How To Do the Perfect Bottom Turn

| posted on June 20, 2011

Shorty got low. Kelly Slater, ready to explode. Photo: Glaser

We all want to take our surfing to the next level. And all great surfing begins with a great bottom turn. As the spark that ignites an entire wave, a well-timed and powerful bottom turn can set the stage for the ride of your life while a half-hearted and mistimed one can cause it to funnel past you.

The key to a solid bottom turn lies in two parts: 1: keeping a balanced, low center of gravity over your board and 2: Timing your turn with the most powerful part of the wave.

“I think a good bottom turn really does set the pace for the whole wave,” says John Florence, a man steeped in the inner workings of explosive surfing, “You want to get really low over your board as you begin your turn. You can generate a lot more power out of your legs that way. It’s kind of like pumping on a half pipe with a skateboard; you bend your knees in the transition and kind of push down as you’re coming out of it.”

Simply put, the lower you get going into your bottom turn, the more power you’ll have coming out of it.

Pancho Sullivan, another surfer preaching the gospel of a solid bottom turn, is adamant that most of us are actually mistiming our turns. “A lot of surfers are initiating the turn too far out in the flats. It’s a common-but-easily-correctable mistake that many of us make. The majority of the wave’s power is in the top two-thirds of the wave,” says Pancho. “If you can begin your bottom turn just a little bit earlier, before you reach the flats, you’ll gain a lot more speed and drive off the bottom and that speed can be used to transition into your next turn.”

  • phil

    very informative post!!!

    keep it up guys.

    thanks alot.

  • gantron

    Thanks for the tip.

    Should the bottom turn always be one smooth turn, or should the push out of it kind of act as a second turn?

    I think I suffer from what Pancho’s describing. Yesterday, I did a nice cutback, tapped the whitewater, and the next section was building up nicely – I pumped on the face to get some speed, dropped to the bottom and did a bottom turn… but by the time I made it to the lip I had lost some of my speed, and I ended up initiating my off-the-lip a little too early and weakly. I think I shouldn’t have dropped so far to the bottom with my bottom turn. It would have made for a tighter, quicker turn – but that would probably be appropriate, considering it was a chest high wave.

  • paddle boarding huntington beach

    I love these pictures! The color of the water is so vibrant! That must be one heck of a view!

  • Vicente

    Hi! I saw many videos and articles about how to do perfect bottom turn and was always trying to do it on the water, but once you are on the board it is difficult to concentrate on yourself what are you doing. I am intermediate surfer so I know how hard it is to turn any surf move because once you are in the water everything goes so fast and it is not easy to realise what you are doing wrong if you cannot see yourself.
    I got much better practising surf technique on the land with my friend.
    We found very easy using smoothstar surf skateboard to feel and practise what is described in so many articles.
    You are right what you say about kind of pumping on the exit of the bottom turn. I saw one guy in Madrid on skateboard and it looked like surfing. I tried it there and was very surprised how similar it is to surfing.
    You can practise body position for correct bottom turn by lowering the body with bent knees, turning shoulders towards to “imaginary” wave and then you push of the board which gives you speed to go on the lip of the wave.
    With this surf skate you have time for yourself to feel what makes difference if you push more from back or front foot, how to connect from bottom to top turn and repeat it again and again. This feeling of pumping on smoothstar and the line you make is like on the water. I was trying it with normal skateboard but it is not the same as smoothstar has special truck which turns in a different way – like surf. Even practising of cut back is so easy and gets very natural. Friend of mine is long boarder and never used skateboard before. Now he says he feels how he improved in turns using smoothstar .

    There is loads of text and videos how to do perfect bottom but I recommend what I said above as you can practise bottom turn on surf in front of your house with this surf skate how many times you want and once you get it under your skin then you will see how natural and automatic it becomes to do it on your surf board.

    I hope it helps guys!
    Aloha V.