When you begin a new sport, such as surfing, you must learn the basics. The basics of any sport allow the athlete to grow in confidence and master more advanced tricks in the future. So, before you focus on the gnarliest tricks done by professional surfers, focus on getting the basics right.
The best surfing tricks for beginners include the pop-up, the bottom turn, and the cutback, and these tricks, when practiced repeatedly, will lead the surfer to be able to do more advanced tricks. The best intermediate surfing tricks for beginners include the top turn, floater, and off-the-lip.
In the article below, we will dissect the best tricks for beginner/intermediate surfers and provide a step-by-step guide on executing them. The best thing about starting with the best basic tricks for beginner surfers is finding a certain flow to your surfing.
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Best Surfing Tricks for Beginners: A Guide to Getting Started
Technically speaking, before you focus on any of the best surfing tricks for beginners listed in the article, the first and one of the most important tricks to master is paddling.
You will struggle to get in the best positions to perform the various surfing tricks without a good paddling technique.
Surfing is a water sport where a surfer uses a board to ride the face (forward section) of a moving wave toward the shore. The surfer must employ a variety of basic tricks and proper techniques to successfully surf a wave and evolve into the best water athlete possible.
Here’s a list of the key basic surfing tricks for beginners, and if you’re new to the sport of surfing, it’s highly suggested that you master them first:
Basic Surfing Tricks for Beginners: The Pop-Up
One of the most fundamental tricks of surfing is called the pop-up. The maneuver gets you from lying to standing; ultimately, you can’t surf if you can’t perform a pop-up, as you need to be on your feet when surfing.
Think of the pop-up as a single-motion push-up that is both explosive and fluid simultaneously. Try the following steps when practicing the pop-up.
Step 1: Positioning Your Body on the Surfboard
The correct body positioning on the board is vital when performing a pop-up. Ideally, you want to lay in the sweet spot of your board, not too far forward and not too far back.
Balancing in the middle of your board, called the sweet spot, makes paddling more efficient, resulting in good speed and maneuverability while out on the water.
Lying too far back will result in too much weight on the tail, slowing the board down and counterproductive to planning. Lying too far to the front of the board will result in more planning speed and forward momentum, but the chances of nosediving increase.
Before you perform a pop-up, lie on your stomach with your feet together (toes pointing towards the back of the board) and your hands on the surfboard close to your shoulders.
Step 2: Find the Right Position in the Water
Moving around and positioning yourself in the water is a required skill when you want to catch a wave. Scan the horizon for the right wave and paddle towards it to position yourself in the right position. Start paddling to shore to ride the wave when it reaches you and lifts you.
Step 3: Push Your Body Up and Pop Up by Sliding Your Feet
When you’re on the wave (wait for the lift), you must push your body up by using your core muscles, hands, and arms and sliding your feet forward. The aim is to land on your feet in the stance you have practiced on dry land.
Swing both legs under you when pushing your body up. Your front foot must be near the board’s center, and your back foot should be near the tail. Your knees must be bent, and your weight distribution should be centered over the board for the best balance.
If everything goes swimmingly, you should manage to surf the wave. Pat yourself on your back as you have performed what surfers call the pop-up.
Helpful Hint – Practice your pop-up technique on dry land until your body learns and stores the memory in muscles. The more comfortable you become on land and regarding technique, the better your pop-up will feel when doing it in the water.
Here is a helpful video if you’re struggling with your pop-up technique.
Basic Surfing Tricks For Beginners: The Bottom Turn
When you can perform the pop-up, a new set of beginner tricks must be mastered. One of these is called the bottom turn. The bottom turn is used to control your ride down the line in a smooth and effective manner.
Step 1: Move Down the Wave
Surfing involves moving to different parts of the wave to maximize the ride. After you pop up, the next thing to do is to ride the wave. As you go down the wave, your body should be in a crouch position.
Make sure to focus on the spot of the wave where you want to go and use your extended arms for balance.
Step 2: Keep Your Weight on Your Back Foot
When reaching the bottom part of the wave, the aim is to keep your weight on your back foot, as you will need to launch the board into a pivotal turn and redirect it towards the face of the wave.
Step 3: Launch the Board Up the Face of the Wave
When you reach the bottom area of the wave, weight on the back foot, you need to push the tail of the surfboard down, turning it up to face the face of the wave. Keep your arms extended for balance, with your knees slightly bent, focused on where you want to go.
The bottom turn sets you up to successfully ride down the line and rejoin the wave in surfable areas.
Here is an excellent video on perfecting the bottom turn featuring Patrick Gudauskas.
Basic Surfing Tricks for Beginners: The Cutback
Surfers use cutbacks to change direction on the rail by returning to the braking part of the wave. When surfing at full speed, you inadvertently get away from the breaking wave, moving to the shoulder of the wave, which lacks the power to propel you further.
To regain speed, you need to perform a cutback to the wave to reach the powerful part of the wave, which is in the lip with your back to it. The move is essential to surfing and very pleasing to the eye.
Step 1: Pick the Right Wave
Pick a wave with a good wall and one that grants you enough space to perform a cutback maneuver. As you gain experience in the water, picking the right wave will become second nature.
Step 2: Position Yourself on the Face of The Wave
Your position on the wave is important when performing a cutback. Take a position on the face of the wave, trying to stay close to the pocket or the steepest part of the wave.
Step 3: Speed Generation
Use the wave’s energy or pump the board to generate enough speed before performing the cutback. When your board speed is at its peak, you must identify the section of the wave where you want to perform the cutback by performing a deep bottom turn.
Step 4: Turn Initiation
Lean back slightly and place some added weight on your back foot. Placing pressure on the back foot will assist in pivoting the board when initiating the turn. Lead with the upper part of your body by using your hips, shoulders, and arms to initiate the turning movement.
Step 5: Shift Your Weight
When you start to turn, taking the pressure off the back foot and transferring it to the front foot is important. Shifting your weight from front to back will allow the board to pivot more efficiently and will provide you with maximum control throughout the trick.
Step 6: Carve the Turn
With your weight on the front foot, start carving the turn using the rails of the board and your back foot. Twist your body and make the turn keeping your eyes on the target. Once you have completed the cutback, focus on your next direction and try to keep your surfing line.
After performing a cutback, you might have sacrificed some speed. Pumping your board and moving to a part of the wave with the most energy will recharge your speed to surf the wave further.
Helpful Hint: During a cutback, you must maintain a good balance over your board. Staying low on the board helps to achieve greater balance. The cutback maneuver needs loads of practice and a firm understanding of wave behavior.
Intermediate Surfing Tricks for Beginners
When you reach the stage where beginner surfing tricks come naturally to you and you execute them without fail, it’s time to add more tricks and maneuvers to your surfing arsenal. The trick with the more intermediate tricks is flow and speed control.
The better you are at speed generation and control, the better your surfing flow will be. Your surfing flow refers to the style of your combined surfing technique. Balance and control play a big part in surfing, so it’s advised that you master these elements before moving on to more advanced tricks.
Intermediate Surfing Tricks for Beginners: The Top Turn
As the name suggests, a top turn occurs at a wave’s top part. It’s a beautiful maneuver when done right and adds an element of aggressiveness to the surfer’s style.
Step 1: Position Yourself on The Wave
The best position on the wave before attempting the top turn is just below the lip of the wave or on the shoulder. From here, you will have the best angle of approach.
Step 2: Generate Speed and Identify Target Area
Generate ample speed by paddling, pumping, or using the wave’s energy while identifying the target area where you want to perform the top turn. When performing the trick, you must not lose sight of where you want to execute the maneuver.
Step 3: Prepare for the Bottom Turn
Lean slightly forward as you prepare for a bottom turn and remember to use your arms and shoulders to initiate the required movement.
Step 4: Weight Transfer
When starting the bottom turn, you must transfer your weight from the front to your back foot, as the weight transfer will help to redirect momentum in the right direction when initiating the top turn.
Step 5: Releasing the Fins
When you reach the bottom area of the wave, start releasing the board fins by adding pressure to the back foot and using the rail.
Step 6: Start the Top Turn
As you start the top turn, gaze up to the top of the wave and rotate your body in the direction of the top turn. Use your back foot and rails when pivoting the board up the wave’s face. Extend the turn by allowing your body to twist and follow through with the turn.
Step 7: Regain Your Balance
After completing the top turn, you must shift your weight forward to regain your balance and continue surfing other parts of the wave.
Here is a cool video on executing a top turn in surfing.
Intermediate Tricks for Beginners: Floater
Another visually pleasing intermediate surfing trick for beginners is called a floater. A floater is when a surfer rides the face of a wave by floating over the section of a breaking wave that includes whitewater.
Step 1: Target the Right Wave
Target a wave with a steep breaking section and a flat section afterward.
Step 2: Positioning on the Wave
Take up a position on the wave’s face and align yourself slightly ahead of the area you want to execute the floater. Being slightly ahead will give you the right amount of momentum and speed to float over the target section of the wave.
Step 3: Speed Generation
Speed is important when performing a floater, so ensure that you generate enough speed when paddling, bumping, or using the wave’s energy.
Step 4: Identify the Target
Focus your eyes on the section of the wave you want to float over. The part needs to be the crumbling or breaking part of the wave. Observe the behavior of the wave before making your move.
Step 5: Initiate the Floater
When performing a floater, timing is important. Stay close to the lip and wait for the break to ride over the whitewater. As the wave starts to pitch or break, quickly perform a bottom turn and redirect your momentum toward the crumbling wave.
As the lip or whitewater rises, drive your board up and onto the whitewater, and remember to keep your weight centered, which will help maintain stability throughout the trick. Aim for the highest part of the wave’s face, and don’t get caught in the lip.
After completing the floater, shift your weight forward to regain your balance as you descend the face of the wave.
Watch the video to see how a floater is performed.
Intermediate Surfing Tricks for Beginners: Off-The-Lip
When performing an off-the-lip surfing maneuver, you ride up the face of a wave and perform a vertical turn off the lip before coming back down.
Step 1: Choose the Right Wave
Choose a wave with a steep section. The wave should have a lip suitable to launch off from and present enough power. Position yourself slightly ahead of the section you want to use to perform the off-the-lip, ensuring that you have enough speed to create upward momentum.
Identify the target area where you want to hit the wave. The perfect spot to perform an off-the-lip is the top part of the wave’s face where the lip is pitching or breaking.
Step 2: Initiate A Bottom Turn
Initiate a bottom turn when approaching the target section. A bottom turn redirects the momentum toward the top part of the wave, where you will perform the vertical turn.
Step 3: Approach the Lip
As you approach the lip by ascending the wave’s face, your weight must be shifted forward when driving the board upwards toward the lip. Start preparing for the vertical turn in your mind.
Step 4: Hit the Lip and Pivot
As you reach the lip, fully extend your body and push off your back foot. Use your upper body to initiate the turn before launching into the vertical turn, which is a fast and snappy movement.
When launching off the lip, twist your body and use the rail on your board and your back foot to pivot the board around before descending the wave.
The following video showcases a perfect off-the-lip maneuver.
Beginner surfers should focus on mastering the basic tricks well before even considering the advanced tricks they see their heroes perform. Building a solid platform is crucial in the development stages, and practicing the basics until it becomes second nature will provide a stepping stone to bigger and gnarlier tricks.
Beginner tricks such as the pop-up, the bottom turn, and the cutback are all required when moving onto more intermediate surfing tricks like the top turn, floater, and off-the-lip. To become the best surfer, you must practice, practice, and practice.
Torsten Bird is a talented and adventurous waterman from Western Australia, passionate about surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, hydrofoiling, skimboarding, snowboarding and skateboarding. Torsten has spent countless hours mastering his skills and his dream is to one day represent Australia as an Olympic athlete. Follow Torsten’s adventures on Instagram.