The Frontside Hack
Kekoa Bacalso's instructions for dropping the hammer
While airs and whips have come to define modern progressive surfing, we’ll never stop appreciating a good old-fashioned power turn. And when it comes to turns of the manly variety, Hawaii’s Kekoa Bacalso has the market cornered. Below, he breaks down his patented frontside hack.
Find the right wave: When it comes to doing a big power turn, you’ve got to find a wave that suits that kind of surfing. Yes, you can do a huge hack at Trestles, but it’s not going to be the same as if you did one on a wave with a little more grit. I think Haleiwa is the perfect place to really lay down a huge turn, so think of that type of wave as an example. I remember watching Ross Williams do some crazy gouges out there back in the day. But as far as the type of wave goes, you want something meaty and fast. If the wave is too small, it won’t feel as good. I think a 4- to 6-foot wave is ideal.
Have the right board: I like to get my boards with a good mix of concave, so that it’s conducive to the way I like to approach a wave. I think a single-to-double concave is best for power surfing and big, gougey turns. It’ll keep the water flowing right through your back fins and help your board stick to the wave a bit more. Going up a size in fins can be a good idea too. Remember, you’re not trying to slide out here. You’re trying to tear the wave in two.
Get low on the bottom turn: This is important in just about any move in surfing, but especially a big carve. I like to get really low as I go into my bottom turn. You’ve probably heard it a bunch of times, but think of it as a spring coiling up and exploding. As you go into your bottom turn, stay low and really try to spring out of your bottom turn. Once you’ve projected up the face of the wave, start eyeing your section. As you approach the lip or open face, shift your weight way back on your back foot and get ready for the turn. At this point, you should still have a bunch of speed and momentum. Obviously, speed is really crucial to a big hack.
It’s all in the hips: The best turns begin from your hips and core. As I go in to a big hack, I really try and focus on letting my hips and core open up and initiate the turn. Your hips and core should be the first part of your body to move. Once your body opens up and you begin to really use your rail, you can dig your back foot into your grip and start pushing for all you’re worth, all the while continuing to open up your hips. So to recap: stay low, open up your hips, and push hard with your back foot. Those are really the building blocks to a successful gouge.
Keep your knees bent, and body centered over your board: This should almost go without saying, but it’s important and I see a lot of surfers that could really improve if they kept this in mind: Always keep your knees bent and body centered over your board. When it comes to style, everything should flow and be in unison. If your arms are out of step with your body, it will look jerky and forced. Everything needs to be moving together.