November 3rd, 2011
When Phil Edwards, the greatest master from the early ‘60s, first began using the rail in a radical way, it created a sensation in the established surfing society of the time. Among the very early stylists to lay it over on the rail, Edwards was quickly emulated by every young surfer worth his saltwater.
But it was Barry Kanaiaupuni at Sunset that set the standard for bottom turns in the early ‘70s with his impossibly late drops with the lip coming over. Freefalling down the face to the bottom, when everyone else was screaming ‘turn!, turn!,’ Barry would hang for a moment, and then fade.
A second later with all the g-force loaded up on edge, he would bury the rail to the stringer, front arm and nose projecting like double tips of a spear, and slingshot out into the big open face. For a generation of young surfers it was a marvel to behold. It would be nearly a decade before a future three-time world champion named Tommy Curren would again raise the bar on bottom turns.
Unless you’ve succumbed to the allure of late drops and free falls into ridiculously round pits, everything from fading, carving, top-turning and stalling is centered around your ability to take it off the bottom. While not given due credit, it could be the singular most important maneuver in your arsenal. Need proof? Watch a few waves of Andy Irons at Pipe, or Kelly Slater at J-Bay, or Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning at Snapper, or Tom Curren anywhere.
The bottom turn is where it all begins, Curren once said, it’s the foundation for the rest of your repertoire. Plain and simple, if you’re not pushing hard off of the bottom, ripping full-on, rail-grab speed turns off the top isn’t even in the realm of possibility. Be it projecting into an oncoming tube section, driving down the line or ensuring you stay as close to the pocket as possible, it all begins at the bottom.
Turn and burn - how to make every good turn deserve another
Step one is to drop down the wave face with all the speed you can. While important for any maneuver, speed is essential in a bottom turn. To get maximum velocity, take off as steep and late as possible while still being able to make the first section (Not only does this give you maximum speed, it also ensures your wave priority, guaranteeing a best-case scenario for the ride).
Bottom turn timing sets up the rhythm of the whole rest of the ride. The simple secret is to hit the turn at the moment of maximum speed, says Shane Dorian: It’s easy to say, but takes a thousand practice runs to perfect. And on the subject of practicing, any wave offers you an opportunity to rehearse a bottom turn. If it’s a closeout, try timing when the wave shuts down and use the speed to feel the move. Lifelong surfer and lifeguard Rich Chew says he used to go out after school and do a hundred bottom turns just to get the one move down. And he became the Men’s U.S. Champion a year later.
Often it is advantageous to stay in the squat position you are in as you leap to your feet on the take-off. Remaining in a crouch on the drop reduces wind resistance, helps keep your balance and provides a critical element to the bottom turn: the spring/drive/thrust of your lower body. Any shot of Tommy Curren, Kelly Slater or Mick Fanning will most likely show a low center of gravity, legs bent tightly, like a well-coiled spring. The speed, power and control these surfers get out of their initial turn provide the basis for everything that comes after.
4. FOOT PLACEMENT
Finding the right spot on your board takes some experimenting as you go, but once you find the ‘sweet spot,’ your confidence will soar. Keep your feet centered over your stringer. You can use it as a line almost like actors use marks on the floor to position themselves for their parts. If your toes are hanging off the rail, you’ll be alright on the frontside rail turn, but as you reverse to the heelside rail you’ll be totally off balance. If you get your weight too far forward, your nose will tend to catch; plus the chest area of the board tends to be the thickest spot, and the most likely to bog down. If you have trouble with finding the right spot for your back foot, a pad placed perfectly in the right spot can give you the instant touch you may need.
5. WEIGHTING AND UN-WEIGHTING
Without powerful commitment on a bottom turn, there’s not much chance things are going to improve from there. 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. But keep in mind if your weight is too far forward, you’ll most likely dig a rail. From the start of the maneuver, hold your back-foot pressure throughout your turn, and then transfer your weight a little more to the front foot toward the end of the turn. You may even feel your board want to slide. This usually means you’ve transferred too much front-foot pressure. Keep your weight too far back, or completely over your fins and you’re likely to spin out. Find the balance point by evenly distributing your weight.
6. PUMP AND DROP
If the wave is walled up on the first section, throw down a few pumps before you drop down the face to turn, so that you get across the walled face and don’t get caught behind the section. Be careful not to lean too hard because you will bury your front rail under water, catch an edge, lose your speed, and faceplant. A fast down-the-line turn like this means putting hard pressure on your rail and then quickly releasing so that the board’s forward momentum continues without deep rail resistance. Think distance, not power.
7. BODY MECHANICS
One of the most important mechanics to remember is the torso rotation on the frontside bottom turn, says Brad Gerlach. Your leading arm and chest needs to pivot parallel to the board. The solar plexus needs to face towards the stringer of your board just before making the turn.
This post was taken from Surfing The Manual: Advanced by Jim Kempton.