A well-timed and powerful backside snap is a thing of pure beauty. While it may not be the flashiest of maneuvers, it’s at the foundation of proper power surfing. Here Santa Cruz's Nat Young, a man with one of the strongest backside hacks in the game, unveils the inner workings of his patented turn.
The Bottom Turn
A good bottom turn is a crucial setup turn for any move in surfing, but it's especially important for a backside snap. Without a good bottom turn, you'll never get a solid hack in. It's the line you draw that makes all the difference. If you're looking to do a real straight-up snap, you'll want to draw a deeper bottom turn at a lower point of the wave. This is where it can get a little tricky. You don't want to make a mistake and surf too far out into the trough before you begin your bottom turn because you'll move past the wave's power source. You also don't want to begin your bottom turn mid-face either, or that won't give you enough time to actually get vertical. You've got to find that perfect spot, which seems to be around the bottom third of the wave, to begin your turn. Once you find that point of the wave, you'll instantly feel it as you go into your turn.
When it comes to a backside snap, I make sure my back foot is in the exact right spot on my board. I like to have my back foot as far back as it can go on the tail pad. Just right there on the kicker. That gives me the most control possible through the turn—from the bottom turn in the beginning to the actual snap itself—and really allows me to get my rail into the wave. A lot of the control you have over your board comes from having your back foot in the right place. For a backside snap, that place is right there on the end of the tail pad.
If I'm going for a vertical, straight-up snap, I like to turn my chest towards the oncoming lip to help get my board as vertical as possible as I finish my bottom turn. Once you feel your board connecting with the lip, you can begin your snap. You'll want to make it quick and powerful. This is where a lot of practice comes into play. A solid snap is sort of a balancing act of transitioning the weight off of your back foot and onto your front foot as you go into the top turn. It's not easy to describe that transition, it's kind of like telling someone how to dance, but when you get it right you'll feel it. Once you feel it, just keep repeating it over and over until it becomes second nature.
Bend Your Knees More
If I had to pick one piece of general advice that we haven't gone over, I'd say that conditioning and strengthening your legs is pretty crucial. I've been working on that a lot and I can really feel the difference. The second thing I think is really important is learning how to coil your body off your bottom turn. It's basically a matter of getting really low into your turn—you almost want to have your knees touching your chest—and learning how to explode out of that position.
Connect Your Turns
To me, great backside surfing is all about connecting your turns. As soon as I come out of a backside snap, my eyes are down the line looking at what the wave is offering up next. If it looks like there's a lip forming, I'll go into another snap, or if it looks like the wave is flattening out, I might do a cutback. But it's all about transitioning quickly from one move directly into the other.