Thursday, January 6, 2011

How I do it: Frontside top turn

Reader James wrote to ask about how I complete a frontside top turn. Specifically, James wanted to know how to bring the board back down once you'd thrown it all up into the lip. Here's how I do it:

Once again, if you're going to go up in the lip, you need to develop speed off the bottom. Check out my shoulders as I push through this bottom turn. Notice how my left shoulder is pushing toward the front of my board? Too often, beginners make the mistake of trying to ankle-turn a board off the bottom. You can't generate any torque and power off the board's fins and rail if you're just leaning it over- especially on a smaller wave like this. Instead, wind up your upper body like a spring- that left shoulder is forward but as I push with my legs through the turn I will also swing that left shoulder back- my body is like a giant spring uncoiling, driving the board through the turn and picking up speed. The Golden Rule of looking where you want to go is also in effect here, my eyes are looking down the line.
Alright, full disclaimer: This photo is from a different wave, I'm using it because it's the best I've got a make a point. This shot is from directly after you've uncoiled off the bottom. Notice how the board is no longer leaned over on its rail? This is when the transition from inside rail (the rail buried on the bottom turn) to outside rail (the rail that will be buried in the lip- in this case starboard rail) starts to happen. Things happen very quickly at this point. First of all, you've looked at where you want to hit the lip. A big mistake here is to continue to stare at that point- remember, where you look is where you'll go. If you continue to stare at the lip you'll go up into it and by then won't be able to come back down because you're now gliding out the back. Additionally, if you really want to crack that thing at speed, you want to begin the arc of your top turn now so that the apex of the turn will intersect with the falling lip. The big thing to remember is that as soon as you unweight out of the bottom turn, start to think about looking to where you want to finish the turn. Do this and you will always come down out of the lip.
Okay, the top of my board is starting to hit the lip. A couple of big things to think about in this shot: First, notice how you can see the entire top surface of my board? That's because I've turned the board so that the bottom of the board is hitting the lip- this is important. Many beginners don't flatten out the board into the lip- the lip should smack the bottom of your board and not your inside rail. Second, notice how my shoulders are starting to twist in the direction of the turn? And finally, I'm looking where I want to go... again this last point is the most important one. Look where you want to come down and you will go there... get it?
Here's the next frame, notice how my weight is over my front foot? You can actually see my rear foot up off the deck. I'm also leaning way forward- everything is moving forward with the flow of the turn. Okay, now for some personal criticism of my turn. Check out the position of my paddle in this and the previous frames. I'm holding the paddle in what I like to call the "Tall Flag" position- the paddle is straight up in the air like a flag wagging around. I think that's a bad style- the turn would look much better if the blade was lower closer to waist level and if my left shoulder was pushing through the turn a bit more. All these points are things I think about before I paddle out- practice makes perfect.
The recovery. In this frame I'm starting to fall back into the wave. Actually, I remember this wave- the water is only about a foot deep just inside of that line of whitewater and the bottom is barnacle covered cobblestone. After I hit the lip and spotted where I was going to land, I lost my nerve and tried to side slip back down onto the face- I was looking for a little bit more water between my fins and the rocks below. That's why my board is pointing down the line and not straight back down into the trough of the wave. It ended up working out alright and I pulled the turn but this just illustrates that there are thousands of variations on this turn.

There you go James! I hope this helps- now go put on your 10 mm wetsuit and go practice!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this! I definitely learned a lot from your post, and I really appreciated how it focused on the shoulders and weight transfer. I've read a bunch of articles about this move, and most of them focus on the paddle (this one for example: ) I think they assume that you know what you should be doing with your shoulders, feet, etc., but since I am new to surfing as well as SUP I needed help with all aspects of the turn. Your tips will be forefront in my mind as I put on my 5/4/3 suit to tackle the 39 degree New Jersey surf... Here's a quick question for you: I SUP on a short board (8.5 feet) with a three-fin set up. Should I be moving my back foot from rail to rail as I finish my frontside turn and prepare to hit the lip? Or is it enough to work with the shoulders and the coiled torque of the torso? I don't think your back foot moves in the pictures, but I just wanted to make sure. Cheers! --james