how to improve your surfing turns
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How to Complete turns and not cut them short

The average intermediate surfer is stuck doing half turns, or worse quarter turns. If you want those full wraps and feel better turns in your surfing, this guide is for you.

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The Full Guide

Do you feel like your turns are running short?

Do they just feel a bit weak or you just aren’t wrapping them around?

Or are looking to work on your turns or work turn your longboard?

This usually happens when people are cutting their turns short.

This feeling of there’s more to the turn and it just doesn’t feel right but you aren’t sure what the issue is.

It’s frustrating but there is some easy fixes to it.

Why you might be cutting your turns short

There are three main reasons most average surfers are struggling to complete their turns. When I say complete I don’t mean ride out of it, I mean they are doing a quarter or half turn instead of a full turn.

  • Not following through
  • Afraid of getting stuck behind the whitewash
  • Racing ahead in search of the next section

How to follow through on your turns

This part is all about technique and you need to make sure you look through the turn and not at your spray, as well as opening up the front shoulder to continue the twist.

Both of these are insanely common in the average surfer, you can go down to the beach and in 10 or so minutes you’ll see it happen. 

A turn cut short

Looking through the turn

If you can’t see where you want to go in your turn you won’t go there.

The first step is always to look through your turn to where you want to go. 

This isn’t instant, it’s not snapping your neck to where you want to go.

As you initiate the turn, you begin by looking where you want to go and scanning through the turn.

What this means is that you are twisting and continuing to twist looking for the place you are aiming for.

Think of turning around to find out where the noise is coming from when someone calls your name.

You are looking through the turn and continue to look for where that place is. This will continue to extend the turn for as long as you keep looking and scanning through the turn.

When you finally lock your eyes on that place, your body knows what to do and will subconsciously pull out of the turn and direct the board and your body to that place.

finishing turns
A full turn by John John Florence

Drill: Looking through your turns

So try this on your skateboard, just find space, where ever and find objects or spots around you that you can easily identify to use in the drill.

Get a push start and build some speed and then initiate a turn, you are now going to look through the turn until you find and see the desired location or object.

You want to keep mixing this up and changing what you look at or the turn you do. You’ll feel the skateboard continue to turn until you find that spot and then it will become like a magnet. Your gaze will draw you to that spot.

You can also equally keep turning on the spot by never settling on a location to end up or turn towards one place and as you get close to it, continue to look through the turn for a new identifier and keep going.

Play with this, it’s a lot of fun and will improve your hand eye coordination immensely and teach you how where you are looking is always where you are going.

Stop looking at your spray

This is full ego and we always know not to do it, yet we do it.

We want to see how the turn looks and yet if you look at the spray or the section, you will stop that turn dead in its tracks, and probably fall off.

From here, it’s just a quarter or half turn, which looks and feels horrible, you know it when you do it.

If you want to follow through the turn and throw more spray, it’s all about how much rail your bury and how long you hold the turn.

Power is an illusion, the longer you hold that turn, the more spray it will throw.

Turns are drawn out, held, and long manoeuvres, none of it happens instantly.

It’s not statics, turning is movement, so move

This sounds silly but you’ll be surprised how many people don’t do it.

Doing a turn is not a held movement, it’s a movement, it’s not static.

This means you are moving during, not just the board and positioning, I’m talking about your body.

So this means your turn is a progressive movement that flows. It will start and flow at different rates of movement based on what you are doing. Think of the backside snap, this has an explosive middle part with the follow-through being very gradual movement after that.

Where as a cutback is more a steady flow of movement until you rebound off the foam.

Not get into the position and then hold it. You want it to flow.

How to open up the front shoulder

The final piece to following through with your turns is getting out of your own way so you can complete the turn.

Your front shoulder is going to block you from twisting beyond it.

If it's rolled forward or your front arm is in front of you, it will block the twist.

Drill: unlocking the shoulder

Find your neutral stance and get in a position to try twisting to mimic a turn.

Your front arm is going to wrap around your belly. Try then to twist and look through the turn. You will find you can’t turn very far and it feels weird.

Now do it all again except just put that front arm somewhere comfortable in front of you. It will feel better but still a bit off. You will have rotated further as the front shoulder is not as locked in as it was before.

Do it again but this time, you want the palm of your front arm facing upwards. This will roll your shoulder backwards, creating the space you need to twist.

This is going to feel so much better and the rotation you can get will be so much better.

Rotating the palm isn’t foolproof though as you can still forcibly roll the shoulder inwards and this can happen if you are tense and self-protecting subconsciously.

This is where raising the front arm up with the palm facing forwards as if you are waving hello or touching your face will ensure that shoulder opens up. It is then near impossible to stuff it up and roll the shoulder forwards to lock the turn.

This is an amazing pattern interrupter if you are locking up your turns by locking the front shoulder.

Start wasting waves

If it’s not a technical issue it’s either what’s happening behind you or in front of you.

A lot of surfers are afraid to get stuck behind the whitewash. So much so it will make them steer clear of the pocket and safety surf.

They are then looking ahead to the next section that hasn’t formed yet to say oh I don't want to miss that so I will give up on the section I am on now.

Madness right?

You want to be in the pocket but avoid it for the fear of trying, and maybe getting stuck behind the foam.

And/or you see something in front so just give up on the section you are on for one that is far worse.

And you are probably already way ahead of the pocket now so you have heaps of space to fit a turn in without getting stuck behind the whitewash

Absolute madness.

The trick here is to not care. Let that all go and just do a turn.

If you are here it’s because you aren’t routinely completing turns, so lets start by trying to complete at least one instead of 4 quarter turns.

If this is you and your problem, you need to be aware of this and come up with a trigger word or pattern interrupter to get out of this habit.

Forget about anything else, no pressure, no expectations, the goal is to learn and try. Even better if it's to hit the foam.

You want to do a turn with the goal of extending it as far as you keep going until you see the pocket and then go to it, to rebound off it.

You need to start wasting waves to learn this and get the feel.

Learn to feel a full turn by attempting them. Not by perfecting half turns or worrying about what’s ahead of you.

The best section to do a turn on is either behind you because you have raced ahead of the wave or you’re near the pocket and it’s right there.

Oh and closeouts when they are there in front of you.

So do it, just have a go. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.


This will work regardless of what you are riding or type of surfing, it’s the same principles, just a longboard will turn slower or there is a variation in technique to how the twist works.

Follow through your turns by looking through them, scanning for where you want to go.

Open up the front shoulder to get out of your own way and allow the twist to continue further.

Don’t look at your spray or you’ll cut the turn short. Power is an illusion and you’ll throw more spray by holding the turn for longer.

Move through the turn, don’t just hold a pose, it’s not yoga.

Start wasting waves and having a go, try to do a full turn and forget about the rest of the wave if you want to start learning how to finish them.

Next Week

Has this helped you understand how to finish your turns?

Is this something you struggle with and are you going to try and break the bad habit?

I’d love to know, you can reach out anytime, either message me in the app or send an email to

Next week I am going to dive into some surf skating and giving you a tonne of drills as well as OMBE’s preferences for surf skates.

Written by
Luke Hardacre
surf coaching