Breakdown – Colin McPhillips Frontside Cutback

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
May 11, 2016May 12, 2016

What’s up folks!  Been a crazy couple days. The Kai Lenny episode of the podcast dropped yesterday and I’m finalizing a couple magazine articles that will be coming out in the next few months.  The Progression Project movie should be out here in late June if everything goes to plan…

On to the journal… surf was good this morning, whereas yesterday was 4ft. at 15, today was 3.5 at 14… That difference was enough to take the umf out of the waves.  And where the starboard was excelling in the steeper, faster conditions, today I got to see its downside a few times.  Slow and sluggish in flat sections and digging rails on drawn out cutbacks.  I contend that it’s not a surfboard.  Not in the traditional sense.  Starboard gets 95% of it right… construction is top level, float for size is the best around, and performance off the tail is as good as it gets… but, when you have to engage that front section of the board on a lazy wave it just doesn’t come around.

After being frustrated on a few cutbacks today, I came home and broke down some footage of Colin McPhillips.  He does that cutback better than anyone and I wanted to see if I was missing something.  It will make a good journal, so here you go…

The ColinBack Broken Down

In the following turn Colin is using a 9.0 at 90L, and he does the cutback on a slow, sluggish section on a small day about a month ago.  Before on the site, I’ve broken down slingshot cutbacks, and if you subscribe to the newsletter, then you received my guide to Man Hacks.. but I haven’t broken down the Colinback yet.  There are boards that will do this turn better than others.  Just an FYI…

Full Rail Cutback SUP


Here notice Colin’s feet, he is a bit forward on his board, this turn is driven from farther up than a snap or top turn, and his back foot is over his toe side front fin.  Front foot is right on the stringer.   If you haven’t read about surf stance while paddling into waves that will help you get into position for this turn.  You should already know how to do a frontside bottom turn too.

SUP bottom turn

This is the exact same position as the first photo, Colin has just engaged the rail.

Paddlewoo Guide to Cutback

Still turn setup.  I included these photos just to show you how Colin approaches the turn.

Engaging the paddle cutback sup

Alright! Here we go.  This is when all the fun stuff starts to happen in paddle surfing.  The board that Colin is riding is a 9.0 at 90L… There is almost no chance that without a paddle he’ll be able to set the rail or do this turn.  Setting the rail is putting enough of the edge of the board into the water to  be able to hold the turn without sliding out.  The rocker, the curve the side of the board, is where this turn is done and to do it you need to bury a substantial amount of foam.

Colin is neutral in weight, but is in a transition to his heels.  Coming off the toes in the bottom turn, to his heels for the cutback.  He’s setting the blade of his paddle and will utilize a hard stroke to pull himself down in the water, making himself heavier to weight the rail of his board.

Engaging the rail cutback paddle board

Colin has just completed his stroke and you can see that the rail, up to his front foot is engaged.  If you look at the waterline at his back foot, you’ll see his heel is underwater.  This turn differs from the huge hack that I love so much because instead of pushing on your back foot, throwing out the tail, Colin is just sitting on his rail, there’s still potential energy in his back leg, which he’ll use to throw a little wrap on the end of the turn.

Colin McPhillips cutback

Patience.  Just sit in the turn and let the board do the work.  The rail is buried past Colin’s front foot now, and the board rocker is doing everything.  Notice that Colin’s back leg is still bent – potential energy still waiting.  Now, if the wave were to get fat he could use that energy to push through the turn as to not bury the rail and fall.


Same exact position.  Great shot to see how much rail is buried, and how deep the tail is.  What photos don’t show here is that Colin is carrying as much if not more speed than he came into the wave with… When you push out that back leg and throw the tail, you throw a ton of spray, but that energy is lost speed.

Paddle Surf Skills

Notice the back leg.  At this point, finishing the turn, Colin has straightened, pushed out, that leg to start to bring the board back under his center of gravity.  In the next photo you’ll see the that his legs are bent again, and what happened is that Colin created momentum with the board and then gave the board space to recover beneath him.  Driving the board without moving the body much.

Cutback on a SUP Lesson Fully recovered.  Notice the head and eye direction here.  Back down the line where he wants to go.

In surfing you lead with the eyes, head and shoulders.  Paddle surfing can get a bit tricky because sometimes the paddle will pull your shoulder the wrong way…  More on that later.  We’ll talk about a mistake that tons of sup surfers make when dropping in backside that really limits backside surfing.  If you want to learn the right way to bottom turn back side, read this guide.

Back down the line, Colin McPhillips

Colin, essentially  doing a frontside bottom turn, which is the exact same turn as a backside cutback, just done in a different place.

If you liked this breakdown of Colin’s turn, you’d love practicing it on the same wave in Costa Rica!  Click here to find out how.

Progression Journal

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