The ability to master the bottom turn is fundamental in becoming an accomplished surfer. It's the first turn on the wave, and the move that sets you up for those impressive maneuvers that throw out loads of spray. Here we'll show you how to do a bottom turn. Pay attention, and stop falling off as soon as you reach the bottom of the wave after you've dropped in!
There are two types of bottom turns, the frontside and backside bottom turn. You are trying to accomplish the same thing regardless of whether you're surfing frontside or backside. The key is to hold onto your speed and generate a smooth, powerful transition with your turn. The smoother the better! This is a move that you'll use every time you ride a wave, and each time you set yourself up for a maneuver.
Here's how to do your first bottom turn when you've just caught a wave.
Try to keep your speed up as much as you can throughout the maneuver. Once you start making the turn, keep the same smooth line right the way through to maximise speed.
Catch a frontside wave and ride down to the bottom of the wave, where the water starts to go flat. Make sure your foot placement and weight distribution are as described above. To start making the turn, lean forward and place your weight onto your toes. Take care not to drag your toes in the water. Turn your shoulders into the wave and focus on where you want to go.
Get the rail of your surfboard into the water, and you'll start to turn. Keep your knees bent and drive off the bottom of the wave, use your speed through the transition. Push with your back foot as you come off the bottom, extend all the way through your turn.
Catch a backside wave and ride down the face of the wave to the flats. As with the frontside turn, keep you weight distribution and foot placement as described above. Start making the turn by leaning back a little, putting weight on your heels. Make sure you've got your knees nicely bent, and turn your head round to look over your leading shoulder, back into the wave. Follow this with a turn of your shoulders.
Get the rail into the water and start turning back into the wave. Put your weight onto your back foot and turn the board smoothly and powerfully.
Surfing Bottom Turns
That's how to make a bottom turn! You'll know you've made a great bottom turn by the buckets of spray you'll throw out from the next top turn you make.
You have to judge the type of turn to make depending on the wave. If it's a big wave and there is a section of whitewater in front of you, you'll need a big drawn out arc bottom turn. If the wave is peeling off ahead fast and walling up, but you're in danger of not making it to the shoulder, then you'll hardly need a bottom turn at all. (and certainly won't need to turn on the flats)
If it's a small wave and you want to hit the lip quite close to your take off point, then you need to do a sharp arc bottom turn. This turn will take you out into the flats far enough to allow you to hit the lip more square on, and be able to really lean into it to throw some spray.
As with anything you want improve on, get plenty of practice. Concentrate on keeping up the speed, and really commit to the turn.
It there are any terms that you don't understand in this article, take a look at the surfing dictionary.
Want some advice on any problem you are having with your bottom turns, head over to our surfing lessons forum and post a question there.