Being videoed surfing, backside bottom turns, and other atrocities



I recently took a surf lesson because, well, I needed it.  The instructor videoed me and then we analyzed the footage.  He started off by telling me everything that was wrong with my surfing.  This bit took quite some time…

The feedback given to me went something like this…

“your pop up looks like someone trying to park a Citroen estate with a broken clutch, your stance brings to mind the string puppet milkmaid in the Von Trapp family production of The Lonely Goatherd, your bottom turn doesn’t exist, and your top turn looks like you’re having a fight with an invisible man, and your paddling is like those men who wave ping pong bats on airport runways”

All in all it was a very pleasant experience.  No really, it was the best surf lesson I ever took.

Of all the tips I was given that day the one that helped me the most was to do with the backside bottom turn.  I thought I would share it with you because it might help you too.  Some surfers (and for that read the good ones) already do this, probably instinctively without even thinking about it.  But I learnt to surf as an adult and often my instincts are wrong.  So I’ll start with a photo of me doing a backside bottom turn incorrectly….

Helen backside wrong

I used to really like that photo, despite the jazz hands and the knowledge that I fell off into the wave exactly 0.00001 seconds after the photo was taken. My leading arm is reaching down almost touching the wave face because I wanted to create a low rotational pivot point in order to swing around it.  Now I’m changing all that because the instructor told me that when I project out of a backside bottom turn I need to lift my leading arm up and keep my trailing arm down.  So basically the opposite of what my arms are doing in the photo above.  “But” I squeaked, “I’ve seen lots of pro surfers touching the wave with their leading arm when doing a backside bottom turn”.   “Yes” he sighed wearily, “that’s true, but you are not at that level, so worry more about lifting that arm”.

Suitably admonished, I was still somewhat skeptical about this.  But I tried it out … and yep, it works.  The board flies up the wave, you feel like you’re directing the energy from the bottom turn towards the top part of the wave.  I am a convert.

Here are a couple of photos of goofy footer pro Bianca Buitendag showing us how it’s done…

Bianca backside

Bianca backside 2

And for the regular footers here’s Laura Enever…



Small keys can sometimes open big locks, so I hope this helps you.  If you’re new to surfing the green waves and wondering how this tip fits into the overall bottom turn then here it is….

  1. crouch, get really low
  2. eye the lip
  3. reach forward and down with the leading arm, try to touch the wave face (not essential, but if you’re good, like, innit), and lean slightly on the inside rail
  4. decompress the legs, and at the same time twist the shoulders, torso and hips to face the wave
  5. lift the leading arm above head
  6. yell “WAPAAHH” and listen out for the admiring cheers on the beach


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