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PSCo. Tutorials: Frontside + Backside Surfing

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Progressing into the realm of surfing the coveted green wave. Your world opens up to the potential of becoming an ambi-turner. That is, someone who can go both left and right on a breaking wave.

Our last tutorial looked at the basics of turning your surfboard. Consider this an extension of that lesson, as we will now look at the two directions we turn those boards: frontside and backside. A.k.a forehand and backhand, A.k.a toe -side and heel-side.

(Photo by Cristina Gareau)

Practice your stance

Your stance in relation to the wave determines whether it is frontside or backside. So, to goofy footers (Right foot forward), a wave that breaks left is frontside, and a right, is a backside wave. Vice versa for Regular footers (Left foot forward).

Get comfortable going both ways

It is common for surfers starting out to focus on frontside surfing, as this can often feel more intuitive. Our body is oriented toward the wave, and we can naturally sense it more with our toes engaged on the inside rail. That’s the rail of the surfboard that is engaged on the wave when you turn in that direction.

In backside surfing, seeing more of the wave means looking over your shoulder. 

(Photo by Cristina Gareau)

We must learn to relax that leading shoulder, allowing it to drop, and rotate our body to face. If we do not fully commit to that opening up, then surfing backside can feel awkward and confined. We risk becoming biased to frontside waves, passing up a perfectly good backside wave. We’ve all done it!

Similarly, for those who are more comfortable backside surfing, change it up by catching a bunch of frontside waves. Ask yourself at what point you fall or feel less comfortable in that direction.

(Photo by Cristina Gareau)

Heel and Toe control

One of the biggest differences between frontside and backside surfing lies in the difference between heel and toe contact on the surfboard. Understanding your board in terms of its heel-side and toe-side rails will be useful here. During a turn, one side of your board is engaging in the wave, while the other is out of the water due to the tilt of the board. 

Getting comfortable with this weight transition from heel to toe, and learning to open up the body to whatever direction the wave is going, will help you create a solid foundation to have fun in all kinds of waves. Practice this transition as much as you can, even when the wave has closed out and you are surfing toward the beach in a straight line. 

(Photo by Kait Rogers)

You can always play around with engaging the heel-side or toe-side rail in a turning motion, no matter how big the wave, as long as you have speed!

Thanks for reading! If you have been following along with us for a while now, you might have noticed that our tutorials are getting a bit more technical. We are stoked to be getting into the more detailed aspects of surf technique, as over 5 years of writing this blog, we have covered some great fundamental techniques to build upon.

 If you are new to this blog, check out our previous tutorials to familiarise yourself. We’re stoked to have you along, progressing your surfing with us!

Blog written by Adam Tory

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