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Beach Grit

How to: Surf Like An Animal!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Juice up your turns!

It’s the most visceral of surfing experiences. You feel it as much as you see it or hear it. Those rail-buried-to-the-nose cutback and hacks that hypnotise, and even scare just a little, as you paddle over a wave.

Airs are thrilling and easy to like, easy to understand. There’s a speed and there’s a push and a pull and maybe a huck.

But a cutback with fire, a hack that seeks to readjust the molecular formation of a moving piece of ocean?

Well, that’s something for the purists.

Here’s how you can get some…

1. Get the right board

Surfboard design is game of adding and subtracting. If you want extreme power, you’re going to have to lose some of that pop in the tail and the ability to squeeze into the most radical of curves. There’s only a few surfers in the world who’ve got a power-air game, John John, Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds, if you want to know, but I’m presuming you aren’t in that same league. Talk to a shaper. Tell him you want to explode out of your turns. You’ll need more rail length, more thickness, a straighter rocker.

2. You need to be close to the pocket

I once asked a famous surfer, known for his iconic cutbacks, what the secret to his photogenic success was. He leant over, smiled, and said, “You have to be deep, deep in the pocket”.

Well, sure.

“But can you do that?” he asked.

I went out that afternoon, turned up the face of the wave but instead of hitting the lip, I straightened the front leg and flew into the best cutback of my life.

Who knew there was room for a cutback in such tight a spot? I’d never felt a turn so perfect and so vicious. And then it flew back and pierced my cheek, just missing my eyes.

3. Straighten your front leg

Kolohe’s dad, Dino, once a top pro himself, told me the secret to those beautiful frontside wraps that pleases top-level judges so much is  to “straighten the front leg.” Try it. Sounds easy. It ain’t.

4. Aggression

It takes a certain mindset to jam an entire rail into the face of a wave, and in the most critical part of that wave. Airs are a skateboard-esque dance of weighting and unweighting. Power requires violence.

5. Put on weight

Skinny kids aren’t going to shower the lineup with spray. If you want drama in your turns, put on weight, fat, muscle, it doesn’t matter. It’s a physics thing. Kolohe is one surfer whose spray arcs have doubled in the last five years.

Of course, ain’t no one like Dane.