How To Get Shacked

Reef McIntosh breaks down backside barrel riding

Chest facing out of the tube, setting up for a stall, eyes on the exit. Class in session with Reef McIntosh. Photo: Noyle

Although the act of backhand barrel riding may appear simple enough, the reality is anything but. Composed of a series of stalls, speed pumps, and an innate understanding of the wave itself, being able to gracefully navigate your way through a backhand tube is one of the most difficult things a surfer can master. Lucky for us, Pipeline aficionado Reef McIntosh took a few minutes to break down his approach.

Be Prepared to Take a Beating:
“So much of riding the tube is dependent on the actual barrel itself. They're all different. Pipe is different than Teahupoo and Teahupoo is different than Cloudbreak. So before you even begin working on the ins and outs of tuberiding, you have to be familiar with the tube itself. The best and only way to do that is to just go out there and pull in and study the tube. You're gonna take some hits, and you're gonna get worked, but it's all about practice. The only way you're gonna learn about the tube is to get inside of it.”

Know How to Hit the Brakes:
“The biggest component to getting barreled on your backhand boils down to being able to slow yourself down and speed yourself up in the tube. Once you've set yourself up for a tube, you'll want to grab your outside rail and begin stalling. There are a whole lot of different ways to stall, but if you stick your butt in the face of the wave and drag your hand, you'll slow yourself down pretty quick and get in the tube. From there, you want to set your line.”

Know How to Speed Up:
“Being able to speed up in the tube is one of the most difficult things you can do in surfing. It's really an art and it comes down to being able to pump inside the tube. Think of it like pumping down the face of the wave, but on a much, much smaller scale. In most waves, you're really only pumping up and down the face of the wave a few inches. If you make a mistake here—either too far up the face or too far down—you're gonna blow the tube. So it's a subtle art, but it's crucial.”

Easy Fixes:
“Learning how to change your speed in the tube can be a little difficult, but there are a few easily correctable mistakes that most people can make to improve their backside tuberiding. The first is to ensure that your chest is facing out of the tube. If it’s facing too high, you're going to go over the falls; too low and you're going to get clipped by the lip. So keep your chest centered over your board and facing out of the tube. The other big thing is to keep your eyes open. A lot of people will close their eyes in the tube, and this sort of goes without saying: You can't tuberide blind.”

Ride the Proper Board:
“It can get a little complicated finding the right board to ride in tubes. I like to ride either pins or swallow tails—I guess everyone has their own preference. Above all, you'll want to ride something with a pulled-in tail. It's always a good idea to utilize local shapers. That's why you'll see a lot of guys get boards from North Shore shapers when they come to Hawaii. These shapers know the waves; use their knowledge to your advantage whenever you can.”