No matter how lofty your above-the-lip ambitions, without an understanding of surfing’s fundamentals, you’ll never be considered a complete surfer. Before you even consider using that section to try an air, you’d better have a firm grip on the basics. To get you in line, we spoke with Honolulu’s Zeke Lau, the newly minted NSSA National Champ, to find out the five bread-and-butter maneuvers every surfer should have on lockdown.
A Seamless Bottom Turn. Your bottom turn sets up every maneuver you’ll do in surfing. From airs to carves, it all starts with a solid bottom turn. Without a good one, you’ll never be complete. So what makes a good bottom turn? To be honest, it completely depends because it’s a setup maneuver. So the bottom turn you do going into a barrel is going to be different than one you’ll do for a big carve. A good bottom turn should generate a lot of your speed and should be done in one motion—you don’t want to be doing a bunch of adjustments. You’ll see people doing that a lot, the two-or three-part bottom turn, but I think they should be completed in one fluid move.
The Perfect Cutback. Before you even think about doing airs, you want to have a solid cutback on lock. They’re such fundamental moves in surfing, but can be done so many different ways. To me, the best cutbacks are one motion, with no check-turns or adjustments. Just like the bottom turn. When you start to get good at them, you’ll be able to use them as a set-up move to lead into other, more critical parts of the wave. Also, cutbacks are a great indicator of style. It’s one of those moves that really say a lot about a surfer. So make sure you spend a lot time mastering this one.
A Powerful Snap. A good snap is a powerful snap. They’re really crucial to power surfing and when you do a really solid one with a lot of power—well, that’s just one of the best feelings ever. Basically, you’ll want to go straight up into the lip, top to bottom, and really lay into the wave with all of your power. When I was younger, I would just study A.I. His snaps were always so critical and had so much power. Basically, just study Andy and try and do what he did. Also, having a powerful snap in your arsenal is a good way to set yourself apart from other surfers because you don’t see as many powerful surfers today as you did back in the day.
A Stylish Layback. This goes back to Andy again—he had such an amazing layback. So the first thing I can say is to study him. It’s a very stylish maneuver but there’s a trick to doing them that I think a lot of people don’t always get. The best ones are done with as much speed as possible and should be done under the lip—not out on the shoulder. When done right, they’re pretty much power surfing defined in one move.
Navigate the Barrel. No one wants to be the guy that struggles with getting barreled. It’s pretty much the peak thing you can do in surfing, so knowing your way around the tube is probably the most critical thing you can do as a surfer. It’s all about timing, setting the line that fits the tube, and lots of practice. If you set your line too high, you’re going to get pitched by the lip, too low and you’re going to catch the lip in your head. The best advice I can give on this one is practice and make sure to keep your eyes open when you pull in.
What moves do you think get overlooked in surfing? Leave your answer in the comments section below.