How To Do the Perfect Bottom Turn

Shorty got low. Kelly Slater, ready to explode. Photo: Glaser

We all want to take our surfing to the next level. And all great surfing begins with a great bottom turn. As the spark that ignites an entire wave, a well-timed and powerful bottom turn can set the stage for the ride of your life while a half-hearted and mistimed one can cause it to funnel past you.

The key to a solid bottom turn lies in two parts: 1: keeping a balanced, low center of gravity over your board and 2: Timing your turn with the most powerful part of the wave.

"I think a good bottom turn really does set the pace for the whole wave," says John Florence, a man steeped in the inner workings of explosive surfing, "You want to get really low over your board as you begin your turn. You can generate a lot more power out of your legs that way. It's kind of like pumping on a half pipe with a skateboard; you bend your knees in the transition and kind of push down as you're coming out of it."

Simply put, the lower you get going into your bottom turn, the more power you'll have coming out of it.

Pancho Sullivan, another surfer preaching the gospel of a solid bottom turn, is adamant that most of us are actually mistiming our turns. "A lot of surfers are initiating the turn too far out in the flats. It's a common-but-easily-correctable mistake that many of us make. The majority of the wave's power is in the top two-thirds of the wave," says Pancho. "If you can begin your bottom turn just a little bit earlier, before you reach the flats, you'll gain a lot more speed and drive off the bottom and that speed can be used to transition into your next turn."