cross step surfing
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Cross Stepping: Longboard Antics

There are tricks that you can only do when riding a longboard; cross steps are one of them. We'll talk about how you can properly execute it.

Cross Stepping: Longboard Antics

It’s only natural that once you get the basics down and feel pretty confident in your abilities to remain balanced while riding that you reach for techniques that require a bit more motion and challenge. 

The cross step is a maneuver that isn’t as difficult to pull off as it looks but looks absolutely stunning, especially in slow motion. 

It’s a shuffle of sorts, where the rider goes for a slight dance before regaining their perfect balance. 

Now, even though it’s not the most difficult of moves to pull off, it’s still not a walk in the park, and there are things and parameters that you should keep an eye on when attempting it.

The main obstacle that can get in your way worth considering is, of course, the surfboard itself. Yes, the waves and the conditions might prove more challenging at times, but the fact of the matter is that you have no control over those at any point in time. The board? Well, that’s entirely up to you. 

Balancing the Longboard

The first thing that you should be looking at is the surfboard’s dimensions. In particular, the length and size of the board. 

It’s sort of like balancing a tray. If you’ve ever served something on a tray, then you know that once you lift one of the objects from it, you immediately have to compensate for the weight discrepancy and support the tray at the side where it’s heavier.

The trick while performing a cross step on a longboard is the timing and the balance. Yes, there is a certain portion of time during which you are able to get away with the weight disbalance. How long? Well, that’s where the dimension part comes in. 

Longboards in particular are more forgiving because they have a lot more velocity to them than shortboards. 

But how do you know when is the right time to perform this maneuver? When do you go for a cross step? Is there an ideal opportunity at all? And, above all, how do you pull one off without making a wet mess out of yourself? 

Let’s dissect the move and gradually put it together. Once you reach the end of this article, you should be able to pull off a cross stepping move sight unseen. Or, at least we hope that you will. 

Let’s get under the microscope. 

The Cross Step

cross step move on a longboard

A lot of surfers will just wing it and try to attempt a cross step without developing the proper technique or having the right skills in place. 

This usually results in them doing their moves and ending up at the nose of the board. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s also not a cross step. 

When the surfer is riding the board at the nose, then that’s referred to as noseriding. Fantastic technique in itself, just not what we’re after here today. 

Avoid Noseriding

The main thing that you should have in mind is not to move too far in front; it’s not about how far you can go. In order to perform the perfect cross step, just move your weight around as gently as possible from one side to the other and let your feet follow. 

Yes, we know it is easier said than done. Always remember that a cross step isn’t a maneuver that has to be performed with a forward motion—you can do a cross step and move back on the longboard. 

It might seem a bit more challenging, but once you get the forward cross step down, by all means, try going backwards. This way you will gain a more complete understanding of what it means to perform a successful cross step maneuver.  

The Longboard Is a Worthy Tool

You might think that the answer to the question, “why should I attempt a cross step on a longboard?” is a simple and obvious one, but there is more than meets the eye. 

Yes, the longboard does allow for more space and is more stable in general. Nevertheless, there are different types of longboards and, above all, different types of surfers, both in body types and technique. 

It’s also often overlooked that surfers that basically have the same body construction, height, and weight actually have vastly different surfing techniques. 

Now, the longboard is usually the best choice for doing cross steps, not because it offers more room for the feet to shuffle, but because it takes a lot more for it to change its direction. This is the main reason why it makes the most suitable choice for cross steppers, especially beginners.

Focus On the Tail

You see, it’s not that you cannot perform a cross step on a shortboard; it’s just that you have to be really good and meticulous in your movements and weight distribution in order to make it work. 

When a longboard goes for a turn, the main point of the pivots is its tail, so in order for a rider to make a sharp turn, they would have to put pressure on that tail. 

This is the exact opposite of what beginner surfers do when they’re learning to perform a cross step. If anything, beginners are moving too much toward the nose. 

And while this isn’t something that you should be striving for, it does add to the overall balance of the board unless you want the board to be turning while you’re performing the cross step. 

The Cross Stepping Process 

Although there is no one set way to do a successful cross step, we will guide you through the process step by step and break down each and every moment so that you’ll know exactly what you should be striving for.


Before we get into the process, you have to make sure that you have the right speed down. If you are going to quickly lean backwards and slow things down, or if you think that you are going way too slow, move your weight forward and accelerate. 

Step One: Put Your Weight Forward When the Time Is Right

In order to have the best chances of performing a successful cross step you will want to have your weight centered on your back foot. 

Basically, your whole body has to be in line with your back foot before you take a swing at the cross step. So, if you’re not there, move your chest, head, and hips back so that they are towering over your back foot. 

Remember to stay relaxed and not tense your legs or hips at any time. 

From here, you’ll need to push your weight forward and bring it towards your front foot. Once you feel that your weight has been fully distributed from your back to your other foot, it’s time for the cross. 

Step Two: Mind Your Posture

Once there is no weight on your back foot, then you can proceed to move it in front of your lead foot. 

Be mindful and keep your knees slightly bent—you don’t want to lose control because you are too stiff in your movements. 

Now your back foot should be the one that is facing the nose of the board, and your once front foot should be your new back foot. If you want to, you can stop here because you should be all good and balanced. 

The Cross-Leg Position

Your legs should be in a cross position at this point. Your weight is not on either foot and should be pretty centered. If you feel that something is amiss or wrong, you can step back in the first position—no harm, no foul. 

However, if everything is as it should be, and you want to proceed with the motion, make sure that you move your hips forward and distribute your weight to your front foot (the one that is closer to the nose of the board). 

Before long, your whole body will be in line with your front foot, and you will be ripe for the final move. 

Step Three: Not on the Nose

Alright, you’re almost there. Your body weight is resting on your front foot, your knees are locked, and your legs are crossed. 

From here, just move your hips forward and move along further to the front. Your front foot that became your back foot should now be your front foot again. If you can help it, try not to point your toes all the way forward and maintain a bit of a diagonal angle. 

If you end up on the nose of the board, it means that you made bigger steps than you should have. Correct this by reversing the final step and going one step backwards. 

It will seem like you’re doing a little dance, but you will end up in the right spot, where your weight will be centered over both of your feet, and your shoulder will be in parallel with the longboard. 

That's it. If you didn’t fall over while following these steps, you probably ended up doing your first cross step. 

It’s natural for some riders to get this move down quicker than others. It’s not that they’re more capable or have a superior understanding of the move or surfing in general. 

Remember, the ocean never gives us the exact wave twice, and the perfect opportunities are hard to come by. You could actually be doing a lot better in terms of skill and technique than someone else and still fail to execute a cross stepping move. 

Control what you can control and make sure that you are honing your fundamentals. The rest is up to the wave and the powers that be. 

Dry Cross Step

Because you won’t be getting a lot of ripe opportunities where you’ll be able to practice the cross step before you’re in the midst of it, 

It’s a good idea to try the moves and get the motions down on dry land before heading to sea. Yes, it will be very different once you are doing the real thing, but on dry land, you can practice as much as you want to and focus on the things that you should be correcting. This goes a long way towards them becoming second nature. Good habits, folks.

A Few Words Before You Go…

Don’t overcomplicate things. Yes, it might seem like a lot. You have to mind the length of your board, the incoming wave, your leg position, do a good bottom turn, have the right speed, shift your weight from one leg to the other… 

Focus on the fundamentals. Establish the new leading foot, straighten your upper body, and put your weight forward. Your leading leg should become your back leg after you move away from your cross-legged position.

If your body stance is feeling too stiff on the first step or when going in reverse, shift your perspective. Instead of thinking of it as a ride or surfing, you can think of it as dancing. 

Mastering the cross stepping technique might not be the easiest move there is, but you will get the hang of it if you keep putting in the time.

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching