Learn to surf a longboard with style and improve your turns
5
Min Read Time

What you can learn from longboarding to help your turns, stance and surfing.

Whether your riding a longboard or shortboard, looking to upsize or downsize, moving from one end of board sizes highlights your weaknesses and you can use that to improve your surfing and style.

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The Full Guide

I shaped and love riding my 9'0 log and I am a longboarding convert. It's a very traditional nose riding log. There are these unique learning experiences you get from changing boards that you have to "feel" to understand and it's what started my love affair with longer boards.

You can read all about my board shaping experience here: "Why you need to shape your own board"

I'm going to dive into stance, bottom turn, generic cut back, and your awareness of the board you are riding.

This was an unplanned coincidence that the guys did Joel Tudor but what Clay dives into, is exactly what I was planning to explain.

Awareness and Board Design

Firstly, when you're changing up boards, you want to know how does this board feel. How does it move, how does it want to be used? (Not ridden, you ride the wave not your board.)

If you are going up to a longboard, everything is slower, more purposeful and gentler, in terms of your movements. That is key when trying to work on your weaknesses, otherwise. it'll be you face planting. What I mean by that is, the longboard isn't going to suddenly respond to every flailing body movement like most average surfers on a shortboard.

So if you're going up to a longboard, slow it down, get yourself set and move with purpose.

Stance

When we think of logs, it's style right? Everything is smooth and effortless. Style starts from a good stance. A lot of shortboarders do not have a good stance. Bent over at the hips, side one, poo man stance, arms going in different directions. Get onto a longboard and you have that stability to set your neutral stance and trim. Focus on stacking and aligning your body for the small purposeful movements.

The real key is not extra time and stability, it's cross stepping. If your stance is bad, learn to cross step. To cross step, you have to have your stance set. No pooman, bent hips or body out of alignment.

Try this, right now, where ever you are. Try to cross step in a bad stance. It's bad and guarantee you won't be doing that in the surf. If you watched the Joel Tudor clip, it's neutral stance, stacked, small steps and coffee cup. Looks just like kissing the knees but with the cross-stepping. This is what will perfect your stance, remove tension and teach you to move more freely. If you go down to a smaller board, nail this stance first.

Improve your surfing style with this tip
Kissing the knees

You can read the full guide about kissing the knees here: "How to surf with more style"

Bottom turn

The bane of most intermediate surfers. Two issues they will face. Don't know what it's like actually tapping into the power zone and feeling that acceleration from a bottom turn. and...don't know to hold the bottom turn. By hold, I mean hold, it's not a 1 second manoeuvre despite every average surfer at your local doing like it's an instant move.

Turning a longboard can be slower, it's bigger, therefore, has to do a bigger turn. Logic right? You also have a wider board, more volume to fight against to roll your rail in to do a bottom turn. So again, a slower turn. You can't just instantly lean on the rail and expect it to move, and you need to adapt the amount of effort you use to lean to match the board.

So coming from a shortboard, you lean hard, the board may turn, but most surfers will face plant. Why? You've leant harder and faster than the board has turned, (leant? rolled? what's the correct English here?) Point being, you need to learn control, compress and extend, look where you are going, hold the turn longer and modify the weight of the lean to match the board (and not overpower the wave - different topic altogether).

Coming down to a shortboard: Don't fall into the trap the board suddenly moves. Count out your bottom turn. It's still a drawn out turn, even on a 5'9".

Cutbacks

Hold it longer! Pretty much as above. Same concepts, how does this board get on rail etc. It turns slower. There's a real trick here I found amazing when working on my own. To do a cutback on a longboard, you need to have good technique. The thing is huge, so do a cutback, you really have to hold it, look where you are going, open up the body and move towards the foam.

You can't just do the shortboard flail arms and hope for the best. You'll just move one way and your board the other. This, right here is why I started falling in love with them. That feeling of getting technique done well is amazing. Oh and feeling like I'm cheating, getting every wave into shore. Oh and being part of "old boys club" out the back stealing all the sets.

Clay also highlighted a great point, your longboard doesn't fit the curvature of most waves, so you won't be going straight down the wave always. You modify the turn to go more diagonally down.

Longboards give you more time

Something that is less obvious is that longboards give you more time.

What does that mean though?

The obvious first instance is more time to get into a wave, more time to set your line etc. Sure that’s great, and allows you to pick a line earlier, get more waves or get ahead of a fast wave. It also allows you to take off further out of the shoulder, further from the pocket. This is a habit you don’t want to encourage too much, it’s still the same thing, find the peak where the wave is breaking and take off there just get in earlier than a shortboard.

But what’s not obvious is how the longboard gives you for all your manoeuvres or whatever you are doing. It’s like a bus when compared to a car. It takes so much longer to turn and this is great.

If you turn like a shortboard and do everything rapid it won’t go well. You have to move purposefully and slowly to match the board and how it moves. If you move faster than the board, you will fall off and lose balance. This teaches you patience and that you don’t have to rush your surfing, purposeful movement is so much better than wild movement.

If you take more time, you move more fluidly. No turn is surfing is sudden, they are drawn out and take time, nothing is sudden. 

A longboard will also give you more time to feel the glide in and the power of the wave for your pop up. If you watch longboarders, a lot of footage will show them very slowly getting to their feet, nothing is rushed and they are watching the wave to find the best line and time to get up. This is what holds a lot of people back from the oreo biscuit and feeling the lift, they are too quick to get to their feet and don’t know that feeling of lift from the wave.

All of these are great lessons to learn and be aware of regardless if you are only surfing a longboard or surfing both a shortboard and longboard. The approach to longboarding and purposeful movement, taking more time is exactly what most intermediate surfers need.

Summary

Longboards, love 'em. Get one if you can.

When you switch from one end of the board length spectrum to the other, it will highlight your weaknesses. Goes both ways, even up to a longboard. If you can't turn a shortboard well, you won't be turning a longboard very well. You have to feel the board, how it responds to your movements and adapt that movement to suit.Everything though, is a drawn out move, hold it, move with purpose and grace. The difference is how long you draw it out for based on the board.

Going up to a longboard or riding one now, focus on cross-stepping and improving the stance. Draw out all your turns and fail forwards, attempt turns, attempt to turn the thing wildly and learn the limits of how well you can turn it. If it's not turning well, look at technique.

Going down to a shorter board, neutral stance, neutral stance, neutral stance. Stack the joints and surf with purpose. Sudden movement of your board is not a win, it's a response to flailing body (and bad style). Move with purpose and hold the turns, you will get from point A to B. Nothing is sudden and always look where you want to go.

Do you ride a longboard now? Was this helpful to your surfing or are you riding a shortboard and this has made you think about riding one? I'd love to know!