Turn Breakdown – Backside Cutback to Foam Rebound

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
May 13, 2016

Today we’re going to breakdown the easiest backside turn, the backside cutback, but before we do, gonna journal a minute…

My son, who is seven years old right now, has discovered the bug for surfing.  I tried and tried to get him to surf when he was younger and it just didn’t work.  Then about six months ago, he started to play in the ocean.  I made a conscious effort to not equate playing in the ocean with surfing.  He could spend an hour by himself just jumping in the waves.  Then he started bodysurfing.  After a month or so bodysurfing he asked to take his boogie board to the beach.  He’d just ride waves on his belly, then I guess that got easy, or boring, and he started trying to stand on it.  After another month or so standing on his boogie, and starting to get frustrated that he couldn’t turn, and I said to him, “It’s a lot easier to turn with fins on the bottom.”  That got him to ask to surf…  And now he’s hooked.  We go 3 or 4 times a week.  It’s our best time.

I don’t really coach his surfing much, and really at this point I don’t even care about it.  I’m much more concerned with how he’s approaching the ocean and his comfort dealing with different situations.  For a while he would get scared – he asked to go in at times…  But slowly he’s found comfort.  Last night he was surfing the shore break and it was powerful.  Not big, but a lot of punch, reforms from a 15sec period swell.  And for the first time, that I’ve noticed anyways, I saw his grit in getting back out – he was smiling when waves were dumping on him.  It was this very cool moment, and I knew he wasn’t dependent on me anymore for security.  So, I pushed him into one more and then said I wanted to watch him surf from the inside to see his style.  For the next hour he surfed pretty strong conditions by himself.  Taking beatings… getting back up.

Then today, while I was surfing, I was thinking about moment.  Surfing is an incredibly solo sport.  You’ll have friends in the lineup and surf buddies, but when that big set comes through it’s just you.  Then, I went down the rabbit hole a bit farther and thought about us who paddle surf.  We’re entering a tribal setting, declaring from the get-go, we’re not like you…  on the podcast, we’ve talked about the commonalities of paddle surfers.  My guess today is that a strikingly large percentage of paddle surfers are entrepreneurs, business owners, leaders in their respective fields.  Folks who don’t mind sticking out and believe in themselves.  Kind of what Kai and Kalama have both said on the podcast.

Ok, enough of that crap,  I know you just want to learn how to surf better…

Turn Breakdown – Backside Cutback to Foam Rebound

The featured photo today is Oscar Mon, a badass instructor at Blue Zone SUP.

A video posted by paddlewoo (@paddlewoo) on

Does anyone have a better way to quickly upload video?  I don’t have time to process in FinalCut or iMovie, this is quick, but quality isn’t great.  Thanks for any help…

The rebound portion is much more difficult than the cutback, so when you start learning you might be doing the turn and not wrapping it all the way around to the foam.

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I’m not going to cover the backside bottom turn on this post, but this is the non-slingshot variety.  This will be a more drawn out bottom turn and it allows you to already have your paddle on your toe side to do the cutback.  This will aid you in both the cutback and the rebound.

You need to be looking at the spot where you want to start your turn, and make sure it’s far enough out on the shoulder to give you space to come back.  The best use for the turn is when a wave is slowing down and you need to get back into the pocket.

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Notice here that even though the paddle in on your toe side your still leading the bottom turn with your front shoulder.  Majority of your weight will be on your back foot, heel.  Foot will move up on the board before the next frame and from heel to toe side rail.

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If you compare the last two frames against the ColinBack which we broke down a few days ago, you’ll notice that you go from leg extension, driving the board, to creating space for the board to come under you by compressing.  Similar to pumping on a skate ramp.  It’s all about potential and kinetic energy.  Idea being if you can be compressed at the top of the wave when you uncompress coming down you’re creating more speed by being heavier.  In a turn it give you energy to carry through the turn in flat sections.

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Notice that this is a rail turn, so your feet will be forward on the board.  My back foot is a bit ahead of my front fins, and toes are on the rail.  Front foot should be in the center of the board.  Your weight will be heavy on the paddle at this point, using leverage to bury the rail.  Without a paddle you’d fall flat on your face.  You can see how much weight is being supported by the paddle by the flex.  That’s the kevlar 27N Paddle (if you listen to the show you can get a 20% discount on them by using promo code paddlewoo 🙂

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The difference in the last two frames is that here you need to be driving with your back leg.  Pushing through the turn by pushing on your back leg.  I find that on a frontside rail cutback you can just lean into the turn as we watched Colin do… but on the backside, I feel you need to push a bit more.  We’re just shaped differently front to back, so weighting is different.  Still a lot of weight on the paddle.  Also, notice that the bend is at the legs and my center of gravity is still over the board.  You could rotate the photo such that I was vertical and it wouldn’t look strange.

That’s a general rule of board sports… your center of gravity should be perpendicular to your board…  Think NASCAR at Daytona on the banks.  It’s centripetal force that plants you to your board.  Look at photos of John John upside down in the air, still centered over his board.

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You can see here that I’ve uncompressed a bit, transferring that energy back into the pocket.  My board has flattened out a bit than you’d like. In a perfect world more of the rail would still be buried at this point.  This is an issue I have at times on standup, especially larger boards or fatter rails.  It’s just hard to keep them buried.

Eyes are starting to look at the rebound section.

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Notice that the paddle is no longer supporting any weight.  That means the board is back underfoot in relation to forces.  This is the last frame of the cutback.  You could go directly to a backside bottom turn here and redirect back down the line.


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When looking at this rebound, you need to look at your cutback as a frontside bottom turn.  The DNA is the same, just positioning is different.  So, you can also approach the rebound as a finishing maneuver on a closeout section on a frontside wave, it will be easier to think about this way.  We’ll break that down separately, but until we do, you can visualize the rebound when hitting frontside closeouts.

Coming out of the cutback, you need to focus your attention to the lip of the oncoming section.  Remember the wave is breaking down the line, now at you, so it will be closing distance at about the same pace you are, so factor that into your timing.  Go back and look at the paddle in the frame where the cutback is finishing up… it has already started the transition to “stroke” into the turn.  Just like in the ColinBack, we’ll start the turn with a stroke to set the rail.  Where the rebound will differ is that all you really have to do is set your rail, compress and wait for the wave to do all the work.

Some parts of surfing are about power, others are about position.  Most reentry maneuvers are position.  Putting yourself in a specific spot and holding the heck on!

So, paddle is forward, weight is transitioning to the back foot.  In the video notice my foot move to heel side of the tail.  You won’t be able to do this turn from a forward position.

General Principle:  Drawn out turns come from the middle of your board.  Sharp turns come from the tail.  And your foot should be on the inside of of the turn.  When in doubt, just think that…

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Go and watch the video here a couple times.  A lot happens in a short order.  The mechanics are basically, set rail, pull, compress and brace for the oncoming section.  (there are a ton of variations you can throw here, hitting oncoming sections is on of the most fun parts of surfing… reverses, airs, tail wafts)

Key point:  If you don’t have your board positioned to bank off the oncoming section, you’re gonna dig your rail and fall over the front of your board.

Just as using the paddle allows us to be in situations that would be unrecoverable, hitting an oncoming section forces us to prepare for that section, it would be unrecoverable if the section weren’t there, so don’t compare it to a normal frontside turn.

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If done correctly, all you have to do is be in the right spot and the wave will spit you out.  Just hold on!

If you love cuttin’ back in warm water, you’d love surfing with us in Costa Rica!  Check out our setup!


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  • Quentin

    Use Vimeo for higher quality video.

    • Erik -- PaddleWoo

      Thanks Quentin. We use vimeo for our production stuff… If you haven’t checked it out we’ve got almost 30 videos. I need something fast mostly for downsizing the files.

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