I cross step like Shrek. The guy you want to emulate is Noah Shimabukuro.That guy's smooth. Classy. No weird leg kick or crane pose heel hanging. Just smooth as silk walking- straight on up to the beak with a full wrap that punctuates the move with an exclamation point. That's the guy who should be explaining the basics of the cross step- but since the demands of roaming this water planet seeking out perfect surf have regretfully drawn him off to bluer pastures, I'll do the best I can with what I've got. Pretty much the story of my life.
I started cross stepping at Devereux Point in Santa Barbara when I was nineteen years old. I was a sophomore at U.C. Santa Barbara and Devereux was one of two right hand points we had within biking distance of the filthy Isla Vista box we called home. At nineteen I was getting into the nose walking game in the late innings. Make a run to spots like Old Man's at San-O or Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz and you'll see mini Lance Carsons ambulating stylishly to the nose at the ripe old age of eight! So please excuse me if I write something that's full of shitake- I'm still new to this game.
I remember my first step. That foot didn't want to move. I had to actively command it up off the deck of the flat-as-an-ironing-board Joe Quigg. I instantly pearled, flew off the board and just missed being scalped by the pin wheeling tailblock of that early 60's plank. This, and subsequent cross stepping meltdowns, led me to a couple of essential cross stepping realizations:
1. There is a specific place on a wave that calls for a move to the nose. That place is steep and fast and the move is functional- it brings the board into trim and accelerates you through a zippy section. Cross stepping doesn't occur in a vacuum, it's tied in to the big picture- you've got to know what the wave's doing and where you are on it. Which leads us to the next item...
2. Board placement is crucial. Putting your board in the right spot on the wave is the key element of setting up the cross step. You should have very good board control. Small, quick turns and stalls that are almost imperceptible to the eye allow accomplished cross steppers to move forward seemingly effortlessly. Work on moving your board before you work on walking the nose.
3. Be able to wait. Patience is key, if you've put the board into the right spot by whipping a quick turn from the tail, the board will begin to stall. You've got to have enough experience to wait on it; it will call for a move forward. You may even feel yourself consciously leaning forward as you try to get your weight over the nose- this is the moment to move your feet forward.
3. Practice the move. Get your mind to wrap around the idea that you're going to move your foot. Train your brain by lifting your foot up just a few inches and setting it back down. Then move on to lifting it, crossing it over your other foot, tapping the deck and then returning it to its original position.
4. Move decisively. Once you've got the lift and tap, you've got to pull it all together. Get your board into that tight, steep part of the wave. Wait for it to begin to stall then make your move. Lift, cross... and don't stop... cross over again so that you are back in your normal surf stance. Think of it as a double tap- a two step with almost no pause in the middle. You should now be well forward of where you started, with your normal foot forward, rocketing through a steep section in full trim. If you've done it right your board will squirt forward like a wet bar of soap.
I've got some serious quirks in my cross step- my toes stick out weird, I can't seem to ever make it to the last six inches to the nose and I pound the deck on the way forward. Like Shrek, remember? The one central truth about the cross step is that it's only developed through serious water time; it's a move based more on feeling than technique. So get out there and wobble on up to the nose, cross all goofied up, pay your dues now- and laugh the whole way- just like those eight year old nose riding maestros- damn them!