Thursday, April 18, 2013

Surf A Big Board. Don't Just Ride it. By Len Barrow

Most people just “ride” their SUP or long board. Ben Aipa, the famous coach, always told me to “surf” a big board and not to ride it. Well what does this mean, you may ask? Most surfers just half turn and don’t think much of truly engaging the rail. Engaging the rail means holding a cutback on your SUP for more than just a second, to fully sweep the board in a 180 degree arc toward the white wash. This is Surfing, not riding. This is what looks good.

Yet this is easier said than done as a SUP or long board has so much rail and thickness compared to short-boards. On a short-board, it is easy to make mistakes as you can recover easily as the rail is so short (less rail to dig) and the board is so rockered. On a SUP or longboard there is no room for error due to the sheer volume of the board. This is how you do it.

The Sweeping “20%” turn:

Most people turn their big board using too much rail. This means that they engage about 40-60% of the rail in the wave while they pivot into turn. The end result is a turn that is slow, sluggish and a “Half turn” due to loss of speed. This is called bogging, or weak surfing in surfing terminology. That is why most expert surfers are horrified to see sup surfers ride. Most Sup -surfers don’t surf with speed power and flow because they are engaging to much rail in the water and rapidly bleeding off to much speed.

The solution to this is literally what I call “wheelie” surfing. When you pivot on your tail to cutback, the rear 20-30% of the tail should be in the water and engaged. This is where the sharp “edge” of the rail is (chime) and the most lift of the board comes from. As your board is designed with sharp, chimed rails in the rear, use it! This allows you to keep speed through the turn. If you pivot on the forward rounded rail you lose too much speed as the water wraps around the full, non-chimed rail. That is why experienced shapers keep a high edge in the tail of the boards rail.

More importantly, as you engage so little rail friction becomes your ally not your enemy. More specifically; the rail that is designed to lift is on your tail-block. Due the sharp chimed tail edge of your tail-block, your board loses no speed and you are allowed to “surf” a 180 degree turn. This allows you to surf with speed power and flow. Use the least amount of rail when you pivot a big board.

Pop release the board

After conducting a longs sustained turn simply Pop the board by literally jumping lightly of your board like a skateboard “olly jump”. When a skateboarder olly’s his board literally gets off the ground as he is lifting his weight off the board briefly. You see, after conducting a long sweeping turn, you lose speed. To counter this, you must unweight the board to regain momentum again. This maintains speed power and flow. This sounds weird, yet any good surfing coach knows the value of “surfing Light” by popping the board.

The above techniques center around small to moderate waves. My next will address utilizing the full length of the rail as a type of fin to power surf. Stay tuned. This is a another story!

In the end, do you want your surfing to look weak and soft? Professional Coaches call this “limp wrist surfing (yes with all of the obvious connotations)”. Or, do you want to be a “Carvin Marvin with a Pocket Pistol?” The choice is yours. It’s not as hard as it seems if you follow these tips. Surf your Board, don’t just ride it. It’s all good! See you in the water!


  1. Hi, great post, but maybe something went wrong with the pictures!
    or not?

  2. no picturs are showing?!

  3. Ok, yes...I was spacing the paragraphs to wide. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for posting this informative article thanks for sharing your great post,wish you have a nice day,happy every day.

    Balsa Surfboard & Balsa Wood


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