Surf Training-Learning to Count to 1

The importance of a good bottom turn

Why Count to 1?

Ever watch Mick Fanning or Kelly Slater surf? What makes Kelly or Mick so good in your average beach break and the average surfer so hit and miss? Well, there are several things that stand out right off the bat and that is manuevers, positioning, and most apparent is the speed and flow these top surfers generate. With out the speed that they create, they would not be able to pull of the big manuevers that gives them the “Wow Factor” that the average surfer can not create.

First off, a surfer has to understand how to create speed and that means that a surfer has to understand what mindset he should be in. If you have skating experience on ramps, then you will have an excellent foundation on how to ride a wave. When you drop in on a ramp, you compress as you drop down the face of the ramp and at the bottom you raise your body to get a burst of speed up the other side of the ramp. Well, a wave is a moving ramp in a sense. When you drop in, your body is compressed and at the bottom you lift up to get speed and then ride back to the top of the wave to drop down again and get speed.

I’ve Dropped In but I Can’t Get Up!

So what makes Mick Fanning go so fast and what makes the average surfer get caught behind sections? The next time you are surfing, watch the surfers around you. You see a lot of people twisting their bodies, hopping their boards, and putting in a lot of effort but the end result is somewhere around 5000 calories less than the wasted effort that they are putting in. Hopping on your board does not always equal speed. In fact, there are several things that kill a surfers ability to gain Mick Fanning like speed.

What Kills Speed?

There are several factors that kill the potential to gain speed on a wave. They include:

  1. The wrong equipment. A poorly shaped board, the wrong board for the surfer, or the wrong board for the conditions can kill the surfers chance to gain speed. If you weigh 2oo pounds and you are 6 foot 2 inches tall, a 5’6″ shortboard is not the board for you.
  2. Poor body mechanics. In a previous post about doing cutbacks, I mentioned the proper way to torque your body and getting a “T” shape to your upper body. Some surfers do not lift their arms up enough when trying to get around sections or when pumping so their board stays low in the wave. What did I say before? The wave is a moving hill so you have to get high on the face to get speed on the way back down. If you are tracking across the bottom, you will never gain any speed.
  3. Cutting your turns short. This is perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of surfing and this is where my tip will come in handy. This concept will also dramatically change your surfing and allow you to go from a fish killing barney to a surfer who is gaining speed and doing turns instead of watching the wave peel on by.

Why Full Turns Make You Go Faster

Everyone is guilty of occasionally cutting a turn short but the average surfer does this frequently. When a surfer does a snappy turn for instance, a common mistake is to try to gain control of the board during the drifting portion of the turn and then force the board back down the line in a whipping turn. By doing this, the surfer is making a mistake that is detrimental. Simply put, the surfer is taking away his down the line momentum during the turn because when they stop the board during the sliding portion, they are now taking away what is going to give them speed in the end and that is coming back down the face.  When the surfer stops the slide early and redirects his board, the surfer is literally going down the line with very little speed. If you watch Kelly, he snaps the board and lets the board slide around until the board wants to come around. His nose should now be higher than the tail and when the board comes around naturally, he then regains control of the board and instead of riding down the line, he heads to the bottom of the wave to soak up every ounce of speed he can gain. Once he is out on the flats, he can redirect back to the top of the wave which will give him speed. So the most critical aspect of all of this is that it is not hopping up and down that gives you the speed, it is the proper body movements coupled with full top to bottom turns. So where you turn off the top is just as important as where you turn at the bottom of the wave.

How To Get a Full Turn

This is where the title of my post finally comes into play in your strategy to get a great ride. The next day you are out surfing, instead of trying to pump like a mad man down the line, try this instead. As you drop in, think of the keyword, “set”. That means you are going to just drop in and gain your composure. Look down the line and look at the wave and not your board. Lift both of your arms up in one motion until your upper body is in the “T” shape. For dropping in, you literally do not need to have both arms out like a cross…it is more important that your arms are above your chest level. Then comes the important part, that is when you get to the bottom of the wave and then go into your bottom turn stance which should be low to the board and say “1”. Once you have said “1” to yourself, find the spot where you want to hit and spring your body upwards once again lifting your upper body like a spring and aim for that spot. By saying one, you will allow yourself to be further out on the flats and you will hold your rail for that much longer which will give you a more vertical path into the lip. Your friends will hoot because you are now surfing like Tom Curren.

This applies for any turn during the wave. When you snap off the whitewater for example on a cutback and you are aiming down the line, once you have worked your way up the wave face, you look down the line and see what is available and if the wave ahead is either steep or getting steep, you then aim more to the beach and thrust downward, raise your arms as you are reaching the bottom area, compress, count to “1”, and belt the lip again.

Remember, you have to frequently check the wave ahead of you but your main zone of  concentration will be on the zone around where you are currently riding and not focusing two miles down the line. If it is starting to throw out in your zone, then going into a long drawn out bottom turn might not be the best idea. Instead your better choice would be to get around the section and aim for a turn in the next section. You have to be quick on your feet in a beach break and able to change things up at a moments notice.

Right at the edge of the breaking lip.

Example From the Pictures

From the first two shots, I want to point out a few things. In the first picture I am at the bottom and staying low but notice where I am looking. I am looking at a ridge on the face of the wave. Where I took off, the wave is bending back so going straight up there will only make me hang up but down the line there is a ridge where the two sections are coming together. In the second picture, you can see that once again I am looking at the section and not my board. The bottom turn placed me right at the edge of the breaking lip and not way down the line. Full speed ahead!

About 1stpeaksteve

Welcome to The Side Wedge! The Side Wedge is a product of the journey through life of Steve Zima. Former professional surfer, a writer, surf coach, and hospitality manager. This is a collection of travel tips, motivation, and stories from my past. Finally, I offer surf coaching through The Side Wedge. Please feel free to contact me with questions if you want to improve your performance today! Thanks for reading!
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2 Responses to Surf Training-Learning to Count to 1

  1. Elvin Zapata says:

    Yoo steeeeve! are you the same steve from only surf erie surfboards?? I’ve met you many times in the water I think! Thanks for the trick-tips mang! I plan on using them on thursday morning session! wooooot!

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