Bottom turns are one of the most basic, yet often overlooked, aspects of surfing. A good bottom turn sets the pace for the rest of the wave and projects you into sections with enough speed to kill a Hell’s Angel. A bad bottom turn, whether it’s digging a rail or turning off the bottom too late, ruins everything right off the bat. There’re four keys to a successful bottom turn: speed, positioning, foot placement, and weight distribution. Read on Rick Kane.
Speed: While necessary for any maneuver, speed is critical in a bottom turn. If you’re not hauling ass, you run the risk of having the wave leave you in its wake and/or falling on your face. To get maximum velocity, throw down a few pumps before you drop down the face to turn-that’ll get you going. See the spray coming off Tanner Gudauskas’ outside rail? That shows you he’s really moving.
Positioning: The point of a bottom turn is to project yourself into an oncoming section with enough speed to do anything you want. If you want to pull out, position yourself more toward the shoulder and you’ll do an awesome flyaway kickout. If you want to get barreled, position yourself closer to the breaking part of the wave, and delay your turn until it looks like the wave is going to pass you up. At the last second, jam that turn and get shacked.
Foot Placement: Keep your feet centered over your stringer. If your toes are hanging off the rail, you may be able to do a bottom turn, but when you want to snap off the top you’ll be hopelessly out of place. Don’t put your back foot too far back or you may lose control and spin out. Too far forward and you’ll have a tough time turning your board once you come out of the bottom turn. Find that sweet spot!
Weight Distribution: This is another critical aspect of the frontside bottom turn. If you pussy-foot around on a bottom turn, only bad things can happen. Remember: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means the harder you push, the more projection you’ll get from the turn. Stomp that shit! But keep in mind, if your weight is too far forward, you’ll most likely dig a rail. Keep your weight completely over your fins and you’re asking to spin out. Find the happy medium by evenly distributing your weight.
Caption: A textbook frontside bottom turn courtesy of Tanner Gudauskas.
EXTRA: Any wave offers up an opportunity to practice a bottom turn. If it’s a closeout, try one when the wave shuts down and use the speed to smoothly escape under the whitewash. It’s also a good idea to keep your knees bent to absorb any shockwaves or bumps in the face.