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How Hernan learned to open his body to the wave

Hernan joined our Costa Rica surf coaching retreat in playa Guiones a few weeks ago. He is an intermediate surfer, and just like 90% of surfers of his level, he felt it was much easier for him to ride waves frontside than backside.

Frontside / Backside

Just like thousands of intermediate surfers across the world, Hernan could fly down the line on his frontside, but would often get stuck in the white water on his backside.

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white water surfing

Why is it often harder for surfers to ride waves on their backhand?

The short and popular answer is: “because it’s harder to see the wave when surfing backside”. While this is true, it doesn’t help anyone learn what to do to surf better on their backside.

“You need to change your technique to be able to see the wave better on your backside”.

Fix #1

Look where you want to go

The first thing Hernan worked on was to look where he wanted to go, right from the start. As you can see on the first picture, Hernan is looking at his surfboard while taking off. Most of the time in surfing, where you look is where you go.

 

Since he is looking straight down at his surfboard, he ends up going straight down the wave.

On this picture, you can see that he remembers to look where he wants to go next (green arrow). Unfortunately, he already dropped too low to be able to reach the section (red arrow). The last thing to notice is his left hand (circled in red). He keeps his left hand on the same side as his right hand, closing his body to the wave. We’ll go further into this in fix #2.

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white water surfing

On the two photos above, Hernan can’t reach the section before the wave turns into white water. If earlier he would have looked left while popping up, he would have been able to reach the “sweet spot” (green target) and make it passed the section.

 Fix #2

Open your upper body to the wave

This is probably the single most important thing for Hernan, and for thousands of other surfers of his level. He needed to open up his chest towards the shoulder.

Notice how his upper body is bent down over his board, and how he keeps his left hand straight in front of him. With this position, he is “stuck” with his chest pointing straight down the wave. This makes it very hard to twist the upper body and have it pointing towards the wave’s face.

This was Hernan’s biggest improvement on that week. Notice how his left hand and arm is opening towards the wave, and how his head and upper body are now twisted towards the direction he wants to go to. Now Hernan can see the wave on his backhand and fly down the line!

Fix #3: The Stance

Tucking the back knee

Another thing that can truly help surfers with their backside surfing is to “tuck” their back knee in towards the direction they want to go. This isn’t just for the “Craig Anderson style points”, it really helps surfers turn their body towards the shoulder.

On this photo, Hernan looks to the left, and starts to open his body towards the shoulder. But something’s missing, it feels like he isn’t completely committed to facing the wave. The thing preventing him from totally facing the wave is his back knee, still pointing outwards.

A few seconds later, notice how he tucks his back knee inside. He’s now committed and ready to draw his line.

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