The Ultimate List of Surfing Tricks
Surfing tricks are what make us gasp in joy, excitement, and admiration. Learn what the most important surf tricks are with our list.
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Surfing is a spectacle. Not only do we surf in the most beautiful places on earth, but we also do our best to match the beauty of the waves with our skills, tricks, and bravery.
Seeing Gerry Lopez coolly riding the Pipeline and Mason Ho getting wiped out over and over again and in more and more innovative ways definitely supplements the beauty of nature. Even Mitch Parkinson stealing a surfboard from underneath his cousin, Joel Parkinson (see, novices, that's what happens when you don't care about the surfing etiquette and drop in on somebody else's wave) has its allure.
Therefore, we can say that surf tricks are imperative to become a spectacle yourself and enjoy your time out in the ocean. However, sometimes understanding what they mean can be tricky because the names given to the tricks are rarely descriptive except for some basic surfing skills such as the bottom turn. After all, a move called Sweeney Todd's Razor Blade won't make sense to everyone.
So, here we are with an ultimate guide for surfing tricks. As you read on, you'll see what tricks you should absolutely learn in accordance with your skills, and the thick air will eventually clear.
Surfing Tricks for Beginners
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As you probably know by now, beginner surfing takes place either on the flat parts of the waves or mellow and small waves. It means that the waves beginners ride don't have too much power, so they're not exactly accommodating for the greatest tricks in one’s surfing repertoire.
Still, there are some basic surfing moves any beginner should know and master before they can progress to the next stage of their journey. Let's see what those are.
In the state of contemporary professional surf riding, the bottom turn seems to be a forgotten art, but it's still considered as the founding principle of modern surfing. It's generally what determines the quality of your flow, so mastering it plays a decisive role in your ability to pull off other tricks. Moreover, it helps you generate speed and momentum after you drop in, as it's the first turn you make after you take off.
If you don't believe us about the importance of bottom turns, heed the words of the legendary surf stylist Tom Curren: "The bottom turn is where it all begins. It's the foundation for the rest of your repertoire." Then, you can watch the highlight reels of Tom Curren, too, as his bottom turns aren't any less legendary than his reputation.
A cutback is not necessarily a beginner surf trick, but it's definitely one you should know about. After catching waves, surfers sometimes find themselves in the wrong place, which is the shoulder of the wave. The power of the wave, on the other hand, is on the wave's lip. So, how do you get back to that power source without disrupting the flow of your ride?
Well, you perform a cutback. First, you make sure that you reach your maximum speed on the surf line and then cut back towards the top of the wave. It'll prevent you from getting trapped on the flats and help you gain speed and momentum.
Carving is also not a trick that you can easily pull off on small waves, but it's as important as a cutback and almost as essential as bottom turns. The reason it cannot be pulled off on small waves is that it's best performed in the pocket of the wave where there’s enough energy to help you spray water and make a spectacle.
It's a 180-degree turn when you're applying pressure to the rail with your toes and heels and creating an arc on the wave. In the end, it'll help you score a couple of extra points in a professional competition, but most importantly, you'll be staying in the wave's curl.
Duck diving is more of a paddling trick rather than a surfing trick. You put lots of effort into paddling, but the wave coming at you isn't exactly to your liking. However, you don't want to lose the distance you made by paddling, either? Then, you simply dive under the oncoming wave and resurface at its back. Once you master duck diving, you can always improve it, too!
Surfing Tricks for Intermediate Surfers
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The waves in intermediate surfing are more varied but also more demanding., To pull off intermediate surf tricks, you’ll need better body coordination, a better sense of timing, more speed, and more guile. They aren't going to make the crowd on the beach jump in joy and shout your name, but you'll be able to put a smile on some faces and raise a few eyebrows (in a good way).
The roundhouse cutback is a slightly advanced version of the normal cutback we mentioned above. While the shape you draw on the water is more like the letter S in a normal cutback, the roundhouse cutback requires you to draw the number 8 (or the symbol for infinity, depending on your point of view).
Performing a roundhouse cutback requires a more controlled and flexible upper body and an impeccable sense of timing. However, the main principles remain the same as with the normal cutback: gain speed riding towards the flats and return to the wave's face as fast as you can.
A snap is a sharper and more aggressive version of carving, and it's basically a change of direction. However, one thing to keep in mind is that it can only be performed on a steep wave, and besides speed and body coordination, it requires a perfected bottom turn.
Once again, the main objective of the trick is to stay in the energy zone of the wave, which is its pocket. The secondary objective would be creating lots of spray simply by the power you put into the turn, and spray means spectacle in surfing.
It also has two variations: frontside snap and layback snap. As can be derived from the names, they're based on the direction you're rotating towards.
You need to be quite confident in your ability to control your board to perform a tail slide because it's a move that'll lift your fins and rail off the wave. As a result, you'll be sliding on the tail down the wave face.
The trick is to gain momentum after a deep bottom turn by shifting your weight from your back foot to your front foot.
Off-the-lip is like a reversed tail slide. Once again, you're attacking the lip of a steep wave to make a radical trajectory change. This time, though, you're not freeing the lips by putting pressure on the front. On the contrary—you take the nose of your board off the wave's lip and perform a fast and powerful bottom turn to return to the surf line.
The foam is the place to be for a beginner and not an intermediate surfer. So, when you somehow end up on the foam, you should look for a way out if you don't want your ride to come to an end. Mastering the foam climb will allow you to skip the foam and return to the pocket.
It’s quite a simple maneuver, too, as you only need to glide over the foam by lifting your board.
If you want to excite your audience in the best way, the close-out reentry is a must. Just as the spectators think that the wave will close out on you and you'll have nowhere to go, you're making a fabulous reentry by masterfully absorbing pressure, coordinating your body, and maintaining balance, capping it off by doing a strong bottom turn off the lip of the wave.
Nose-Riding and Switch
Nose-riding and switch are two separate tricks, but their main principle is the same: you change your body positioning on the board.
In nose-riding, the surfer rides not on the tail but on the nose of the board. In the switch, the surfer switches their feet and starts riding on their goofy foot.
Surfing Tricks for Advanced Surfers
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Now, it's time for advanced maneuvers that'll make your audience gasp in joy and admiration.
Tube ride, also known as barrel ride, is the ultimate surfing trick without question. Some plunging waves will curve so magnificently that they'll form rideable tubes inside. Although tubular waves are considered rare, they're the dream of every advanced and pro surfer.
Everybody in surfing talks about busting airs, and justifiably so. When you see someone pull off an air, it's quite the sight. After all, it's a move that requires you to gain maximum speed, find a ramp or a steep slope to jump, launch in the air and hang in there a bit.
Of course, once you're able to hang a bit in the air, you're expected to make another aerial maneuver that'll add flavor to your air. Some of the most known aerials are rodeo flip, alley oop, flynnstone flip, and kerrupt flip.
Rodeo flip, inspired by snowboarding and invented by Kelly Slater, is one of the most complicated airs in surfing. You start as if you're doing an air, but when you're in the air, you grab your board and flip forward or backward. To spend enough time in the air, you need to build maximum power and speed.
Alley oop is an intense air jump inspired by skateboarding. It requires a backward aerial rotation of 360 degrees after the jump and the ability to land in a way that you can continue surfing. Not many can do it with dexterity, but John John Florence can surely nail it.
Surfing tricks can be difficult to understand and master, but once you comprehend the basics and master flow when riding the waves, they'll come naturally to you. Hopefully, our guide can help you in that process.