave right on the white water where it provides maximum force for you, which will help propel you and provide the momentum you need to actually ride the wave.
Riding the wave horizontally along its width is known in surfing as ‘going down the line’ and if you don’t pop up quickly you will miss your chance!
- Make sure you pay attention to where you’re going and actually look where you want to move. Ideally you should pick the direction you want to surf before you start and should have orientated yourself in such a way as to make surfing in this direction as easy as possible.
Being able to read how the waves are breaking can make this easier but this is a skill that comes with time and practice, so don’t panic if you’re a little out of position.
Once you’ve popped up and are riding the beginning of the wave, look down the line you want to travel and try to keep the board pointing in this direction by not moving your weight around too much, other than to keep your balance.
- Lead into your turn by using your head, shoulders and hips to influence your weight and to turn the board. Keep them aligned to maximise their effect on your direction and allow them to line up with where you’re looking down the wave.
It’s important not to throw your weight around too much or lean too heavily using your feet as this will most often result in you wiping out entirely as a beginner.
Look where you’re going and try to point yourself towards it using your chest as this will help naturally turn your weight and the board where it needs to go.
- Pay attention to your board and make sure you stay firmly planted on it. Don’t get too distracted by moving your upper body that you forget about paying attention to the feel of the board. Use your legs to stay balanced without bending too much at the knee or hip.
If you’re finding yourself bending forward too much or leaning back too far you’re forcing things too much and need to ease off, allow yourself to ‘look’ where you need to go, point your chest towards it and allow yourself to naturally find the right direction.
- Setting the rail comes next and while it sounds fancy, this is really just how surfers keep track of where their weight needs to be while they’re surfing down the line.
It’s called this because it can help beginners to imagine that their fins are attached to rails and that these rails are heading down the line of the wave.
To be able to stay on the board and turn down the wave successfully, simply apply a little more weight to the inside edge of the rail and this should offset your movement and momentum enough to keep you moving down the line without falling or getting sent off course.
- Practice learning how to do this on both sides, as surfers need to be able to do this in multiple directions according to how the surf is coming in.
Only mastering one direction will limit how many waves you can hit and this will make for a really bad time while your friends are crushing multiple waves.
- Build up slowly! Start on smaller waves and gradually increase the size of the waves you hit to improve your confidence and develop your sense of balance.
- Don’t lean too far forward or back as this type of dramatic move is nearly impossible to correct and nearly always too heavy a movement for beginners to control. Focus on steady, gradual turning and steady movements on the board, shifting your weight slowly.
- Don’t put your weight onto your back foot, as this will slow you down in surfing and to turn you need speed! Use a dab of weight on the front foot to gain a little speed if you’re struggling to catch the waves, but don’t overcook this as you’re likely to catch in the water and wipe out completely if you put too much weight on the front foot!